Spain’s Javier González Pareja succeeded Thomas E. Beyer as CEO of Robert Bosch Kft. last December. He is also responsible for representing the Bosch Group in Hungary and the Adriatic region. The Budapest Times spoke to him about his first impressions and points of emphasis.
You previously worked for Bosch in the personnel field. What are your first impressions in Hungary from that point of view?
My Hungarian colleagues are very committed. I have had very many positive experiences in the short time that I have been here. I would emphasise their reliability in particular. Meetings always start punctually here. I am also impressed by the high level of education of the employees. The fact that Bosch has set up such a large and dynamically growing development centre in Hungary is testament to the quality of Hungarian education. This year the Robert Bosch Foundation again supported the further education of highly talented students in Central and Eastern Europe. Four of the 20 scholarships awarded this year went to Hungary. The next country only received two. That is also an indication of the excellent theoretical education in Hungary. I see need for change only in terms of adapting better to practical needs. The same applies to foreign languages, although, so I am told, there has been a lot of improvement in recent years in that respect.
You yourself are setting a good example. You are one of the few expat top managers that speak Hungarian.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I am on the right path to speaking Hungarian. I have set myself the goal of giving my talk in Hungarian at our annual press conference in May. My existing and targeted Hungarian language skills played a not inconsiderable role in my appointment. Bosch likes to communicate in the local languages both internally and externally. Top managers are no exception. Apart from practical aspects of communication with my colleagues, speaking the local language at a certain acceptable level is also a question of respect in my opinion. It makes everyday life simpler in one’s guest country and opens up new cultural perspectives. I would recommend that all expats learn Hungarian. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Anyone who has made it to the position of top manager can also learn Hungarian. Don’t make excuses, simply start to learn.
Do you already speak in Hungarian at internal meetings?
Yes, certainly. Although I must admit that I do so less from Thursday afternoon onwards. Then I occasionally ask my employees to speak to me rather in German or English. At the start you need to concentrate a lot with Hungarian. It is a very different language for a West European. You really need to be on the ball. We tend to switch languages at our meetings from time to time. I have colleagues who speak very good German or English. It tends to be the exception for everyone to speak the same language to the same degree at a meeting. We need to be flexible, occasionally change the language or repeat certain things in another language.
What else is important to you apart from learning the language?
I would like to have more women in management positions. That is less to do with women’s rights than with good business. It is proven that mixed management teams are more capable because they deal with problems from every angle. They complement one another. We have set ourselves the goal of appointing 20 per cent more women in technical positions than the market average. We hope to achieve that with the aid of mentoring programmes and flexible work-time models.
What other changes would you like to make?
I would like to increase further the proportion of Hungarian managers. I think there is still some potential for that in Hungary. It is much more about motivation and loyalty, rather than being primarily a financial question. If there are only expats occupying positions from a certain level, then that is naturally demotivating for local employees because they perceive that there is no further progression within the company beyond a certain point. We are conveying the clear message that we want, for example, to have around 90 per cent local employees in the top positions. In the long term the remaining proportion of expats will not need to be changed. A certain proportion of expats will always be necessary with a view to the further development of employees and connections to the parent company. Bosch generates around 80 per cent of its turnover abroad. Naturally all employees in leading positions need to have strong intercultural skills.
How is the construction of your new head office progressing?
It is going ahead according to plan. We are anticipating that the new complex will be inaugurated in spring 2013. The second phase of the project is already in the signing-off phase. We are confident that the construction of the second building section will connect seamlessly to that of the first. Finally all of our Budapest activities will be brought together in one building complex. Currently our employees are working in seven different buildings at our Budapest site on Gyömrõi út alone.
Will you also consolidate the companies of the Bosch Group in Hungary?
We are trying to limit the number of legal entities, which currently stands at 11, and to reduce that number in part. In July for example we are planning to integrate Buderus Hungaria into Robert Bosch Kft. New business activities, such as the entirely conceivable construction of solar parks, will take place under the roof of Robert Bosch Kft. from the outset.
In addition to the completion of the first phase of the construction of your new head office, what other events of note have there been or lie ahead?
We are constantly working to expand existing production and to win new products for our available capacity. Our hall capacity is sufficient for that at present. Even now our roughly 8,000 employees are generating turnover amounting to around two per cent of Hungarian GDP. A highpoint for us was at the end of January when we were presented in Parliament with the “Investor of the Year” award, given by the Hungarian Investment and Trade Agency (HITA), in the category of research and development. The prize actually had three recipients: us, our cooperation partners the Hungarian universities and the Hungarian institutions that created the appropriate conditions. Incidentally, the prize in the category of “new workplaces”, which was collected by a company this year for the creation of some 900 jobs, would also have gone to us except for the fact that the 1,700 new jobs created by the Hungarian Bosch Group in the same period were distributed between 11 different companies. Worldwide the Bosch Group created some 20,000 new jobs last year. A half of those were in Europe, with around 5,200 in Germany. Of the other 4,800 new Bosch jobs in Europe, around a third were in Hungary. That illustrates clearly the great importance of Hungary to Bosch.
How do the existing factories compare?
The factory at Hatvan, where we have well over 3,000 employees, is Bosch’s largest automotive electronics plant worldwide. The electrical drives factory in Miskolc is Bosch’s largest plant in Europe in that division. A few days ago we hired the 700th engineer at our development centre. Let me recap: last October at the time of the foundation stone ceremony we proudly announced the appointment of the 600th engineer. That makes Budapest the largest research and development location for Bosch in Europe outside Germany.
Is your dynamic development not gradually coming up against limits in terms of personnel?
No, not yet. It’s true that there is strong competition for talented employees. Thanks to various measures such as high-publicity events and cooperation arrangements with universities, we are doing very well in that respect and we hope that will remain the case. Our good image as an employer helps. At the end of February we finished in fourth place in a survey of 247 firms on the best workplace.
How satisfied are you with the general business conditions in Hungary?
Long-term stability is very important to us, regardless of the country. There is certainly still room for improvement in Hungary too in that respect. We value the prospects of Hungary as a location, otherwise we would not have created 1,700 jobs here last year alone.