Joe Laymon, group vice president-corporate human resources and labor affairs, will exit Ford Motor Co. following eight years of service.

Laymon, who played a critical role in crafting a new 4-year labor pact with the United Auto Workers union last year, has accepted a position at energy provider Chevron Corp.

In a statement, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally praised Laymon for his work on Ford’s ongoing North American turnaround plan.

“(Chairman) Bill Ford and I are grateful to Joe for his commitment, integrity and tireless service,” Mulally says. “His expertise and partnership will be greatly missed.”

Laymon was credited with scrapping a controversial employee evaluation policy that forced managers to give 10% of their employees C grades, withholding raises and putting those workers’ future employment in jeopardy.

The evaluation policy led to class-action lawsuits against Ford and negatively affected employee morale.

He also was instrumental in a progressive program to reward engineers and designers who remained in their jobs for years, mastering their crafts. Prior to the implementation of Laymon’s program, many of Ford’s most talented engineers were forced to seek management positions in order to advance their careers and obtain higher salaries.

The announcement of Laymon’s departure comes on the heels of reports he disclosed to the media Ford’s internal succession plans, naming six executives who are in line to replace Mulally.

The six include Mark Fields, president-The Americas; Jim Farley, group vice president-marketing and communications; Don LeClair, chief financial officer; Lewis Booth, executive vice president-Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group; Joe Hinrichs, group vice president-global manufacturing; and Stephen Odell, chief operating officer-Ford of Europe.

Ford confirms the succession list, but says Mulally, 62, is not preparing to leave the auto maker. His contract with Ford runs through 2011.

Felicia Fields, who most recently served as vice president, human resources, has been tapped to replace Laymon. Fields’ former position will not be filled, thereby eliminating one officer position, Ford says.

In another move, Ford says Marty Mulloy, vice president-labor affairs, now will report to Hinrichs. Mulloy will maintain a functional tie to Fields, the auto maker says.

“By formally linking our global manufacturing and global labor affairs organizations, we will be able to ensure the alignment of our manufacturing and labor strategies on a global basis,” Mulally says.