In our series of interviews to stay in touch with the automotive industry, we spoke with ITW Additives International’s Vice President & General Manager, François Bruart, and Vanessa Sibenaler, HR Director, about the trends and challenges they are facing.

 

ITW Additives International manufactures and markets products that clean combustion engines, thus reducing emissions. Mr. Bruart kicks off the interview: “We can clearly see a trend where the automotive industry is becoming more sustainable and eco-friendlier; the market is moving to greener alternatives. It is very important for us to understand those market evolutions and adapt to them in an efficient way to best serve our customers. “

“While we clearly support the greener movement, due to the nature of our product, we prefer hybrids over EVs.”, Mr Bruart adds “we strongly believe in our products as they provide an eco-friendly solution for combustion engine vehicles, which will definitely continue to be a key part of the global car park for the coming 15 years.”

“We also strive for reducing the emissions in our manufacturing environment – such as changing lighting, saving or reusing energy throughout our production process, sourcing green electricity.” ITW is committed to reduce its GHG emissions and they are clearly progressing as can be read in their sustainability report.

New hires outright ask them whether the product is sustainable, but the company can assure them that there definitely is a bright future in the market. They notice that candidates are eager to work for a company that contributes to a positive impact on climate.

Ms. Sibenaler adds: “Our strategy is clearly set, and while it is still a bit too early to predict the speed of change, we strongly believe in hiring for new competencies, such as digital and e-commerce, that will allow us  to be successful in the long run.” The seeds are planted for the future, as the long-term impact is more strategic in nature.

“We also strive to be an inclusive workplace.” Ms. Sibenaler states, “At both corporate & management level, we have incorporated action plans to drive diversity, and it’s on the table for every single revision. For the near future, we focus on what competencies are missing from a people perspective.” ITW has set the objective to achieve a workforce that is at least 30% female – and it has already achieved its target. “We also have 50-50 parity in our divisional leadership team, which is pretty unique for the automotive industry. And no, we aren’t just talking about HR functions; we’re talking operations and finance, although we must admit that finding female leaders for commercial roles is a bit of a challenge.

“We hire for attitude,” Mr. Bruart adds, “the sanitary crisis has proven that agility and resilience are very important – we need people who understand, learn, adapt & rebound, who can continue working on that positive dynamic.” Ms. Sibenaler chimes in: “Previously, organizations were set on rails, with rigid processes and vertical career paths. Now, we see more diagonal shifts – even though these vertical shifts continue to happen. We still believe that the broad view is an added value.”

That is exactly why they uprooted the decision-making process; teams need to have a much broader perspective. “We never discuss strategy without HR, Operations or finance present”, Mr. Bruart states. “we value their contributions on the topic – we need all stakeholders to be on board if we want our decisions to have a tangible impact.”

Ms. Sibenaler recounts the change in profiles they look for: “We need proactive people instead of reactive ones. The leadership team defines the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, rather than the ‘how’; this is up to the teams underneath. We’re active supporters of the changes in the organizational structure and the leadership style – if we look at our Management Team, only one person had the same job before the pandemic 2 years ago.”

ITW works as a decentralized organization with 85 divisions – each with a high level of autonomy. There are several company frameworks, but that still leaves lot of freedom in the decision-making process. Within those frameworks, divisions can navigate as they see fit – so ownership and entrepreneurship are strongly present at a management level.

They’ve gone through major change management; rather than going out and hiring external candidates, over 50% of newly created roles have been filled internally. It was in the works for 2020, and they started rolling out these changes just before Covid hit – this meant people not only had to adapt to a new job, but also to a new reality. The pandemic accelerated the changes on a company-wide level, but through mentoring and coaching from management & leadership, it was a successful operation.

The strategy was clear; the actions plan ready – the communication was rolled out. “Once the implementation plans are defined, with high involvement of the team, it is important to monitor your progress in executing them.” Since employee satisfaction is critical to deliver sustainable positive results, ITW Additives International started to conduct an engagement survey, which confirms the positive vibe – despite the sudden disruption. “The results are reassuring – there were certainly areas for improvement, which we’re addressing now, but the overall baseline is very good.” Ms. Sibenaler concludes.

 

At AIMS International, we’re here to help. If you need help defining the required competencies, assessing talent or achieving a state of high performance, contact us and we’ll happily discuss how to move forward.

If you have any questions, or have anything to add, feel free to reach out to one of the Global Practice Automotive Mobility members or get in touch with our Belgian office by email at belgiumoffice@aimsinternational.com

 

Author: Olivier Legrand

AIMS BELGIUM