inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Strategy

‘People have to give “the new” a chance’

Personnel transformation – the realignment of staff – is a key part of the Pact for the Future. Some jobs change, some are discontinued, new ones are created. That’s why many employees are re-skilled to qualify for other jobs. We discussed how to prepare for these changes with Ralph Linde, Head of the Group Academy.

Ralph Linde (54)

studied adult education and ­linguistics in Regensburg. In 1990, he started at Audi as a management trainer and became general manager of Volkswagen Coaching in 2006. Since 2013 he has been in charge of the Volkswagen Group Academy, the umbrella organization for all the Group’s training programs.

Mr. Linde, it’s often said that employees should be open to new responsibilities. Why?
The digitalization in our industry is changing the world of work. New technologies have also done this in the past, but today it is happening faster and to a broader extent. Most specialized professions will be changed due to digitalization, and even office work will be affected by it. We will develop the expertise needed to perform these jobs through specialized training, just as we have done up to now. However, there will also be tasks that disappear. The Pact for the Future guarantees that employees who perform these types of jobs will be trained to qualify for new responsibilities in future trend areas. That’s what is meant when we speak of personnel transformation. And these new jobs also require open-mindedness and a willingness to learn.

How do you identify these responsibilities and changes?  
Right now we are carrying out what we call competence radar workshops, in which we work together with the departments and career branch academies to analyze which technologies will be introduced in which departments and when – and what changes will result in the medium to long term. We are collecting information for the company about which jobs will cease to exist due to digitalization and which new skills we will need in the various departments.

Let’s assume I know or suspect that my workplace will change. Which job should I try to qualify for in order to be part of these new developments?
That depends on your workplace and your experience and skills. In general, it’s a good idea to keep up with the latest developments in your particular area of expertise. Currently we are working in concert with experts to define which skills employees who work in the areas of connectivity and e-traction, for example, will be needing in the future. We will be offering training programs to qualify people for those jobs.

Are there already any examples of the type of employee realignment that you’re talking about?
here is a strong demand for employees with good programming skills in technical development, sales, and IT. We are working intensively with these departments to draw up profiles for these future-oriented jobs, and will be developing qualifications training programs for them. Specialized skills in technical development will also be needed in the area of e-mobility. That’s why we’ve developed a vocational re-skilling program for employees in automobile mechatronics with an ­emphasis on system and high-voltage technology. And since the end of 2015, we’ve been training Braunschweig employees from areas such as plastics technology or the foot lever plant at the Training Center to work in battery finishing, a field that has a promising future at that site. 

Interview with Ralph Linde at the Group Academy, where the staff is developing new learning formats.

» We will be ­providing support to staff all along the way towards change. «

Yet some people still fear change.
That’s understandable, but the changes won’t happen overnight. We will be providing support to the staff all along the way. They will have time to adjust to the change, but not an infinite amount. They have to give “the new” a chance – and take advantage of the opportunities. That means being open to change and looking forward to learning something new. With that attitude, everyone can contribute their share to ensuring that the ­Volkswagen brand has a good future.

The topic of further training and employee qualification has been given a lot more weight with the advent of digitalization and the agreements in the Pact for the Future. How has this development changed the work of you and your team?
Digitalization also affects how we educate and train. We are developing more and more digital content and formats, such as online seminars. In order to implement new concepts for learning and teaching, we have also founded an education lab in Wolfsburg as an ideas incubator. We are currently experimenting with using virtual reality glasses and trainers from Wolfsburg to teach employees around the world about how to operate robots. I never get tired of stressing that digitalization doesn’t only have an affect on technical skills. Handling digitalization successfully also requires social skills. It is changing the way we work together, which means we have to change our corporate culture. That’s the reason we have introduced numerous initiatives to create a culture in which successful digitalized work is even possible.

Do you have an example of digitalization in education?
For our first Volkswagen Academy Video Award, apprentices and dual-study students shot short educational videos themselves, which were very well done and conveyed knowledge in an entertaining, YouTube style. The young people recorded what they had learned in films for the colleagues who will follow in their footsteps – and they did it in their own language. By shifting perspective – the young people assuming the role of trainers – the content became much more ­immediate and relevant.

English will become the obligatory corporate language in 2022. How will you ensure that all employees master this language?
The aim is for everyone to learn the English they need for their work. That primarily applies to executives and managers as well as employees who deal with colleagues from other countries. We will support our colleagues with more and increasingly intensive English courses. To that end we are testing a few different concepts. For example, at our training center in Rhode we created a “small English world” for the duration of an intensive English course. All service employees in the building spoke English to the guests. In addition, we are working on new and more online courses for self-study learners.

» Handling digitalization successfully also requires social skills. «

Do you understand employees who are worried about not being able to participate in meetings in the future because they lack English skills?  
Of course! But the goal is to communicate with each other about work-related topics within the Group – and not that every employee has to speak English at an academic level. And even after 2021, German will continue to be spoken in most meetings as long as only German participants are present. The same applies to the other countries and sites in the Group: the local language will only be abandoned when someone who doesn’t speak the language participates in a meeting. What’s important is that management introduce the topic cautiously and that no one in the company is stigmatized because they speak little or no English. Those who need English for their job will find the appropriate courses with us.

Experts have been saying for years that employees have to keep learning all their lives. Is this viewpoint all the more valid today in the automobile industry, with all its changes?
Absolutely! Such radical change taking place at this speed in both technical and social areas is unusual. Let’s just look at the effective half-life of knowledge: in some areas it is extremely short compared to how it was in the past. That’s why we all have to keep learning, and that has its advantages. For one thing, learning is exciting and keeps the mind fit. For another, it can open new doors behind which many opportunities are waiting.