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Challenges in the automotive industry

How to address the increasing demand for qualified employees in automotive, rising labor costs, intense competition on a small market such as Slovakia? Explore more in the next Leaders Talk interview with Mr. Kouril, an experienced HR Leader.



Mr. Jaroslav Kouril smiling

Q: The automotive industry in Slovakia is one of the most important industries with many employees. How has the situation changed since the crisis?

The media often informs that in terms of the number of cars produced in our country per thousand inhabitants, #Slovakia is a world leader. Now it's not even a question of whether it is precisely so or not. A clear message is that, from an economic point of view and an employer's point of view, the #automotive industry is crucial for Slovakia. Since 2009, the production of passenger cars has doubled in terms of their number (Slovakia should produce more than 980 thousand cars this year); The automotive industry accounts for 43% of the total industrial production in Slovakia and directly employs 80,000 employees.


Q: With the growing production, the requirements for a qualified workforce are increasing. Is there enough qualified workforce in Slovakia?

Regardless of whether they are car manufacturers or subcontractors, all employers are looking for employees with the same qualifications, experience, and requirements. Our company as an employer covers several regions of Slovakia, and I can confirm that today there is no longer a region where there is a #workforce in the labor market that meets the expectations of employers.

The Slovak labor market quickly became #exhausted in both #quantity and #quality of the workforce. In the last 10-15 years, a lot has been published and said on this topic; very little has happened.


Q: Educational system and the private sector cooperate intensively in mature markets. What is the situation in Slovakia?

Secondary and #university education exists for themselves, producing graduates in the areas where they are unemployed. Subsequently, sometimes directly after graduation, graduates are often reskilled with the support of the State.

The Association of the Automotive Industry of the Slovak Republic is very active in this field; they were the main engine in enforcing the law on #dual #education, adopted recently. This initiative has happened after an incredible 12 years of effort.


Q: What is your opinion on acquiring, engaging, and retaining talent in the automotive industry, especially when there is a shortage of qualified people in the market?

Employers, whether large multinational corporations or local companies, have to deal with this as best as possible to stay in the market and be competitive. I would call it the process of #continuous #learning.


Q: New manufacturing trends and technologies require constant workforce skills improvement. How to close this gap?

Faurecia employs about 3,000 employees in Slovakia. Continuous technological and manufacturing process development brings new demands on the #capacity and #quality of the #workforce. Given the situation in the labor market, we have no choice but to take care of the training of new employees on our own. We have created programs to integrate new employees to meet specific jobs as soon as possible. Of course, before that, we had to learn how to teach and lead new colleagues; we had to develop a system of how to develop further and reward internal #trainers.


Q: Did you standardized the adaptation program and internal trainers framework?

Yes, today, we take both programs as a standard procedure and as a matter imposed by the labor market, but we needed to address this phenomenon a few years ago. This approach also has positive aspects; in the company, we have grown internal trainers who are the significant assets we have because they teach others in addition to knowing what and how to do.


Q: There is a war on Talent. The best Talents choose a company they want to work for. How do you work with Talents in the organization?

There is much talk today about developing and retaining talents in companies. Naturally, everyone is happy if you have #high-#quality #human #potential, and you can invest and increase talent qualifications and competencies. At Faurecia, we do this very purposefully; we have an overview of employees in critical positions, about employees with essential #knowledge, skills, and abilities. As part of standard procedures, we evaluate their work #performance, focus on the expectations of both the company and the employee, and set the future development of the employee.


Q: Developing Talent competencies and skills are essential, but how about the importance of creating an opportunity for the Talent?

Creating opportunities must go hand in hand with development. As an international corporation, Faurecia has a considerable advantage in career opportunities - employees with potential and interest have a chance to #grow their #careers #vertically or across industry functions. The best #motivator for everyone is that it works in this way. There are real examples in Slovakia. Employees from our country have reached transnational jobs or work for our branches abroad. It is certainly worth mentioning the opportunity to work in international groups or project teams.


Q: How do the local managers approach vertical and functional career movements?

It has not been easy to get managers to support such a talent policy. They argued that they had "raised" a colleague and suddenly had to "let" go to someone else. These are constant discussions and arguments. We are creating an internal #competition, which must be, of course, managed. We have four product groups in Slovakia; each has its manufacturing plant (s), which acts "independently," Our role at the country level is to look for #synergies between them.



Mr, Jaroslav Kouril explaining challenges in automotive industry


Q: How do you retain key Talents, even there is intense competition in your industry?

Today, we can more or less deal with the situation in the labor market, but this has not fallen to us from the sky. Nor is it a consequence of the use of some "miracle" tools or systems. On the one hand, we can keep up and move forward quickly in technical development; on the other hand, as a manufacturing (technocratic) company, we have had and still have to learn a lot about the art of working with people. I emphasize working with people in the first place. Our ability to accept external influences and the ability to #predict them and the power of #people to know, be in constant contact with them, talk to them about #opportunities, understand them, respect and demand. Colleagues - technicians in the rhythm of daily duties sometimes do not like to listen about how is taking care of employees' impacting the company's results. Our response to that attitude was #adapting to their understanding and defining clear parameters - indicators of the company's performance in line with human resources indicators.


Q: Are graduates and experts attracted to Research & Development?

I perceive that a particular handicap of our society in Slovakia is the absence of research and development centers. Although, I look at this soberly. If you ask students from technical universities where they would like to work, most of them will answer #research and #development. Of course, it is not realistic for everyone to deal only with research and development or because it's "trendy. "I believe experts who have also experienced the real world of manufacturing should work in research and development, and last but not least, there is also room to gain excellent experience in projects. Although not directly in Slovakia, our company can offer the best research and development centers. Young people also seem to lack patience.



Q: What other challenge do you see for the Slovak automotive industry?

Addressing the #capacity and #potential of the #workforce will be mainly in the hands of employers. Everything they do to stay competitive directly impacts their costs, and the cost of labor rises. Slovakia is slowly moving from the lowest labor costs level to higher labor cost levels. We commit to considering every #investment in the workforce as carefully as possible regarding meaning and perspective. It is not easy, but we manage to balance the interests of the owners, executive management, and employees. I see this as another of the challenges for the #Slovak automotive industry.


Thank you Jaroslav.



About Mr. Kouril


Jaroslav Kouril has been working in human resources for almost 30 years. He is a country HR Director at Faurecia Slovakia, which employs about 3,000 employees in Slovakia. Jaroslav brings HR expertise and experience also from the industrial, energy, and public sector. Jaroslav accomplished postgraduate studies at Law from the Comenius University Bratislava and MBA from TC Business School Prague.


A series of MENITY Leaders Talk interviews.

Interview with Mr. Kouril by Mr. Janik, a partner at MENITY.

Pictures © MENITY.