It is an exciting time in the automotive industry, and certainly at Kendrion Automotive. The past two years have been intense, as we have almost doubled our capacity. We have a global team of144 people spread across in Germany, Romania, Czech Republic, Austria, the Netherlands, the US and China. At the same time, we are shifting in a major way from being a mechatronics company to focusing on software. As part of this, we have been building up our software expertise, both through the acquisition of 3T and the hiring of new software engineers. All of these changes will help keep our company strong and growing during the transition towards electric, automated, connected and shared driving future.
To make it all work, though, we need to be able to adapt quickly, in terms of people, processes and products. And that requires a cohesive and effective global team of supportive, driven colleagues. In our post-Covid, ‘hybrid office’ world, that not only takes a ‘new way of working’, but a ‘new way of managing’ as well.
Working towards a powerful vision as one
For any team, but certainly a global one, a compelling vision is crucial. It helps us focus, stay energized, and achieve results. Together, we decided on ‘Transforming mobility for the better’. This reflects our common love of technology, our drive to create products that improve people’s lives, and our personal willingness to change. We believe in where we’re going.
The right skills and attitude
In the face of the changes of the past few years, there are some practical lessons learned that are helping our team become a global powerhouse. I see myself as the ‘captain’ of a team, rather than a ‘manager’. I believe people will thrive better when I do not micro-manage them. But this requires carefully creating that team. Firstly, we need to bring people in who not only have the right skills, but the right attitude: passion, a collaborative approach, and a willingness to change, for example. We also need a balance of experience in our team: between those who bring their expertise, and those who offer a fresh eye. And with such a broad geographical spread, we need colleagues who can thrive within a team, but also work independently.
Many conversations and meetings now happen over virtual channels like Teams. On the one hand, we can no longer just stop by a colleague’s office to resolve and issue or even just for a chat. But on the other hand, remote working makes it easier for people from different sites to join in discussions and to collaborate. Plus, as a company, we are no longer limited to hiring ‘local’ talent: we can attract the best people, wherever they are.
Another thing we have learned is that training new people puts a lot of pressure on the existing team members. I find it is better to scale a bit slower: slow and steady wins the race.
When you build a team like this, there is no need to micro-manage: I can be ‘hands off’ and focus on coaching, helping each team member to succeed. Because when they succeed, I do too – and so does Kendrion.
Challenges and SommerFests
In today’s competitive work environment, you also need to find innovative ways to retain your valued team members. But we have some aces up our sleeve at Kendrion. We are at the forefront of an industry transition, so we can offer plenty of exciting projects to work on, where each person’s efforts will have real impact. It is a fast-evolving industry as well, which keeps us sharp and agile, and creates a dynamic working environment. Our team members can often directly see the result of their hard work, for instance when a new model of a prominent car brand is released with Kendrion technology inside.
But it is important not to forget the ‘human’ aspect. So locally, we create opportunities to meet up with each other socially, at BBQs and SommerFests, for example.
If knowledge is power, sharing is critical
Sharing information is one of the most effective management tools and the results are often invaluable. People are by nature curious and hungry for information. When I joined the Kendrion Automotive team in 2022, I brought along some very simple but effective communications tools from my previous company, 3T. For example, I hold a weekly one-on-one session with each team member. We can discuss what is going on and where they need (my) help.
Every week, all the team leads contribute to our short and concise ‘weekly newsletter’. Every department has a section, for highlights, lowlights and what is next. This keeps everyone on the same page – whether they are a work-from home engineer in Romania, or part of the marketing or production team in our main offices. And if they have any questions, they can ask the team leads for more info.
On the team level, we try to sit down face-to-face regularly, even if it is remotely. We coach people to use Team meetings efficiently: for example, how to stay focused, disciplined, and respectful of colleague’s time. Part of this is leaving some time between meetings, so you are not running from one to another. It is important to ‘switch off’, have a coffee, a chat, a break.
Change is not easy, but with the right team, we can solve the challenges, and learn and grow together. At Kendrion, our management and leadership teams are fully committed and confident that we’re on the right track and doing the right things. They embrace the changes, and they spread that openness to others in the organization. That has been fundamental to enabling us to create such a wonderfully effective global team.
Are you an engineer looking for a new challenge? Let’s see if we’re a match.