Mercedes-Benz SA's Abey Kgotle on how to embrace change and contribute to business solutions

Speaking at HR Indaba, Abey explained how you can make a difference in a pioneering environment.

The world of automobiles has never stood still, with the industry seeing major shifts each decade.  For Mercedes Benz, the next era to enter is that of state-of-the-art electric mobility - cars which are emotively appealing, have intelligent design, offering drivers exceptional driving pleasure and maximum safety.

Speaking at the HR Indaba at Santon Convention Centre last week, Mercedes-Benz SA executive director for HR Abey Kgotle said that people are critical to culture change as they are the ones who make things happen. In order to maintain the company’s status of being a leader in the premium car market and compete both locally and globally, their internal systems have had to be up to scratch. 

Essential to this was the company’s commitment to building agile leadership teams, bringing people along on various phases of the journey. In the process, the organisation has designated HR as the champions of change through the company’s evolution into its next era of growth.

Technology is at the centre of driving change and the company’s 2020 Digital Transformation journey has been characterised by close collaboration between HR and IT. Abey said that this exercise requires upscaling and imparting new skills for people to have the technical ability to deliver, and in tandem roping them in to embrace the vision so that they are active actors.

“When a company tries to introduce changes to the way people have operated it can be unsettling for some. For instance, the company decided that mobile connectivity for all employees should be a standard as was embarking on a paperless journey, which generated resistance from some,” he said. 

“You should anticipate opposition and be committed to walking the path with those who are sceptical,” said Abey, adding that you need to communicate the need for change, the impact on employees and their work.”

Sharing from his own experience, he said the Mercedes strives to deliver more dexterity and transparency in processes such as recruitment, with more mobility and connectedness and more egalitarian decision making, making sure it’s at the right level whereby people feel empowered to decide on things such as when to apply for leave.

The strategy for buy-in is based on consistency, meaningful engagement, understanding points of resistance and building the skills of the team to become more agile. 

It is based on knowing what it means to build capacity while rewaring people and understanding that, in order to drive innovation, all levels of the organisation have to understand the culture journey to be inspired and excited to strive for more.

Abey said that Mercedes Benz has created a strong feedback culture as a staple of their performance management mix, where the upper levels of management and the workers throughout the ecosystem have a voice. Their system has evolved to be one that doesn’t focus on punishment, but enhances abilities.

Mercedes Benz prides itself on its pioneering spirit, all of which have to be embedded in employees’ mind-sets from the onset. Abey said the company’s induction process is intense, “In order to really become part of the family, you need to understand the business, learn processes and empathise with other people’s daily realities so that your solutions are appropriately applicable.”

The sense of customer orientation has to be imprinted on everything, from the design of the vehicle, to the level quality of cars rolling off the shop floor.  For Abey, it’s all about inspiring the team to live and breathe the product and its aspirations so that the consumer experience is infused with the same passion and affinity for the brand.