Workshop fever grips Salzgitter: 15 of the Group’s employees traveled to this Lower Saxon city to discuss, under the guidance of experienced coaches, various methods for shaping the course of change Volkswagen Truck & Bus is embarking on in response to the changing markets. The location choice is not a coincidence: the MAN plant in Salzgitter switched from manufacturing trucks to producing components three years ago. As soon as they got there, the workshop participants discovered what impact structural change can have. Rainer Scharnowski, Head of HR at the plant in Salzgitter, told them how hard the HR team has been working to find new employment opportunities for over 850 employees – something he clearly feels strongly about.

Responding to specific ideas with direct feedback

During the two days that followed the plant visit, the focus was on getting to know change management tools and applying them in practice. “During the workshop, the participants are guided by coaches and also receive feedback and learn from colleagues from other brands and nationalities. The diversity in the group is important and something that is very much appreciated by the participants,” emphasizes Marianne Ekstedt, who is responsible for the training sessions in her role as Personnel & Competence Development manager at Volkswagen Truck & Bus AG.  All participants have their own specific change project to tackle within their company. Development functions merging, manufacturing processes becoming automated, sales functions bracing themselves for new vehicles, or brands transforming as a result of climate change are just some examples of how Volkswagen Truck & Bus’s four brands are responding to what is currently going on in the market.
“All brands in the Group are facing challenges due to the transformation of our business,” Ekstedt highlights. “With this training we want to give our employees common tools to successfully manage change in their respective brands.”

Insights become instrumental to success

As the workshop went on, the participants had some important realizations, starting with not underestimating the importance of communication when it comes to change projects. “It’s not just about giving information to those involved, we have to actually communicate with them,” one of the participants notes. The other insight was how crucial precise planning is for a project’s success: it is impossible to get other project participants on board and encourage them to drive change forward without really knowing why you want that change to happen in the first place.
“The participants were very open minded. I love to see how they share thoughts and ideas!“, Kjell Ehn, one of the two coaches from Scania Academy, said at the end of the workshop. The coaches base these workshops on John P. Kotter’s 8-step model, which provides a good theoretical foundation for initiating and managing change in the complex structures that characterize the business of an automotive manufacturer. More workshops are in the pipeline. The next one taking place in October, also in Salzgitter.