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Nothing can be done by rote - Ágnes Sándorné Bosnyák, HR Manager of DENSO

Continuous change is a basic requirement nowadays, you can't work from routine or even from last year's experience, said Ágnes Sándorné Bosnyák, HR Manager of DENSO Hungary. In Japanese company culture, there is a very strong tradition of internal promotion. 99% of managers become managers in the company. And the appointment also involves a period of preparation. The selection of physical workers is done in a day, but the employability of the Hungarian workforce is often affected by health conditions. On average, nearly 10% of DENSO applicants are not medically fit for multi-shift or permanent work. We asked the company's HR manager about company practices and the challenges of the market.

Bosnyák Ágnes, Denso-

What HR tasks will be at the forefront at Denso this year?

We start the financial year in April. We have recently concluded wage negotiations with the unions, so the issue of wage increases is one of the most important issues at the moment. Our priority is to manage our workforce in light of the new Aliens Act. We need to pay attention to this, as we currently have a number of guest workers and staff on permanent secondment from third countries. We are studying the legislation to ensure that we can manage the changes well, as the law also affects the extension of stay and the importation of any new workers.

From how many countries have guest workers come to your company?

Ukrainian workers have been working at the company for six years, and a year and a half ago, colleagues from the Philippines, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan arrived in smaller numbers. At present, we do not see a need to increase the number of guest workers.

How does the cooperation between foreign and Hungarian workers work?

We already have quite a well-established cooperation, with a diverse team and no separate shifts. We have interpreters to support our Ukrainian, Kyrgyz and Kazakh colleagues, and we organise English language courses specifically for production for those who work with Filipinos in the queue.

Are there any areas that are challenging either because of the economic situation, the impact on the automotive industry or the state of the labour market?

We definitely have the challenge of workforce management, we want to increase the proportion of Hungarian workers. It is a priority and a challenge, not only because of the lack of preparedness of workers, but often also because of their health. For us, the health of applicants is as important a filter in the selection process as a test or interview.

What problems do you face?

We find that 10% of released applicants have problems that make them unable to work standing or on shift, usually as a result of some neglected chronic illness. That is why we will certainly not take advantage of the new legislation that does not require a medical examination when recruiting new workers. It is our fundamental responsibility to employ colleagues who can maintain their health in the long term.

What recruitment tools and methods are you using to manage staffing challenges?

Applicants now apply primarily online for advertised positions, and we have an internal referral system in place through which many come. During the selection process we aim to ensure that applicants get to know the company and the working environment they will be working in as well as possible. In practice, they spend a full working day here: they arrive at 6am and the selection process lasts until 2pm, during which they take a test, interview, medical examination, walk-in, practical test. At the end of the day, a decision is made on who can and cannot be hired.

It's a very fast process. How did you manage to make it so compact?

Over the past 15 years, the company has gone through several phases of expansion, and that growth has been labor-intensive. We went to a very large hiring system, we could take up to 60-100 people in a day, and we designed our systems to accommodate that. Now we don't have that kind of large scale expansion, but the process has been nicely streamlined.

Does your company have an onboarding process?

Yes. The first step is a five-day induction training, which has theoretical and practical parts. This way, colleagues are handed over to the areas with all the knowledge they need to do their job. In the field, the induction process continues and is now carried out by the team leaders.

What career path can I take at DENSO?

On joining, an operator starts with us in a specific category. There are three levels in this job, with the possibility of upgrading every year, based on the performance of the colleague and the number of machines they can operate. There is also the possibility of progressing to machine setter and then to team leader, a level that can be reached in 4-5 years. 99% of the managers we employ are appointed through internal promotion. There is a very strong tradition of internal promotion in Japanese company culture.

How is internal training and promotion done?

We have internal competitions that you can apply for. For leadership positions, the most common is for managers to assess who they see as suitable in their area to become a team leader. When someone is put on this path, they are always given a fixed-term contract extension first. This is a kind of training period, which allows both parties to decide whether this is the right path for them or whether they would prefer to return to their original job. This is to avoid the trap of a very good professional becoming a manager who may not be the right person for the job.

We aim to have a one-year training period for all levels of management, with development systems behind that, whether you become a team leader or a manager.

In recent years, employee needs have changed a lot, for example in terms of the leadership style that employees expect. How does this fit in with Japanese work culture?

For example, feedback is not a strong point of the Japanese work style, and there is a growing demand for it from colleagues, especially the younger generation. We are constantly working to create the conditions for this. We need to learn and practise how to give each other honest feedback, whether it is in staff-to-staff or manager-to-staff communication. We have also held training courses and workshops on this. The results are improving year by year, we are seeing the change, but it is also a wider cultural issue, as we have many nationalities working for us, who also differ, for example, in what they can communicate.

You have been with the company for many years, during which time a lot has changed in terms of HR and the labour market. Can you highlight some of the key turning points?

The first turning point was the Lehman Shock (2008 crisis - ed.), when the economy, including our operations, stalled to such a degree that we had to do things we had never done before. That was a major learning point. At the time, we formulated a number of principles that we have adhered to ever since.

The next point was when the labour market changed and the Hungarian workforce ran out. First, in 2014, we started to bring in labour from other parts of the country by providing accommodation, then a few years later we started to work with cross-border workers, and then foreign workers came.

What are some HR professional principles and mottos that are still important to you as an HR manager?

It has always been important to me that we work along the company values, which are a solid foundation. I believe it is a core value to respect each other and to operate systems in which our employees and our partners feel that way. In addition, it is clear that there is a need for continuous change, nothing can be done by rote. Nor can we plan based on the data of previous years, because we will never experience the same things as we did last year, and the pace of change is accelerating.

What are the key values?

Foresight, cooperation and loyalty are key. Respect, which I mentioned earlier, which includes constructive debate and forward-looking discussions.

What are the issues you most like to work on?

I prefer to deal with challenging new tasks, and the last few years have brought almost nothing new to the HR profession. For me, the importance of the topics is determined by the responsibility they have on the employees and our environment. I am concerned about how employee needs are changing, what is needed from the employer side to retain them.

Photo of Ágnes Sándorné Bosnyák

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