inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Strategy

“Most people realise that it’s also about their future”

The implementation of the Pact for the Future has made great strides since it was signed in November. Here human resources board member Karlheinz Blessing talks to inside about the current status, the challenges, and about the transformation of the corporate culture.

HR board member Karlheinz Blessing tells inside: “The majority of employees see the Pact for the Future as something positive.”

Last year the company and works council wrestled with the course Volkswagen should take on its path to the future. How is the mood after the first six months of the Pact for the Future?
We are making good progress with implementing the Pact for the Future, but we’re still a long way from the goal. The tasks are still considerable, and there will always be issues that the company and works council have to tackle in intense discussions. However, it’s important that we find a mutual solution after these heated debates. I’m convinced, and a survey carried out by the works council confirms this, that the majority of employees see the Pact for the Future as something positive. Most people are aware that it is about the future of Volkswagen, and therefore their future. At sites that are geared to products related to combustion engines, it is clear that we have to act now to make sure that there will still be work there in the era of electric mobility. That’s what we’re accomplishing with the Pact for the Future.

It was agreed in the Pact for the Future for the Volkswagen brand that, on the one hand, 23,000 jobs will be eliminated by 2020, and on the other hand, 9,000 jobs in the area of e-mobility and new services will be created. What is the status of that now?
The planned job reduction along the demographic curve is underway. Around 7,500 of the planned 9,300 part-time retirement contracts have been signed so far. That shows that the offer is being met with acceptance. By the way, this also specifically applies to management! However, those employees born between 1955 and 1960 need to hurry if they still want to sign up for part-time retirement. The offer will only be available until July 31, 2017. As far as the jobs of the future are concerned, we are also making excellent progress. We’ll be issuing an interim report soon.

Karlheinz Blessing­

has been member of the board responsible for HR at the brand and Group since 2016. Now 60, he was formerly chairman of the board at Dillinger Hüttenwerke and Saarstahl. He studied economics and earned his Ph.D. in 1984 before working at IG Metall and the SPD.

» Employees need to hurry if they want to sign up for part-time retirement. «

Depending on the location, the number of contract workers will also have to be reduced considerably. What is the current status of that?
This is something that really hurts me, because many of the contract workers are among the best! But we have always maintained that we would not be able to extend the contracts of many of the contract workers, nor hire them into our core workforce. Basically, nothing has changed there. Exceptions are only possible if they make sense from an economic point of view and improve Volkswagen’s performance. All in all, we have made good progress in reducing contract jobs and will have completed that step in 2020.

What challenges does the Pact for the Future present?
There are a number of challenges for everyone involved. Here’s an example from plastics finishing in Braunschweig. On the one hand, we have to increase productivity there. On the other hand, it’s already foreseeable that, in view of electro mobility, many employees will have to take on new responsibilities. So it’s imperative to master a balancing act – on the one hand delivering top performance in the old job, on the other adjusting to something new ahead of time. That’s a challenge for every employee, but also for the managers, the human resource people and the works councils.

The new paths also include new forms of working together, like agile working for example. What role will such models play in the future?
In the age of digitalization, development cycles are getting shorter and shorter. We will be increasingly unable to afford sequential work structures. It costs too much time and too much money. That’s the reason agile work structures, where many steps take place in parallel and are closely coordinated with each other, will grow significantly in importance. In some areas we already use these methods, for ­example, in our labs in IT-City. And we’ve had very good experiences with them. That applies to the quality of the results as well as to the speed of development.

That sounds like a miracle cure. Will all areas work that way in the future?
We are examining how we can also apply agile methods in the core areas. Ultimately, it’s about cross-functional cooperation and intensive communication. However, it’s also clear that it can’t be implemented everywhere. Presumably it would be very difficult to assemble cars with agile methods. But such methods could definitely be utilized in development, for example.

» So it’s imperative to master a balancing act – on the one hand delivering top performance in the old job, on the other adjusting to something new ahead of time. «

What changes are you still planning?
We want to handle how we select ­prospective managers in a more practical way. That’s why we’re introducing a new access procedure, which we want to launch during 2018. We will reinforce the multiple control principle in the selection process and eliminate the assessment center. In the future, junior employees will have to prove how well they can handle actual management tasks in their first year. Only if the candidate has mastered the assigned task successfully will he or she be promoted to management.

Who chooses the junior employees for that?
That will continue to be part of the ­supervisors’ responsibilities. However, employees who feel they are well suited will also be able to nominate themselves as junior executives in the future.