How does the Romanian organizational culture look like from the perspective of a French CEO? How much have the Romanian branches of foreign companies been affected following the talent exodus towards Western Europe? How are the Romanian employees, compared to the ones in France? Has the internship culture sufficiently developed in our country? Which is the area where he feels most opportunities should lie over the next years? How does the best CV that he has managed to get hold of look like? These are some of the questions to which an attempt was made by Christophe Charavay, Operational Manager for Central and Eastern Europe and Deputy CEO of AKKA Group.
AKKA Romserv is an ambitious company, and a proof to that is the fact that you develop projects in various sectors: ranging from the automotive and the aerospace industry, all the way to the railway and IT sectors. Can you tell us a little bit about the company activity in Romania and list some of the values underlying such ambitious projects?
AKKA Romania is mainly working in these sectors which match the basic professions to be found within the entire Group. One of the best examples of values that drive our company is the motto anchored to the core of the Group, starting from the very moment of its creation, by our founder, Maurice Ricci: Courage, Respect, Ambition. You will find this motto up to this date in the presentation movies produced by our Group.
For some years now, we have been talking more and more other about innovation, about the way innovation changes our lives and how, at business level, a company which is not able to innovate enough shall have to write its own epitaph. If we take a look around us, we will notice that some companies innovate through original cost-cutting strategies, while others innovate through cutting-edge products or through the mere aggressiveness that they show when fighting over brilliant people with their competitors. Which is your weapon of choice?
All the above at the same time, however, we also innovate through investments in talents, by promoting international exchange, in terms of training as well as proposals for relocation to other countries, and also by encouraging mixed teams from the professional point of view.
In terms of talent management, the current market finds itself in the most difficult deadlock that it had to face over the last decades. How has your sector been doing in this context? Did you suffer as a result of this talent exodus?
Yes, over the past two years we have suffered due to the exodus of talented people towards the Western Europe. Nevertheless, I hope that this year more Romanian engineers who miss their homes would come back.
Which are your forecasts for the labour market, as long as the current economic context shows a sharp contraction in the flow of foreign direct investments to Romania?
Especially in the automotive sector, the share of costs associated with the labour force shall continue to grow in the Romanian-based activities. International corporations must decrease their research and development costs, this is why many of them will be relocating here.
The employees are the most valuable resources of a company. This is a hackneyed phrase in HR, yet a big truth also. What projects have you developed in time for the professional development of your employees? How do you support them?
We are addressing some niches where our customers are asking us to become ever more responsible, by delivering turnkey projects and by committing ourselves towards the delivery of results. In such a context, we make the most of the opportunity to provide our consultants with positions which entail growing responsibilities, either from the technical or the project management point of view. We started off in 2012 with 190 employees and we concluded 2016 with 450 employees.
“What makes you tick?” This is a question that foreign managers quite often ask to those attending a job interview. So... “What makes you tick?” What should a candidate have in order to impress you seriously enough in order to turn him/her into an employee?
Openness, desire to face challenges, will to learn, these are all important drivers, however, technical knowledge still represents an underlying condition in our field of work. As far as the recruitment process is organized, in our case each candidate is received by a human resources specialist, by a technical manager and by a business manager.
Which was your experience with Romanian engineers? Are they good professionals, compared to the ones in France?
As in any other country, we are able to find good candidates, however this is a complicated process. Romanian labour market is stretched and it is difficult to find experienced engineers, employees who can also be available. Also, from my point of view, the Romanian educational system is lagging behind, the academic training is far too theoretical, while the internship culture in companies is not sufficiently developed yet.
How do you turn a good employee into an excellent employee?
It is simple, a good employee is the one who is able to demonstrate his/her versatility in technologies and in his/her sector of activity. For example, versatility in moving from a design to a production activity, the ability to switch from the automotive sector, where you are confronted with the limitations of mass production, to the aerospace engineering sector, with a production based on prototypes or small series.
Let us assume that you meet a young person who wishes to pursue a career as an engineer. What skills would you advise him/her to focus on in order to be one step ahead of his/her colleagues?
The engineering sector will be confronted with great many opportunities over the next four or five years, over an impressive range of technologies and industrial activities. A key factor is represented, therefore, by curiosity and openness towards new things.
Romanian employees and French employees: differences and similarities?
The French like to run and delegate, while Romanians are rather attracted to technical aspects and would rather take expert positions, instead of management ones.
AKKA will be celebrating soon 11 years of presence on the Romanian market. How were the first 10 years and which are your expectations for the next 10?
We started off from ground zero in 2006 and I am proud by what we have achieved together. I wish to have many achievements for the coming years in our company and also an increasing level of diversification in our activities.
You graduated the National Institute for Applied Sciences INSA (in Lyon) and the IAE Management School of France. INSA is ranked among the most prestigious technological universities. Which is the most interesting thing that you learn in a university of such calibre?
Technology has always been my passion. The job of an engineer provides many opportunities in various areas of work, but also this variety is due to the fact that positions may develop themselves in time. In INSA, the teachers taught meu how to learn. This is why the thirst to discover new things has been guiding me over my entire career.
You started working for AKKA in 1990. In 2003 you resigned in order to become an entrepreneur, and then you came back to AKKA. What determined you to leave behind the freedom provided by entrepreneurship and to become an employee once more?
There is a long love story going me between me and AKKA. In 2003 I was 38 year old and I wanted to taste the adventure of entrepreneurship. It was a formidable experience, but the economic crisis in 2008 marked the end of this adventure. Back then, Jean-Frank Ricci (A/N: Co-Owner and Group Managing Director of Business Development & Sales for AKKA Technologies) asked me to “come back home” and I took this chance. The moral behind this little story is that it is preferable to maintain good relations with your former employer.
AKKA Romserv has a great deal of interesting projects, ranging from software development for state-of-the-art satellites, up to partnerships with some of the biggest worldwide suppliers of equipment in the automotive industry. Beyond the perplexing organizational diversity, such projects also entail a good cooperation between the Romanian team and the French one. Is this know-how exchange the secret behind growing the potential of an employee?
This mix of trans-national resources represents nowadays the key to success for a large Group of companies. You must know how to unlock the potential of each and every person if you want to build teams which capable to lead large projects to success. The experience of each team member may help the others grow and develop new skills.
Which are the most important elements for an international employer: the practical skills or the academic results?
Knowledge represents a basic condition and technology is not easily invented, it must be learned. Afterwards, of course, all of us are able to build our career in accordance with our own beliefs, abilities and preferences.
I have a passion for autonomous vehicles, so I could not help myself noticing that AKKA has developed a very interesting autonomous car, Link & Go. I read that it has already been presented in various countries and I was wondering when we could see it in Romania, as well.
The autonomous electrical car has been a challenge for the past five years and it will remain so for the future. We started off this project in 2009 and we continue it. Our intention is to introduce Link & Go in Romania as well, during a major event, which will take place this year.
How does the best CV that you have seen so far look like?
It is my CV! I am joking, of course! Each of us have our strengths and each context is different. Moreover, the CV is one and the personality of a candidate is something else, a very important aspect.
Which is the biggest challenge included in the relocation package to Romania?
Romanian language. I have not learned it yet.