“We operate responsibly, transparently and with integrity.”
The automotive industry has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the semiconductor crisis in recent months. What topic is high on the agenda of Audi employees at the moment?
We are in the middle of the transformation. Everything we know is changing: laws, technologies, products, processes, our customers and their needs. This change primarily affects the people who work for us. The transformation requires new competencies and perspectives; it calls into question proven structures and functions. We therefore need to provide certainty and guidance for our employees. Our “People & Culture” initiative ensures that the employees are at the focus of our actions. This understanding is also the basis of our corporate strategy “Vorsprung 2030,” with which we are paving the way to a human-centered tech company. Designing mobility that offers a future that is sustainable and worth living is one of the most exciting challenges of our time. Our workforce is a critical success factor in this regard. Alongside all of these changes, the coronavirus pandemic also acutely highlighted the fact that digitalization, transformation and culture change matter more than ever before. There is no going back to the traditional work model for companies. Working from home has become an integral part of our daily lives. Under the heading “Better Normal,” we are currently working on a concept that considers the impact of the hybrid working world on our office space and workplace design, the sense of belonging in hybrid and digital teams and a digital leadership culture. In this respect, we are focusing equally on activities in the office and in our production areas, with the introduction of flexible arrangements for shift working also in full swing.
As described, Audi is in the midst of a profound transformation. How do you succeed in promoting integrity and culture change at Audi during such a time?
We aim to reinforce compliance and integrity every day in the company. This is why our corporate strategy states: We operate responsibly, transparently and with integrity. Audi has drawn consequences from the diesel issue and created the conditions for a new corporate culture. I personally view the transformation as a major opportunity. It is a time to mobilize people. To do this, we have to ensure that corporate culture, leadership understanding and structures are ideally interlinked. The right organizational structures are in place. For example, the deep-rooted integration of our integrity and compliance activities in our processes, or the performance management of our leaders with emphasis on transformation. We are therefore continually developing our corporate culture and relying heavily in this respect on our leaders. Our understanding of leadership at Audi means driving change. This includes, above all, an open speak-up culture and the freedom for everyone to work on their own responsibility, in the best way possible.
Outlook for 2022: What is the most important aspect for your division?
Audi focuses especially on the “S” in ESG. It is also the basis of our value-based and socially sustainable HR transformation. Up to 2025, we are providing a training and development budget of as much as 500 million euros. In addition to this, we have launched an additional budget for custom training measures amounting to 100 million euros. The three key aspects of stringent processes, transparent corporate culture and a uniform leadership understanding will be critical in 2022 in order to prepare our employees in all business areas for the working world of the future. We have devised a clear plan in this respect and are implementing it consistently: Our corporate culture is not only shaped by transparent communication, but also specifically promotes diversity and inclusion. Employees from more than a hundred nations working for Audi in Germany alone exemplify this diversity. Transformation also requires rapid action. And this, in turn, depends on optimum processes, so that our measures also reach all levels and can be applied individually. We rely on a uniform leadership understanding in this context, which motivates all Audi employees in both the digital and analog working world to create meaningful technology that will keep tomorrow’s world in motion.
What does the decision to phase out the combustion engine mean for the self-perception of Audi employees? And what will the engine developers do when the combustion engine is finally no more?
To start with, we are building upon the Audi spirit, which has always provided the essential technological edge throughout the company’s eventful history. This spirit is part of our DNA and will bring us forward together in this transformation too. “Vorsprung 2030” gives us a clear goal. Our strong corporate culture and our focus on people form the basis for successfully implementing this strategy. We are accompanying the process with many initiatives. This will provide our employees with orientation – especially for the personal changes ahead. This is essential for ensuring a successful transformation. After all, it is the people at Audi who will determine the company’s future success. We are focusing on a value-driven transformation and driving change from the inside out. This is very important to me. We know we have the best workforce on board and we are offering everyone the opportunity to actively shape the transformation. We are steering the complex conversion, reduction and expansion in the context of Audi.Zukunft and the guarantee of employment up to 2029. We initiated the relevant measures in this regard early on.
What role does the subject of training play in this transformation?
The training of our workforce in preparation for future topics plays an absolute key role. We want to ready our employees for the professions of the future with individually tailored training and development programs. About 5,000 people already participated in and completed custom training programs in Germany in 2021 in key areas of development for the company. This also includes our “Digital Shift” project at the Neckarsulm site, in which employees from production began a training program that will qualify them as software specialists. A similar transformation project was also launched in January of this year in Ingolstadt with the title “Digital Future.”
Will you need to downsize the workforce because of the switch to electric cars?
A car will always remain a car – with seats, brakes and a body. Some areas of electric car production will need less manual intervention and fewer employees, for example the electric motor. That is true. Other areas, however, will need additional manual intervention and also more people, such as in the highly complex area of battery production. The workforce demand will not reduce as significantly as scientific studies for the automotive industry have thus far suggested. This can be seen, for example, in the results of a research project conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) on the impact of the transformation toward electric mobility and digitalization at Volkswagen.
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