As of March 31, 2021 (the close of the business year 2020/21), the voestalpine Group had 46,048 employees excluding apprentices and leased personnel, i.e., 1,620 fewer employees or 3.4% less than as of March 31, 2020. When 1,309 apprentices and 3,116 leased employees are included, the total rises to full-time equivalents (FTEs) of 48,654 person years, a year-over-year reduction by 2.1% (–1,028 FTE). A total of 55.3% of the employees (26,920 FTE) work at Group facilities outside of Austria, and 21,734 employees work in Austrian voestalpine companies. Of the total of 1,309 apprentices, as of the March 31, 2021, reporting date, 64.6% were being trained in Austrian companies and 35.4% at the company’s facilities abroad. on the whole, the number of apprentices fell year over year by 28 people or 2.1%.
Employee shareholding scheme
voestalpine has had an employee shareholding scheme since 2001, which has been continually expanded since then. Besides all of the company’s employees in Austria, its employees in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Spain, and Sweden also have a share in “their” company. The voting rights associated with stock issued to employees are combined in the voestalpine Mitarbeiterbeteiligung Privatstiftung (employee foundation for the Group’s employee shareholding scheme), making this entity a stable, key shareholder of voestalpine AG. As of March 31, 2021, a total of about 24,100 employees have a stake in voestalpine AG. They hold about 25.2 million shares which, due to the general bundling of voting rights, represent 14.1% of the company’s share capital (previous year: 12.9%). In addition, former and active employees of voestalpine hold approximately 1.1 million “private shares” via the foundation, which equates to 0.6% of the voting shares. The foundation exercises the voting rights of these shares, too, as long as the given employees do not exercise their right to freely dispose of the shares. on the whole, therefore, as of March 31, 2021, the voting rights of 14.8% of the share capital of voestalpine AG are pooled in the foundation.
The Stahlstiftung (Steel Foundation) was founded in Linz, Austria, in November 1987. Its aim was to provide employees of the VOEST-ALPINE Group (as it was called at the time), who had to leave the company due to a crisis, as well as employees of companies outside of the Group with opportunities for reorienting themselves professionally. Up to four years of training and continued professional development (CPD) are funded for this purpose. In the business year 2020/21, about 76.3% of the participants looking for work were able to develop a new professional perspective with the help of the Stahlstiftung. The fact that this number represents a year-over-year reduction by 10.6 percentage points in the number of people looking for support is one aspect of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the March 31, 2021, reporting date, a total of 546 individuals were receiving assistance from the Stahlstiftung, 73.1% of whom were former employees of the voestalpine Group. The total number of active Stahlstiftung participants in the business year 2020/21 was 888, i.e., 62.6% more than in the previous year (546 individuals). In addition to the participants covered by the Stahlstiftung in its capacity as a classic employee fund, the activities of 68 individuals related to an educational leave were supported during the reporting period as well.
Apprentices & young skilled workers
The 8th voestalpine Apprentice Day was held in October 2020. This annual event offers apprentices the opportunity to look beyond their own workplace and sheds light on the importance voestalpine places on skilled worker training. Owing to COVID-19, the 2020 Group Apprentice Day was organized as a streamlined online Apprentice Day. While the company’s Management Board and select representatives from voestalpine’s facilities in Linz, Austria, visited Stahlwelt in person, approximately 400 apprentices and their trainers in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland watched the livestream of the event from 40 training facilities. Six of these training facilities were connected interactively to the Live Event to provide insights into the current circumstances of apprentices and their trainers alike. Both the Management Board of the voestalpine Group and the Group Works Council felt that it was important, particularly during this challenging time, to stay in touch with the apprentices and future skilled workers and to thank them for their work and commitment.
voestalpine remains committed to training young people: Approximately 410 trainee slots will be available at the start of the apprenticeship program in the Northern fall of 2021. The company invests about EUR 90,000 per apprentice in the comprehensive three- or four-year training program. In order to efficiently approach potential apprentices, in recent years voestalpine has continually expanded its social media activities on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The way potential apprentices are approached has changed, given that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to hold trade shows, open houses, or even applicant interviews as usual. Hence voestalpine is using different activities to this end, among them a digital open house, digital corporate presentations in schools, and/or participation in digital trade shows. As part of its ongoing assessment of the COVID-19 environment in a given region, the company evaluates together with the applicants whether face-to-face meetings can take place, circumstances permitting.
The Group’s excellent numbers with respect to completed apprenticeships create a solid base of skilled workers for the future: 94.3% of all apprentices in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland who took the final apprenticeship exam in the business year 2020/21 passed it; of the Austrian graduates, 61.3% even did so with good or excellent grades.
Given current circumstances, these impressive outcomes deserve a special mention for the following reason: Most trade school activities had to be conducted online via distance learning. The apprentices had to finalize their work products independently and had to adjust repeatedly to the ever-changing situation. The results thus confirm the apprentices’ ambition and talent. But they also reflect the dedication and personal commitment of the apprentices’ instructors, teachers, and coaches in the voestalpine Group.
Development of executives
Owing to the worldwide pandemic, the business year 2020/21 was defined by governmental restrictions (e.g., travel bans) and/or internal approaches to safety and security. The given limitations made it impossible during the reporting period to use the tried and tested “value:program” for Group-wide, international executive development based on face-to-face training. Individual modules were switched to digital delivery so that courses in progress could be completed. In the future, the training and CPD options tailored to target groups at all executive levels will once again be organized in a way that combines in-person and online courses, including external programs for postgraduates and business school students. There are no plans to switch the entire program to an online format, however, because it is a very special and successful training program. What makes it so valuable over and above the comprehensive skills training imparted by international top experts is the intensive collaboration on the part of individual members of voestalpine’s leadership team. They engage in their capacity as speakers, project managers, or even sparring partners, so to speak, in wide-ranging exchanges of experience. This mixture of external and internal know-how along with the Group’s commitment to ensuring that employees possess advanced qualifications make the voestalpine leadership program a central component of the Group’s claim to being “one step ahead.” Every year and under normal circumstances, just under 200 international employees participate in the multi-stage program.
Other employee development programs
In order to foster and boost relevant employee capabilities and skills in a manner specific to both functions and regions, the voestalpine Group offers a number of additional programs, such as the “Purchasing Power Academy”; the “HR Academy”; the “Early Career Program” in North America; and the “Young Professional Training Program” (YPTP) in China. In the wake of the pandemic, voestalpine has expanded these programs, too, by new, digital formats. The positive experiences gained through this type of blended learning (i.e., combinations of in-person and online training) will enable us to take the next steps in the direction of digital delivery of executive training programs. Following the successful completion of the last iteration of our international talent development program, the so-called “High Mobility Pool” (HMP), circumstances in the business year 2020/21 made renewed international recruiting impossible. Instead, the program has been redesigned so that it will be ready for future succession planning and the promotion of talent. Individual divisions and business units offered their extensive employee training and CPD programs only to a very limited degree as well.
Following the Group-wide employee survey that was conducted in the Northern fall of 2019, the Group companies were asked to analyze the findings together with their employees and to take action on that basis as necessary. Subsequently, the two most important actions had to be reported to the Group. The initial deadline for this report was postponed from March to September 2020 on account of the pandemic. Over all, a total of 428 measures were reported. Fully 88% of these involve ongoing measures related to “information & communication”; “commitment”; “collaboration & cooperation among co-workers”; and “continued professional development.”
The economic situation and the uncertainty as to how the pandemic will play out in the future also made it necessary to review the planned reduction of the interval between surveys from three to two years. Given both the necessary lead time and resources, we decided in light of the ongoing challenges arising from COVID-19 to postpone the employee survey that had been planned for the Northern fall of 2021 by one year to 2022. Individual Group companies will be free to conduct their own interim surveys up to that time.
Cooperation with educational institutions
Many voestalpine companies offer students the option of enrolling in internships. Among other things, this is focused on scientific work in cooperation with voestalpine companies. Currently, numerous diploma and masters theses as well as dissertations are being written in cooperation with the Group. voestalpine uses innovative formats tailored to different target groups to introduce itself to future personnel. For example, voestalpine has supported the “myAbility Talent® program,” which helps differently-abled or chronically ill college and university students and young graduates to contact renowned companies. In early March 2021, voestalpine served as the host of and participant in the “Matching Day” recruiting event that is conducted in Linz. The University of Mining and Metallurgy in Leoben, Austria, also participates in numerous collaborative training programs. These range from sponsoring commitments aimed at kindling young people’s interest in technical degrees, to the so-called “#voestalpine talks” (a collaborative event with all student representatives), all the way to support for the annual “teconomy” student trade show.
Measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic
At the start of the calendar year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced voestalpine and its personnel worldwide into crisis mode within a very short time. What followed was an unprecedented (in modern times) social, medical, and economic state of emergency.
As a result, almost all of voestalpine’s Group companies in Austria availed themselves within the pandemic’s first six months of the short time work option enacted by the Austrian federal government. This makes it possible to temporarily limit normal working hours. Similar options were tapped internationally, depending on the statutory framework at the given location.
Recommendations to put in place teleworking were also considered. Wherever operations allow, numerous employees work remotely from home. Individual solutions for employees with dependent children were also put in place in this connection. But critical infrastructure workers continued to work on site. voestalpine put in place comprehensive hygiene measures and made face masks and disinfection materials available to them at no charge. Shift changes were reorganized to ensure that requirements regarding minimum distances between people could be fulfilled. Both meal offerings and cafeteria operations were adapted to applicable requirements also. Numerous Group companies offer COVID-19 testing options (self-tests as well as antigen and PCR tests) at facilities that provide occupational medical services.
Due to differences in local environments as well as different statutory and governmental requirements, it is not possible to harmonize all measures across all of the Group’s facilities. However, a Coronavirus Task Force that was established at Group headquarters back in February 2020 developed a number of overarching COVID-19 measures in close coordination with both the Chairman of the Management Board and all divisional task forces. These measures are continually evaluated and adapted to the given situation. They cover a broad range of requirements such as self protection; minimum physical distancing; wearing of face masks; preventive hygiene measures (e.g., handwashing and disinfecting); conduct in case of suspected infection; avoidance as best as possible of business travel; dealings with customers and suppliers as well as broad-based communication measures across the entire Group.
It is thanks to the commitment and flexibility of all personnel that voestalpine succeeded in quickly adapting to the extraordinary challenges we all faced in the business year 2020/21.