The new Budapest head office and the first part of the development centre of Robert Bosch Kft. will be officially opened in just a few weeks. Bosch employees have relocated to the new office progressively since the middle of May. Among the first to move was general manager Javier González Pareja. He gave his first interview at the new site to The Budapest Times in his new office. Before we came to speak about topics such as HR policy and business development, a large photo gallery on one wall of the office attracted our attention.
What is the photo gallery of?
Those are the motifs of employees from all the Bosch factories in Hungary. When we appointed our 1,000th employee in Budapest, we asked all our employees to send in a personal photo on the topic “Bosch and me”. You can see a selection of the best pictures here, including several milestones of the Bosch sites in Hungary, in Hatvan, Eger, Miskolc and Budapest.
Which photo did you contribute?
A photo showing me during a speech in Parliament together with the former head of the development centre, my colleague Dr. Jan-Peter Stader, the state secretary Prof. Dr. Zoltán Cséfalvay and the president of the Hungarian Investment and Trade Agency (HITA) Erzsébet Dobos, just after being announced as “Investor of the Year” by the Hungarian government. The event was held last year.
How is work progressing on the second part of the complex?
The laying of the foundation stone was in April. The construction work is now in full swing. You can see the cranes clearly from the end of the corridor of this building. Everything is going to plan so far, not least thanks to excellent cooperation with the Budapest district Kõbánya and its mayor Róbert Kovács.
Why have you not yet managed to sign a strategic agreement with the Hungarian government?
Both sides are still working on it but signing of the agreement is imminent.
What role does Hungary play for Bosch?
The significance of Hungary to Bosch and hopefully also of Bosch to Hungary is clear if you look at the number of employees. At the beginning of the year we hired our 8,500th employee, which puts Hungary in third place in Europe just after Germany and Turkey. Robert Bosch Elektronika Kft. in Hatvan is the largest Bosch factory in the world for automotive electronics, and the largest European factories for the fields of electric drives and power tools are in Miskolc. Our development centre here in Budapest is Bosch’s largest in Europe outside of Germany. It’s also an indication of Hungary’s increased importance to Bosch that the Bosch production conference attended by some 400 top managers from Bosch from all over the world was held for the first time last year outside of Germany, namely in Hungary, in Eger, Hatvan and Miskolc.
Presumably that is related to the highly qualified Hungarian employees. How do you ensure that they remain loyal to your country and also remain in Hungary for as long as possible?
By offering them a clear career plan and supporting their progress to the greatest possible extent. For development engineers that includes a stay of at least six months in Germany. We don’t see that as posing the risk that they will decide to emigrate.
How much more does a Hungarian development engineer earn in Germany during their time there?
If you compare the actual salaries, there are significant differences. However, we don’t regard it as especially problematic if employees go to Germany and then stay there. Of course there are some who want to do that, partly for personal reasons, but most return. They see they also have a future here in Hungary, their home country. It’s natural: the best country to live in tends to be your home country. We can see that if we look at the roughly 600 graduates that we employed last year in Hungary. For Hungarian engineers staying in their own country is an attractive prospect. That includes being guided to an engineering career in their own country by companies in a targeted way.
What efforts does Bosch make in this field?
We work together closely with various universities, including with our own departments and laboratories. Recently we established the Robert Bosch Knowledge Centre in conjunction with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. We also try to encourage students’ interest in the engineering profession with plenty of technology-focused initiatives such as rallies involving specially constructed vehicles (Power tools electromobile in Miskolc, pneumobile in Eger and “Playground for Engineers” in Budapest). We are also heavily involved in dual training/education.
How else do you keep employees loyal to Bosch?
For example, with attractive, family-friendly conditions. In addition to company nurseries, at some sites we offer our employees flexible working hours and home-working possibilities. We are endeavouring in a targeted way to get more women into management positions. Our goal is to increase the proportion of women here. We’re among the best in European comparison – even as a technology company! I’m convinced that there’s more potential here but we need to start early. If we want to have more female managers, we will also have to recruit a disproportionately high number of female graduates. Several times a year we hold the “Bosch Visions Days” and other recruiting events at which we offer special workshops for women.
We discussed the question of having more women in management positions at Bosch during our first interview around two years ago. How much progress have you made since then?
The proportion of women in management positions has risen to 15 per cent. That still isn’t enough. We don’t want to set a specific number. Instead we want to work consistently on increasing the proportion of women. While I’m not a woman, as a foreign manager I’ve experienced myself how you can progress at Bosch if you exert yourself. There are a lot of positive examples. Often it’s simply a case of believing in yourself and wanting it. As managers it’s our responsibility to motivate both women and foreigners to have the confidence and to show what they are capable of.
Presumably it’s not primarily a question of female emancipation but about the benefits from a business point of view, for example in relation to it being increasingly difficult to find appropriate male applicants.
There are at least three reasons. Enlarging the talent pool is one. Another is that it is proven that mixed management teams make better decisions, not least thanks to female social skills and women weighing up risks better. And, third, most household consumption and investment decisions are made by women. And DIY jobs are increasingly done by women at home. We’ve acknowledged that trend with our special electric tools (such as the IXO, the best-selling power tool in the world, “made in Miskolc”), which can also be used by women very easily. It’s evident that it’s helpful for women to be involved in the development of such solutions too.
Those are all weighty commercial reasons. Why in your opinion has the topic of women played a relatively minor role in engineering so far despite that?
That may be something to do with the culture. In addition, infrastructure definitely also plays a role, including the provision of childcare. There are some countries, even including Germany, where there’s still room for improvement there. We try to offer women the possibility of full childcare. It’s also important for women to be integrated again properly following maternity leave. Just last month we had an employee in logistics who wanted to take the next step in her career but went on maternity leave. Just a week after her return to work she was promoted to head of the logistics department. She, together with the whole organisation, was pleasantly surprised by that development because she thought that she would have to wait years for that step because of her maternity leave.
In other words, a career and children don’t necessarily exclude each other.
Managers need to understand that it’s about achieving results primarily, rather than being physically present at the workplace. I’ll leave the office today at 2pm, for example [the interview was conducted on a Friday – editor], pick up my children and spend a little time with them, then go running and finally go though my emails at the computer in the evening. It doesn’t matter whether I do that here in the office or at home. What is important, however, is a sensible work-life balance. Naturally certain rules have to be observed but within those rules a certain degree of freedom can be granted – as long as we get the results.
An appropriate corporate culture is needed to ensure that such freedom is used but not misused…
We get a commitment and check the results. Naturally the degree of freedom is also dependent on the position of the employee in question and the nature of the task. With team projects especially it’s necessary to adjust more to the working hours of others. Nevertheless, around 50 managers in the Bosch group recently decided in favour of flexible working hours.
What other ideas do you have for interesting engineer events?
A lot of ideas are possible within the topic of “Made in Hungary for the World” but I don’t want to get ahead of the engineers. The important thing is for students and developers to think about it and make the most of their knowledge potential in practice.
What are the aims of the companies of the Bosch Group in Hungary in general?
Naturally we want to continue to grow, including in terms of the number of employees. We’re working on ensuring that number is significantly higher than at the beginning of the year. The signs point to growth at all the Bosch sites in Hungary. They are competitive worldwide and the order and market situation is positive, although there’s naturally still some room for improvement domestically.
How satisfied are you with Hungarian economic policy?
Our presence for over 115 years, now with more than 8,500 employees, in Hungary shows our commitment to the country. Naturally greater predictability would be desirable. And of course the bureaucracy could work somewhat quicker and more efficiently. The speed of administrative processes in the public sector could get closer to that of the private sector. The administration still needs to catch up there.
Has the negative image of Hungary put forward by some German media outlets caused you problems when competing for jobs?
Our factories haven’t lost jobs in competition within the Group because of Hungary’s image. Anyone who follows the German press on the subject of Hungary can frequently observe that the real situation is different from how it is portrayed sometimes. We cooperated with the earlier governments, are cooperating with this government and will surely also cooperate with future governments. Communication with the authorities needs to be open on both sides. We’re satisfied in that respect. Our task is to maintain the best possible relations with the government in power at any given time. I can only get by with my Hungarian to a certain level, so we often communicate in English or German. I’m frequently surprised how well some members of the Hungarian government speak German or English.