Interview with BOSCH Bari HR Director: Francesco Basile

Evidence-Based Management behind youth, future and innovation in Human Resources Management

ScienceForWork shares the contribution of scientific research  in the field of organizational psychology and personnel management with HR professionals, managers and consultants. Evidence-Based Management is the driving vision of ScienceForWork. We believe in the added value obtained by matching research and daily HR Management.   

The interview is also available in ITALIAN

Bari, January 5th, 2015

Good morning, we would like to give you time to present yourself and your professional experience

I am Francesco Basile, 46, and I have a twenty years experience in the field of Human Resources. My first role was HR Director of a Siemens plant with 500 employees. I got there after a Master’s Degree in Law and a MBA at the SDOA in Salerno. The Master introduced me to the world of business, as the degree I took 24 years ago was too theoretical and rather far from business affairs. After Siemens, I arrived at Natuzzi in 1997, where I took charge of all the main processes in the HR area. I have been head of recruitment, head of training, and then head of HR development. Furthermore, I also managed the Human Resources for Natuzzi commercial branches abroad (Europe, China, Brasil and Romania). From 2007 to 2010 I have been Central Director of Human Resources of the Group. In 2010 I left the Natuzzi Group and entered the Bosch Group. As a Bosch manager, I have spent my first year between Milan and Stuttgart. Bosch holds a key principle: every manager must take part to a challenging introduction path, which must take place within the Corporate in Stuttgart. One year later, I got in Bari and nowadays I am Head of Human Resources Department of Bari Bosch plant. This is the biggest plant of Bosch in Italy and it is worldwide famous because here the common rail was invented and we currently produce it.

Speaking about organization, what is the role of the HR? Has it an administrative function or Business Partner, which is oriented to manufacturing processes in the long term?

The role of the Bosch HR Department consists in a fundamental supporting role to the core business; and sometimes the HR itself “drives” the core business. As part of the management team, nowadays we are questioned to assess Business Plans in relation with the impact on the personnel and the organization. In Bosch as in many other companies, the HR Department is often questioned just before taking new decisions: HR and Organization assets are essential for business and in some cases, the HR itself drives business. Today our call is to prefigure forward-looking plans, in the middle and long term. Decisions are took basing on this kind of information. That is why I say the HR role, in Bosch and in the world, supports business and drives it sometimes.

What can you say about the autonomy of peripheral plants from Stuttgart Head Office in the development of HR policies?

Like every plant belonging to Bosch, we are given crucial guidelines from the Head Office. However, every plant has the possibility to customize personnel policies basing on cultural, linguistic and environmental factors. The most customized policies are those relating with trade unions and personnel development. Thus, the strength of Bosch stands in having common policies: this implies that whether in Europe, Asia or America, in every Bosch plant, “you feel at home” in the same industry.

In general, did the HR Management undergo modifications so relevant that the necessity to adapt or revise the previous strategies was engendered? If so, how can you adapt?  

The biggest change in HRM is about flexibility. Today this topic is so much discussed and even misapplied sometimes. Being flexible for us does not mean changing or just supporting change, but adapting while the context undergoes change. Thus, HR has to educate, train and support all Human Resources towards flexibility. This is not just adaptation.

Because you need a shared skill in reading change and reacting…

The process undergoes two very distinct phases. First, I understand that the context is evolving, and then I find my way to adapt as long as the context changes. Today, both youth and companies must realize that we live in a world I like to define as “liquid”. The liquid world has fewer datum points and encompasses two potentially explosive factors: change and rapidness of change.

What sources are sought by Bosch Bari HR Department to update the HR management practices and strategies?

Our key principle, and not only in HR, is perpetual development. We have two sources from which we can collect further information: first, we are very lucky and thankful for having a great Bosch Corporate, which is a powerful hotbed of ideas, new projects and new approaches to work. Second: benchmarking, which concerns Bari plant too. We enjoy benchmarking at a local or national level and comparing ourselves to different companies such as big industries and multinationals, because improvement often comes from the comparison between different realties.

We were impressed by Bosch efforts in research activities and promotion. This is surely very present in you core business. Is this valid for Bosch Human Resources Management too?

Yes, of course. A company employing 34,000 people solely in R&D activities must be considered  as a company that looks ahead. Aiming to the future also means investing on young people, on their competences, knowledge and enthusiasm; clearly, HR have of course a key role in this. Those six thousand youngsters experiencing an apprenticeship in Bosch are part of a business culture that is genuinely belonging to Germany and to Bosch, in particular. We offer the “School-Work Turnover”. Moreover, a recent news: here in Bari we established an agreement with the Superior Technical Institute [ITS, in Italy] Cuccovillo: from next January we will host ten high school students applying to the Turnover project. We are building a laboratory where they will be able to apply directly what learnt at school.

Is this the way you overcome the Scientist – Practitioner gap?

Yes, absolutely. Engineering schools and colleges grew consistently over the last years, yet they provide mainly theoretical knowledge. A big company with financial resources fills the gap up via the creation of infrastructures guiding students in the practical experience of what they have learnt. In November 2014, we signed an agreement with the Politecnico of Bari and Confindustria (the federation of Italian employers) in order to give university students the possibility to join the School-Work Turnover project. Students in engineering will have the chance to experience a five or six hundred hours internship in Bosch, aiming to overcome the gap between theory and practice.

We are Psychology students; therefore, one question about psychologists is very important for us. Are they employed in Bosch Human Resources Management? Basing on your experience, what do those professionals do in Bosch and what contribution do they provide?

I met psychologists in Bosch and in other companies; they hold a key role in processes concerning recruitment and personnel development. Specifically in the selection processes, the psychologist is the one who provides tests and then evaluates their results, that is, the most critical issue. Psychologists are also very important in personnel development, as they relate with the deepest part of the human being in order to capture motivation and talent. They have a supporting role: psychologists are oriented toward some aspects of the human being, which is its propensity in perspective, whereas a different and complementary focus is always needed.

Among the available sources of update, is there one that is mostly used or is there a combined use in Bosch Human Resources Management? 

There is a synergy for sure. In Bosch, you find a good mix between research and practical and experiential assessment. Surveys are heavily used here in Bosch; through those tools, we are given a feedback from the employees and the external stakeholders. Feedback is crucial when we test a project or a new practice; this means that after a model is theorized, we assess its feasibility in a real context. This process drives us to further development. Thanks to this procedure, we are enabled to continuously boost and update the initial model.

In your opinion, what is about to change in Bosch HR management? In general, what future do you perceive in the HR Management?  

The HR will turn more and more into a Business Partner role. The HR function has evolved this way: in the past, it was about managing power, and just at a later stage about handling a service. Today we manage a service, indeed. This is much more complicated because power becomes personal and can be employed the way you want and whenever you want. On the other hand, providing a service implies stimulating the need for the service itself in the interlocutor. Once the need is set one must be ready to act properly. Here in Bari we launched a survey on the HR service for the very first time, because as we identify ourselves into being a service, it was crucial for us to understand people’s perception toward our service .

Would you like to give an open contribution about something that stimulated you during this interview?   

This is my open contribution: I always appreciate all kind of initiatives young people set up; I strongly believe that youth are the key for facing new models of business. They are not the solution to the crisis, as we are not facing a crisis but a structural change affecting both the market and the people. Therefore, I think young people should be trained and facilitated in reading today’s reality. Here is an example I also reported in past interviews. My father spent his entire career in Poste Italiane. When I told him I was offered a job in Siemens, he was shocked: “What? A private company?”. Twenty years ago, private firms were synonym of uncertainty. Today we must tell youngsters to multiply that uncertainty by one hundred, and that it is somehow structural. We must tell them that in America flexible jobs are merits rather than non-values. Today we tell young people that flexible contracts, which force them to stay on the alert and build new skills, aren’t merits as we call them precarious. Precarious in the dictionary is a synonym of disvalue. On the contrary, we could help them by explaining that in America the same approaches to work are considered a competitive advantage, because by changing company the personal expertise increases. We cannot say any longer that jobs in public companies or in banks are still a valid option, because it is a mere fantasy: we would recall a fake world, a world that no more exists. The world is changing very fast; we must tell youth that it is different from the past, but that’s their world and their time. The future is in your hands: everyone should play their own part.

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