Strategic Objective: Skilled and Committed Employees

The second goal of our human resources strategy is to cultivate skilled and committed employees. For us, commitment means first and foremost actively participating and helping to add value, using one’s initiative, but also taking change in one’s stride and personally initiating process improvements. It also means seeing the bigger picture and taking an interest in the environment or events and developments in society at large.

On-the-Job Commitment

We like to see our employees tackling their work enthusiastically, showing commitment and team spirit while contributing their expertise. In return, we invest in our workforce, foster a good working atmosphere and offer attractive opportunities for career development. As well as listening to their opinions and constructive criticism, this includes actively involving employees in improving processes and assuring quality. One tool used for this purpose throughout the Group is our Employee Opinion Survey . We use this standardized Group-wide employee survey to obtain regular feedback on employee satisfaction, and by extension on the extent to which we have fulfilled our goal of being an attractive employer. The survey also helps to systematically identify scope for improvement and pinpoint the areas where managers need to take action within their organizational units. In 2016, we revised the Employee Opinion Survey to include additional questions and new tools to help line managers discuss the results with employees. The 2016 survey was conducted at 172 sites and companies in 45 countries. Approximately 440,000 of over 540,000 employees in the participating Group companies responded; this is equivalent to a response rate of 81%. In 2016, the score on the employee satisfaction index – a key indicator generated by the opinion survey – was 78 out of 100.

We also rely on participation to make ongoing improvements to our production systems. All the Group’s vehicle brands use standardized production systems which are continually developed with input from employees. On the basis of four company agreements on the “Volkswagen Way”, the Volkswagen brand workforce has been involved in improving organizational efficiency since 2007. This has been done using a variety of tools and methods designed to continuously improve processes and structures in the areas of productivity, quality, ergonomics, leadership and teamwork. Using “train the trainer” methods, the Group and brands are gradually bringing all their plants up to speed. A trainer from the Group provides support to participants during the initial stages of this pilot. By training jointly, group and team leaders gain a greater understanding of each other’s roles while everyone attains the same level of knowledge.

This is not just limited to our plants in Germany. In 2016, for instance, a new tool was trialed by our CIP team in the Group production system at SEAT Componentes at El Prat in Spain. The CIP team focuses on eliminating waste in processes. Everything takes place on the shop floor, from organizing workstations and standardizing workflows through to detecting non-conformances and resolving problems. A wide range of the Group’s production system methodology modules are used as part of the CIP team’s feedback loop. 

Our ideas management program is another important tool for encouraging employee engagement. This program enables employees to bring their creativity, knowledge and initiative to bear and take responsibility for improving both processes and products. Over 580,000 ideas were submitted in 2016, saving the company approximately €435 million. Ideas management is an important leadership and motivational tool for plant supervisors and managers. It also contributes to improving health and safety in the Volkswagen workplace and helps us reach our targets for reducing energy and water consumption, waste, solvents and CO2 emissions.

Ideas Management in the Volkswagen Group*

  2016 2015
Ideas suggested 583,017 536,081
Suggestions implemented 482,453 360,454
Savings (€million) 435.6 374.9
Bonuses (€million) 40.0 38.7
*46 participating production sites

Commitment to Society

Volkswagen can look back on a long tradition of engagement with society, not least at international level. As well as supporting local development, educational and social welfare projects at numerous sites, in many regions we act as an economic driver, helping to strengthen education, culture and civil society, as well as promote sustainable development in the form of infrastructure development. 

Over the reporting year, we were involved in around 200 projects around the globe designed to enhance economic and social structures. We also provide emergency assistance on an ad-hoc basis, following natural disasters for example. With our commitment to these causes and the partnerships into which we enter with local political and civil society stakeholders, we underscore the importance of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in our daily operations. 

One example of corporate regional responsibility in practice is Wolfsburg AG, a public-private partnership between Volkswagen AG and the city of Wolfsburg. As well as supporting start-ups and businesses seeking to relocate to this city where the Group is headquartered, the organization works with numerous partners to jointly create knowledge networks and provide funding for academic and community facilities. The main focus is on education, energy, health, recreation and, of course, mobility – traditionally one of Wolfsburg’s strongest areas of expertise. In cooperation with the regional development organization Allianz für die Region GmbH, Wolfsburg AG is devising forward-looking solutions for improving job prospects and quality of life across the whole of southeastern Lower Saxony.

Charitable donations constitute a further cornerstone of the Group’s long-term engagement with society. We support a wide range of social initiatives and charitable projects around the world. The principles governing donations and sponsorships are set out in our Group-wide Code of Conduct, which stipulates we may give donations in cash and in kind to support activities and projects primarily devoted to research and education, culture, sports and social causes. Donations may only be given to recognized non-profit organizations or ones specifically endorsed to receive donations. Volkswagen does not donate to political parties, party-affiliated foundations or individual politicians. In the reporting period, Volkswagen AG made donations amounting to €33.2 million.

Added to this amount are the donations made by our employees, which go to help support people in need in the vicinity of Volkswagen AG’s various locations. In 2016, Wolfsburg employees alone donated more than €450,000. One beneficiary, for example, was the local “Wolfsburger für Wolfsburg” non-profit association. Among other things, the association funds nature experience days for children and adolescents receiving treatment on the “Rainbow” psychosomatic ward of the Wolfsburg pediatrics clinic.

In the “One Hour for the Future” campaign, Volkswagen and Audi employees donate one hour’s pay to help street children, raising substantial amounts for those in need. Since the summer of 2003, this initiative has also included the collection of “spare cents”, where Volkswagen AG employees in Germany and abroad donate the odd cents on their monthly pay slips to this campaign as well. The funds raised are used to support a total of 140 projects in seven countries around the world.

Another workforce initiative led to the sale of sustainably produced fair-trade products in the company’s cafes and restaurants, where the sale of products bearing the Fairtrade seal has been promoted since 1999. Through this commitment, Volkswagen is helping producers in developing countries establish socially sustainable businesses. In 2016, our annual consumption of fairly traded coffee rose by 30% to 103 t, and a fairly traded orange juice was added to the menu. Since 2014, three varieties of fairly traded rice have also been served in Volkswagen eateries.

The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation, established in 2011, is playing an increasingly significant role in terms of our social engagement. This charitable foundation aims to support youth outreach as well as education and vocational training at all levels, with a particular emphasis on improving the living conditions of children and adolescents, irrespective of their origin, background or religion. The Foundation focuses its activities on the neighborhoods of Group sites worldwide, implementing projects in partnership with children’s charity terre des hommes. Since 2011, the Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation has launched or supported more than 20 projects in Germany and elsewhere. For instance, the Foundation contributed to the construction of the children’s refuge in Neindorf near Wolfsburg and the conversion of the “Alte Schule” annex into a versatile learning and activity center. This center assists with the holistic care of children in need of psychomotricity and experiential learning support. The Foundation’s partner for this project is the Diaconate of Wolfsburg, which runs the only children’s refuge within a 100-km radius. The Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation also supports two projects run by the city of Wolfsburg which aim to help refugees integrate into society. Both projects target child refugees and young adults aged between 11 and 22. The “Alphabetisierungsgruppen” literacy project offers language learning courses with parental involvement. The city of Wolfsburg runs “Step by Step”, a three-month intensive integration program for refugee children designed to make it easier for them to integrate into mainstream education in Germany.

Alongside these projects, which are directly supported by Volkswagen or the Volkswagen Works Council, we also encourage our employees to volunteer for local causes in their free time. To coordinate and provide targeted support for volunteering activities, the “Volkswagen pro Ehrenamt” initiative (Volkswagen Supports Volunteering) is an integral part of personnel management. Employees who wish to do voluntary work can contact the volunteering office, who then use their database to identify a suitable project for them to support in the future. Since 2007, around 2,600 volunteers have been matched to suitable vacancies through this volunteer exchange.

Volkswagen employees who are looking for a new challenge following retirement can register with our in-house “Senior Experts” team. This offers them the opportunity to contribute their expertise regionally or globally either within the company or by volunteering with external organizations. In 2016, around 135 Senior Experts took part in projects of their choosing, putting their specialist knowledge to good use and contributing to a valuable intergenerational exchange of experience. During the reporting year, 28 departments and more than 20 Volkswagen sites worldwide benefited from the program.

Systematic Skills Development

As well as commitment, we place an equally strong emphasis on developing employees’ skills. Volkswagen has a highly sophisticated education and training system which enjoys close ties with public educational establishments such as vocational schools and universities all over the world. At Volkswagen, enabling employees to acquire further qualifications is organized around occupational families (“Berufsfamilien”). Employees who require similar skills to perform their jobs and who possess the associated competencies are said to belong to an occupational family. The general and technical competencies required for each specific activity are defined in skills profiles. Employees are offered a wide range of opportunities to gain further qualifications, allowing them to continually update their skills and deepen their knowledge throughout their working lives. In the process, they also learn from more experienced colleagues who act as experts and pass on their know-how in our occupational family academies.

We are systematically expanding our network of academies for occupational families. During the reporting period, the Governance Academy was established, along with the Academy of Technical Development, as stipulated in the pact for the future agreed with the Works Council. Employees in the new model line organization will be served by the existing Product Academy. From 2017 onward, irrespective of brand or where an employee is based, skills development and training for all occupational families at Volkswagen will delivered by one of the 15 academies.

Dual Model of Vocational Education and Training

The dual model of vocational education and training, where theory and practice are closely intertwined, creates the foundations for acquiring the advanced skills, high quality standards and excellent performance that the Volkswagen Group demands. Here, too, the content of the training is very much geared to the skills required in the various occupational families. Volkswagen has rolled out this dual model at many of its locations outside Germany as well, and is continuing to embed the model as the core framework for acquiring skilled worker qualifications. For instance, in 2016 a group of apprentices at Volkswagen do Brasil were the first intake to graduate as mechatronics engineers by passing an examination set by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. When planning new plants, dual vocational training is taken into account from the outset. Accordingly, more than three-quarters of all trainees in the Group learn their trade through the dual system. 

As at the end of 2016, the Volkswagen Group had trained 19,490 young people in some 60 recognized occupations on 50 dual-study courses. We also support the career development of new entrants once they have completed their apprenticeship. Particularly talented young skilled workers are supported through “talent groups”. This two-year training and development program recruits the best 10% of apprentices from each year’s intake at Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH in Zwickau. 102 skilled workers joined the program during the reporting year, taking the total to 851 young men and women since the initiative was launched in 2008. 

On completion of an apprenticeship, the “Wanderjahre” (year abroad) program offers young people the opportunity to spend 12 months working for a Group company abroad. During the year under review, 15 Volkswagen Group sites in 13 countries took part in this development program, including – for the first time – Volkswagen Truck & Bus as well as MAN Truck & Bus Germany. In 2016, 33 participants from Germany plus nine from four other countries began their year abroad within the Volkswagen Group. 

Once a year, Volkswagen honors its highest-achieving trainees across the Group with the “Best Apprentice Award”. In 2016, nine young women and 36 young men from a total of 43 Group locations received this award for their outstanding performance and technical expertise.

Career Development for Graduates

Volkswagen recruits and fosters academic talent through two programs: the Student Talent Bank and the Academic Talent Pool. Student Talent Bank fosters high-achieving students in both work-related and interdisciplinary areas. The aim here is to encourage former interns to join the company and give them the best possible preparation for embarking on a career at Volkswagen. Shortly before they complete their degree or doctorate, students showing high potential are transferred into the Academic Talent Pool. This program enables talented young students who have already demonstrated their abilities through an internship, dissertation or PhD at Volkswagen to raise their profile within the company, boosting their chances of starting a career in their chosen specialist field.

Volkswagen also offers two structured entry and development programs for university graduates and young professionals. In addition to working in their own field, trainees in the StartUp Direct program attend additional training courses and obtain a good overview of the company over a two-year period. University graduates interested in working internationally can take part in the 18-month StartUp Cross program. This enables them to get to know Volkswagen as a whole and start to network extensively. Through postings in a variety of specialist areas during this period, participants get to know the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand and gain experience at its various sites at home and abroad. Both programs also require trainees to spend several weeks in production. Volkswagen took on 114 trainees under the two programs in 2016, of whom around 26% were women. 

Trainee programs are also offered at international Group locations such as at ŠKODA in Czechia and Scania in Sweden. In addition, since 2012 the Volkswagen Group’s StartUp Europe trainee program has offered young engineers from southern Europe – where unemployment continues to be a major issue for young academics in particular – an opportunity to gain international work experience. This Volkswagen program is designed to attract university graduates from Italy, Spain and Portugal. Three months at a brand or subsidiary in their home country are followed by 21 months at a Group company in Germany.

Extensive Training Opportunities for Specialists and Executives

At the Volkswagen Group Academy, skilled specialists can choose from a broad range of advanced training courses – from further training in occupational or cross-disciplinary areas of general interest to the Company, to specific qualifications in the occupational families, through to comprehensive personal development programs. Here, too, the focus is on the dual-study model which combines theory with practical experience. Overall, around 106,000 qualification activities totaling 13.3 million hours of training were completed across the Group in 2016. Over 590 training courses and programs were newly developed for the Volkswagen brand alone.

We have standardized many of the development programs and selection procedures for executives, managers and group leaders across the Group. During the reporting year, the Volkswagen Group Academy ran some 615 training programs and assessment centers for executives, managers and group leaders in 15 countries.

Academic Skills Development

As part of the Volkswagen Group Academy, AutoUni employs top in-house experts and collaborates with higher-education institutions to furnish the company with leading-edge knowledge for the future. Its programs and collaborative study models use a blended learning format which combines face-to-face classroom teaching with online content, supplemented by lectures and conferences. Subjects covered in 2016 included digital transformation, sustainability, e‑mobility, driverless cars, Industry 4.0, and the workplace of the future. Around 9,200 people from 59 locations worldwide took part in over 160 AutoUni events.

AutoUni cooperates with internationally renowned universities, institutes and research centers on numerous research projects, dissertations and theses, and offers PhD students in the Group a platform for exchanging ideas and gaining interdisciplinary qualifications. As at the end of 2016, more than 400 PhD students were engaged in researching topics of future interest to Volkswagen’s various Group companies in Germany. 

In addition, AutoUni facilitates networking between the internal contacts for universities within the Group and keeps track of links to universities around the globe: during the year under review, over 1,700 national and international cooperation agreements with universities, research institutes and universities of applied sciences were in place.

Impact of Digitalization on Training

New technologies can usefully complement traditional modes of learning and skills transfer. As the core training provider for the Group, the Volkswagen Group Academy is consequently incorporating these technologies in various projects. The digitalXperience program is exploring ways of using digital technology to enhance the content and learning formats of dual-track vocational training as part of gearing up for the future. These measures are flanked by systematic skills development among the teaching staff at the Volkswagen Group Academy. 

Audi AG is employing tablets as a complementary mobile learning platform for vocational training in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm as well as in its Brussels and Györ training centers. Trainers are also being instructed in how to work with tablet PCs. In 2016, ŠKODA launched virtual classrooms and online language courses for German and English. 

As part of the corporate learning and digital learning initiatives, AutoUni and the Volkswagen Group Academy’s Group-wide training networks are also making increased use of digital technology to develop new training programs. At the same time, the Volkswagen Group Academy is setting up an Education Lab designed to create stronger ties with education start-ups and translate the findings of educational research into new technologies. These will then be tested in collaboration with the teaching staff and students at Volkswagen to aid learning and skills transfer.

All these measures are aimed at maintaining and enhancing the high standard of skills and the outstanding expertise of Volkswagen employees all over the world. Above all, we are committed to delivering learning and teaching within the framework of occupational families, by following the dual vocational training model where theory and practice are closely intertwined. Systematic knowledge transfer by in-house experts at all levels and across all brands and specialist fields is another key factor underpinning our success.

Healthcare and Social Provision

Our efforts to ensure that our employees have well-developed skills and a high level of commitment address the first two facets of our strategic objective to cultivate “skilled and committed employees”. However, alongside a willingness to perform (through participation) and empowerment to perform (through having the right qualifications), there is a third facet, namely capability. This requires our workforce to be physically and mentally capable of coping with the stresses and strains that any form of work involves. 

Consequently, we do not simply regard the protection and promotion of our employees’ health as a self-evident social obligation and reflection of our corporate culture, but also as an integral part of our human resources strategy. Volkswagen’s holistic approach to health management goes well beyond traditional preventive healthcare and occupational safety; it also includes aspects such as work organization, ergonomics, prevention, integration and rehabilitation, along with leadership styles.

As well as complying with Group guidelines on protecting and promoting health, the medical and healthcare services we provide for our employees are in line with the relevant statutory requirements and internal regulations at each site. All sites have at least emergency health provision, while most also offer medical services under the oversight of a physician.

In the context of health, sustainability means ensuring that, ideally, every employee is still healthy when they retire. Protecting and promoting employees’ health is a priority for the company, shared by both management and employee representatives. Under the auspices of our TOGETHER 2025 strategy process, we have launched our own Group health initiative. Over the coming years, we will further develop and implement innovative approaches to prevention, workplace health management and ergonomics throughout the Group. The aims of the health initiative are clearly defined: to improve employees’ quality of life, reduce stress, avoid chronic illness and consequently also boost performance and reduce absences.

Improving Occupational Safety

Like preventive healthcare and emergency health provision, the continuous improvement of occupational safety is vitally important to us. As long ago as 2004, the Volkswagen Group drew up an occupational safety policy which is binding on all Group companies around the globe. The same standards of work organization, occupational safety and healthcare apply to all our employees worldwide, taking into account local medical infrastructures and the relevant statutory requirements in each case. Group-wide audits are conducted to ensure compliance with these worldwide standards. For this purpose, in 2010 the Group launched its own occupational safety management system (KAMS). This system is used to analyze the organizational structures and processes for occupational safety at all participating Group companies. The findings are held in a central database with Group-wide access. To improve the sharing of information, in recent years the exchange of reports on serious and fatal accidents within the Group has been harmonized. As a result, all sites can take specific action to prevent such accidents in the future. Since 2012, Volkswagen in Germany has also been running mandatory occupational safety training modules for all prospective managers. Similarly, the group leader qualification modules have also been standardized and now form a mandatory part of basic group leader training.

Workplace Ergonomics

The Group continues to attach a high priority to improving workplace ergonomics. Its focus in 2016 was on firmly anchoring ergonomics in the 2025 production strategy, in particular by leveraging ergonomics and synergies across all our brands. A number of projects were implemented in the reporting period:

  • Together with Technical Development, Quality Assurance, Planning, Industrial Engineering and Production units, in 2016 a standard process for reducing the effort required to record and analyze force measurements and for designing workstations was developed and agreed. 
  • The drafting and approval of the Ergonomics White Paper provided the basis for planning workstations in production and logistics, with the aim of reducing the physical strain associated with the high-speed, value-adding production methods geared to matching customer demand. 
  • In the future, cross-brand guidelines for ergonomic assessments in logistics will enable transparent, reproducible workload analyses for logistical activities. 
  • At Volkswagen-branded locations – currently as part of a pilot project – a workplace management system is being used to match workplace demands to individual employees’ physical capacity. As a result, employees can be deployed in jobs that optimally reflect their capabilities.
  • Since June 2016, humans and robots have been working hand in hand at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant, and the first human-robot collaboration (HRC) initiative has now been deployed on the Golf production line. In the drive preassembly section, where individual powertrain components are assembled to produce an engine ready for installation, employees are assisted by a robot. Collaborative robots have already been deployed in other Group plants as well.

At the same time, for several years Volkswagen has been making improvements throughout the product development process with the aim of ensuring that the quality of jobs and the physical demands placed on employees by production processes are taken into consideration from the earliest planning and design stages of new vehicle models. 

This involves leveraging both research and practical experience to combine state-of-the-art ergonomic workstations with innovative work processes. “Ergo assistants” on production lines give employees advice and guidance directly at their workstations on how they can optimize workflows from an ergonomic standpoint.

Preventive Healthcare

Ergonomics in factories and offices is one side of the occupational health equation; individual preventive measures are the other. The Volkswagen Checkup – a free, comprehensive health screening program for all employees – is now established at all German sites and helps employees stay fit and healthy and maintain their performance. Employees appreciate the high-quality diagnostics and follow-up preventive healthcare and exercise programs.

This checkup has now been rolled out to almost all international sites. Other preventive healthcare programs have been brought into line with Group-wide standards. In many cases, country-specific supplementary examinations, such as HIV and tuberculosis tests, have been added.

Checkups within the Volkswagen Group1

Volkswagen AG Germany 14,323
Audi, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Mexico 10,648
MAN Truck & Bus, Germany 1,521
MAN Diesel Turbo, Germany and international 983
ŠKODA 14,297
SEAT 12,425
Automobili Lamborghini 130
Volkswagen, China2 44,206
Volkswagen Autoeuropa, Portugal 2,296
Volkswagen Slovakia 2,301
Volkswagen Navarra, Spain 2,552
Volkswagen Group Rus, Russia 3,881
Volkswagen India, India2 3,448
Total 113,011
1 Initial and follow-up Checkups.
2 Checkups are not wholly in line with the Group standard.

Rehabilitation measures

At many sites, we offer a tailored rehabilitation program to reintegrate employees following serious or long-term illness, providing specific job-related support at an early stage. The aim is to restore an employee’s ability to work within three to at most six months. 

At Volkswagen AG, the program may also include specially tailored services, depending on the particular needs in each case. Examples are “JobReha” which offers one to three weeks of outpatient, day-patient or inpatient treatment, mainly for musculoskeletal problems, and the “RehaFit” program, which focuses on orthopedic or psychological rehabilitation. Other examples include physiotherapy and general or targeted stamina-building exercises at workplace fitness centers. Support and counseling services for employees with mental health or psychosomatic problems are also being steadily expanded.

Social Provision in the Workplace

If an employee falls ill, our involvement is not solely limited to providing assistance of a medical nature, however. Volkswagen AG also supplements benefits paid by social insurance providers, for example sick pay, and provides support to relatives of employees who die. The company also has a collective accident insurance scheme which insures employees for accidents resulting in death or disability. In exceptional circumstances of financial need, Volkswagen AG can also provide employees with short-term loans.