The Head of People & Organization at Bosch.IO in Sofia, on intercultural differences and the path to success
The fourth industrial revolution is rapidly changing the business environment. Technological progress – especially in the IT sector – is driven by human beings, rather than machines. People, their knowledge, and their collaboration in teams have a high impact on a company’s competitive advantage. Actually, people are the company. Focusing on associates as individuals instead of “human resources” is, therefore, a key factor for sustainable success. In order to bring this to life, Bosch.IO renamed its Human Resources (HR) department to “People and Organization” to live this approach in the heart of the company. We talk to Tobias Kerzel, born in Germany, who started at Bosch as an intern, and has traveled the world to end up as Head of People and Organization at Bosch.IO Bulgaria.
What were your first impressions of Bulgaria when you came here and how did they change with time?
I was fascinated by how diverse Bulgaria is! From the city life in Sofia to its beautiful nature – several mountains close by, the Black Sea coast, waterfalls, cultural life, and so on. When I arrived in Sofia, the city seemed like every other capital or big city to me: quite big, busy, and anonymous. After a while though, I realized that Sofia is quite cozy and its people are super open and warm. So it really is a place to stay.
You have worked in diverse locations worldwide, how do cultural differences reflect on the work process?
For me, keeping cultural differences in mind is crucial for success in an international (business-) environment. People act, communicate, value, and work together based on what they consider "normal" or "right". But exactly this reference framework is highly affected by our culture. What is perceived as "normal", "right" or "acceptable" in one culture, might be perceived as "rude", "insulting" or "wrong" in another. If we have the feeling to be treated rudely, we tend to react accordingly based on our subjective assessment. It is likely to lead to an escalation.
We have to keep in mind that our norms, values, and culture have a high impact on us and become a key factor for success or failure when acting in a cross-cultural setup.
Bosch.IO is an international company, so we constantly need to foster inter-cultural collaboration and understanding. Sometimes it is tricky, but overcoming these challenges is enriching and is what makes our work exciting.
How do you see the Bulgarian market, is there anything particular that a manager should always take into account?
For me, the Bulgarian IT market is unique mainly in two aspects.
First, it is developing at a super high pace – competition for attracting the best talents, changing employment conditions as well as people's expectations are very dynamic. Adapting to this volatile market is essential. Being slow and not adaptive means losing connection and getting pushed out of this competitive market.
Second, the market is really familiar and well connected. Even though Sofia is a big city and the number of IT professionals is quite high, it seems like one big network. The community sticks together and having this in mind is a piece of advice for every manager.
How do you motivate your team?
I am convinced that people want to contribute with their work to a company's success and in addition strive for personal development. Providing freedom and flexibility for team members to use personal strengths and try new things is my basic principle for keeping motivation high. Nobody likes to be micro-managed.
In our daily collaboration, I endeavor to target this overall direction, remove impediments and enable the team members to be successful. Combined with frequent exchange of mutual feedback and having fun at work and as a team, we grow further together.
What is your greatest achievement as a Head of People and Organization for Bosch.IO in Bulgaria?
It is quite hard to point out one specific achievement. Thinking about the last two years, I must say that one of the biggest achievements for us as an organisation was overcoming the obstacles throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. It was quite a turbulent time for all of us, but I think that we navigated successfully through that period and now we are even more motivated to keep up the good work. After so much time working remotely, I feel that the team spirit is higher than ever and we will definitely use that momentum to create the next big thing in technology.
Of course, we can also measure our success and progress in KPIs as e.g. time to hire. But the biggest achievement for me is coming from positive feedback within and outside the organisation. Associates and leaders proactively consulting our team or reaching out to us, because they value our contribution and support to the business, is a great appreciation of our work.
Also, applicants, sharing they joined Bosch.IO because they were impressed by our culture, how we treat people and show them a path for future growth. It shows me, that we are on the right way as a team.