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Ariane Reinhart (Photo: Continental)

German industry is faced with a growing shortage of IT specialists. In answers to written questions, Continental’s HR chief Ariane Reinhart explains how the automotive supplier is refocusing its human resources department to deal with this challenge and how workers can be prepared for digital change.

automotiveIT: Many companies are complaining about shortages of qualified IT staff. What business areas are most affected at Continental?

Reinhart: For many business areas, a lack of specialist staff is already a reality. It's a big challenge for us as a company. It’s also a big challenge for the government and for society as a whole. At Continental, we are especiallylooking for skilled workers in areas where demand already exceeds supply. That is the case, for example, in software and IT. We employ more than 12,000 software experts today and the numbers are moving upward. Our approach is clear: We are looking for people, not for officials. The so-called “best fit” is extremely important. It takes precedence over formal qualifications. We offer flat hierarchies, tasks that fit people’s expertise, and the assumption of responsibilities early on. That’s a highly attractive combination for many people.

automotiveIT: What kind of measures is Continental taking specifically and how does the HR department itself have to change to manage the digital transformation?

Reinhart: We know that, as an employer, we are attractive beyond our direct industry. And we consciously want to focus on a broad range of job applicants and talent. That’s because the Continental work force should be as diverse, innovative and future-oriented as possible. Those kinds of experts are wanted by companies in every industry, which is why we face big challenges. We are working closely with our business areas so we are involved in product development processes early on. That way we are aware of future competencies early and can actively adjust CVs and job descriptions. Training courses are no longer set in stone for decades. That’s why, this year, we have added “automotive software developer” to our training course offering.

AutomotiveIT: How does Continental make sure that workers will have the required digital know-how in future?

Reinhart: We see ourselves as a learning organization. We understand that continuous interchange is a factor that adds value, whether we’re talking about knowledge management, network behavior or cooperation that goes beyond traditional borders. We also want to more strongly encourage the abilities of our work force to learn. We’re working on a new concept to teach our staff the basic competencies needed for the digital transformation. But the growing complexity and compression of work also raises fears, which is why we want to support our workers to follow these developments. And we want to actively help them and create opportunities to develop their own initiatives. In one pilot project, for example, we have turned the coaching principle around. Young trainees, or so-called digital natives, are mentors and coaches for older workers who, in turn, pass along their experience. So both age groups benefit.