Client Spotlight: How Bosch is Approaching COVID-19 Recovery in China

Published: October 2020


Spotlight, our regular Q&A with clients and colleagues, highlights leading viewpoints on trending topics in the world of human resources.

Judy Zhang
Partner, Aon

Rosa Lee
Executive Vice President, Bosch (China) Investment Ltd.

How Bosch is Approaching COVID-19 Recovery in China

COVID-19 recovery efforts for people and businesses in China are well underway. We’ve launched a series of quarterly trends surveys to help guide firms forward in this new, rapidly changing environment. A total of 311 companies in China participated in the Q2 2020 Aon Quarterly Watch Survey, providing a range of opinions on current and forecasted business conditions, turnover rates and campus recruitment. You can read an overview of key findings from our latest survey here.

To explore how recovery efforts are shaping up in China, Judy Zhang, Partner and Head of China’s Rewards Solutions practice at Aon, recently spoke with Rosa Lee, Executive Vice President at Bosch (China) Investment Ltd. Below they discuss how Bosch is approaching business recovery, including moving to more agile ways of working, making pay adjustments, hiring plans and more.

Have you worked to create a more agile workforce since the pandemic began and what does that look like (e.g., flexible working arrangements or schedules, changes to performance reviews, etc.)?

With the onset of the pandemic, we experienced a work-from-home period, which lasted about 15 days in February and March. Many associates were not used to remote collaboration. Therefore, our HR team advocated the 4T (Trust, Technology, Target, Talent) Principle of remote collaboration and released a series of enabling toolkits for managers and associates to improve methods of virtual teamwork. In the 4T Principle, “Trust” is the soft foundation of remote partnership. Managers should pay greater attention to completed work instead of physical attendance or available online statuses.
Technology is the prerequisite to all of this. Positive outputs can only be obtained with the help of proper digital tools and effective means of interaction. When exploring digital tools, my colleague drew a map of Bosch remote collaboration resources to ensure that different methods help us to achieve various targets.
Our targets will likely need to be adjusted more frequently than usual. It is therefore essential for team members to have a clear long-term vision (usually three years), define a target for the year and foster the flexibility to adjust the mid-term target (quarterly or monthly) and clearly understand their weekly focus.
When it comes to “Talent,” it is now more common to break the organizational border, make full use of existing skills within your firm and even build a seamless collaboration model that allows for further mobility.

Did you make any adjustments to performance goals and payouts this year? If so, what were they generally speaking?

In such an age of uncertainty, it is very important for us to stay internally balanced. Regarding performance goals, I would like to use the word “ambidexterity,” which means that we strive for HR operational excellence and drive innovation and digitization at the same time to increase efficiency and ensure safety.

To ensure that the Bosch Group’s cash flow is sustainable this year, our global associates financially contributed to the company, clearly displaying our shared value — “We Lead Bosch.”

What are your biggest business priorities as part of your recovery efforts? How does that translate to hiring plans, compensation goal-setting, and other HR activities?

COVID-19 has totally changed the world, unfolding new challenges that can only be faced by embracing technology. Driving HR digital transformation is absolutely at the top of our list of priorities. However, before we enable digital transformation within our business, we must transform ourselves. For the first time ever in my 30-year career, I hired an HR CDO (Chief Digital Officer). The HR CDO has a team of two data scientists and one architect, none of whom had HR backgrounds before. Their mission is to drive HR digitization, focusing primarily on HR digital tools, digital solution, digital competency, digital culture and leadership transformation. We also recently initiated an HR product called DigiTalent, which focuses on pay, expert career pathing and making Bosch a thriving home for digital talent. In addition, we are implementing digital HR tools and employee experiences for our people.

China has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic longer than the rest of the world and is further along than some in recovery efforts. What have you learned that might be useful for companies in other countries that are still in more of a crisis response mode?

It all comes down to the ability to lead during difficult times. A research program by Harvard University reveals that the key to success does not mainly lie in one’s talent, education or wealth, but in the ability to address adversity. In the post-pandemic era, the world will be dealing with an economic downturn and we must remain strong and learn to adapt. First, leading in difficult times highlights the importance of rapid decision-making, agility and resilience. We can no longer manage everything with the mindset of one size fits all. Second, empathy is an indispensable ability of leaders during tough times. Third, energy management cannot afford to be neglected. My team even had a discussion around the possibility of adding an “energy coach” role to help improve associates’ energy levels — physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually — to ensure their overall health remains strong when faced with obstacles.

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