Yuniadi Hartono: Selecting the right people a prerequisite for far-sighted

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ALTOUGH a number of major automotive companies in the world have started to reduce their workforce to deal with the global financial crisis, PT Mercedes-Benz Indonesia plans to maintain the existing number of it employees due to their loyalty to the company.

“Our employees are our most valued asset and as they have worked here with total commitment and dedication there will be no layoffs at a time of crisis like now,” said PT Mercedes-Benz Indonesia deputy director of marketing Yuniadi H Hartono.

He explained that PT Mercedes-Benz Indonesia has about 600 employees, both at its office and assembly plant. There is also a small number of contract workers, who also will not face redundancy. “In a global economic downturn we should not sacrifice our employees, because we can use another strategy, that is by increasing the prices of our cars and buses in anticipation of a production slowdown,” said Yuniadi, who has worked for Mercedes-Benz Indonesia for more than 18 years.

He acknowledged that in this era of globalization competition was becoming tougher. To be able to compete, a company must have a skilled and dedicated workforce. The progress of a company depends on the quality of its human resources and this is an uncompromising principle. “Actually, capital and funds alone do not render a company strong, but its strength in vision, commitment, optimism, dedication and the intellectual strength of its employees. Therefore, we regard our employees as the most valuable asset that has to be maintained and developed further,” he explained.

A company that does all these things for its human resources in a professional manner will have a high rate of profitability. Therefore, finding good employees and training them further is a prerequisite of a company with a far-sighted vision. This is also the basis of the company’s commitment to its employees.

Undeniably Mercedes-Benz is a renowned brand in the world. It established a presence in Indonesia in 1970, while people were familiar with the brand from as far back as 1894 when the Surakarta sultan, Susuhunan Surakarta, purchased a one-cylinder Mercedes Phaeton-Benz 2000cc.

In its relatively long presence here, the management has experience progressive and dynamic changes in its human resources. Those who have worked for years are now retiring and are being replaced by new employees. This natural cycle has been going on since the company was established here. “Recruiting a new employee is an important moment for the company. Of course, in replacing a longtime employee the management expects the new employee to perform well,” he said. That is why two important things are always taken into consideration: the employee’s character and skill.

As he is working in the marketing division it is only natural that he seeks out those who can perform well in this department. Again, this means that the employee’s character is of utmost importance, while skill is the second most important consideration because it is far easier to enhance one’s skills. Character is crucial because in the marketing department an employee has close contact with clients or customers on a daily basis.

Honesty and integrity are two important traits of an employee. A company has to retain employees with such a character, because they will always keep their word, are honest, loyal and disciplined, which is in line with the company’s corporate culture. Another important trait is friendliness. Every marketing employee is part of the marketing team, and in today’s stiff competition where service is top priority friendliness is a must. Also important are a willingness to learn, innovativeness and optimism. Again, in today’s high-tech information era everything moves fast, so a willingness to learn is a fundamental trait to have.

“Business is human-based. Mercedes achieved the highest sales in the premium segment. Who was responsible? Of course it was the marketing division and within that division are the human resources,” said Yuniadi, who before being accepted at Mercedes-Benz in 1991 had applied for a job at Lufthansa. He said he was also concerned about the placement and position of employees.

A particular position naturally demands particular skills. During a business expansion, the management always looks for the right employee for a position. If the management cannot find the right person, the expansion is shelved. “The reason is that even if the business opportunity is very promising, the wrong person would only lead to failure,” said Yuniadi, who earned his master’s degree in Germany.

Experience has taught him that a few companies do succeed in the early stages, but gradually business goes bad and the company eventually collapses because the wrong employees were placed in the wrong positions. The initial success could be due to luck, but once luck is gone, the company falls apart mainly because the company is not managed by reliable employees, he said. So selection and positioning of employees is vital. This gives a company staying power. “Before any expansion decision is made we must select the right people to manage the new business. Without good preparation and consideration, the chances for success are very slim,” he explained.

Mercedes-Benz Indonesia employees have never demonstrated against company policies, nor has there ever been any negative publicity about the company. Relations between the owner and the employees are not like those between a superior and subordinates but are more like a kind of mandate or trusteeship. The company accepts the responsibility of the progress of its employees as it serves them rather than the other way around.

In its service to the employees, the company provides them with appropriate salaries, benefits and facilities. And, if possible, it always exceeds what is given by other companies in the same category. The management always listens to its employees’ complaints and tries its best to find solutions not only for problems concerning work but also private problems. “Mercedes-Benz has been able to survive until now with a high sales figure due to the management’s capability in selecting, managing and positioning the employees in the right positions. That’s the key to the company’s success,” emphasized Yuniadi, whose hobbies include photography, reading and bicycling. In January 2009, domestic sales reached 135 vehicles and represented a market share of 74.6 percent. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, April 22, 2009

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