True Believer

Agnieszka Koziara’s goal is to create conditions that allow teams to play to win, rather than playing not to lose.

Fifteen years ago Agnieszka Koziara began her career as an executive assistant. Her direct supervisor was from Sweden. “As a Pole it came as a huge surprise to me that you could work with people without giving orders,” she says. “My boss gave me lots of freedom.”

As fate would have it, a career move gave her a second direct superior who was also Swedish. “I wanted to be like them. I wanted to work with people who had their own mind and own ideas, and I wanted to bring out the best in people.”

Playing to win

In 2014, Koziara was invited to join Fortaco’s human resources team, and having never forgotten her Swedish bosses and the work cultures they created, she found Fortaco’s culture to be familiar. Today she’s Fortaco’s People & HR Director.

“My Swedish bosses made me a believer that you have to give people the freedom to take risks and make mistakes. When you’re taking risks then you’re playing to win. Otherwise, you’re just playing not to lose.”

She says Fortaco is full of like-minded believers, despite the fact they come from a wide variety of cultures.

Strategy for a winning culture

Koziara works regularly with people from Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Slovakia, and Finland, and within each of these cultures are generational differences. Accommodating those differences is one of the challenges that she relishes.

“Each environment has a different reality and there is no one good way to deal with everyone. What’s critical is that you find enough time to listen to everyone and hear their proposals for change. As an organization we can’t dictate how people must behave. We should give guidance and work together to build our own reality.”

Take safety, for example. “We’d like to have zero accidents, however our work environment can be quite dangerous. You reach zero accidents by increasing safety awareness. But you can’t do that by organizing training sessions alone. In addition, you’ve got to interact daily with your coworkers, explaining why safety issues are important, and why shortcuts are not necessarily a good idea. In private life, we do everything possible to keep our families safe. Work should be no different.”

These conversations go better when everyone is on the same page, and at Fortaco that page is the company’s core value of respect. “We’re all believers in this vision, and Fortaco’s vision and strategy are key in empowering our employees to choose the right direction.”

Challenges

Culture is also key when confronting business challenges. In Koziara’s role coordinating HR at the group level, her challenge twofold. First, she readies the staff for an environment of change, since change is the only certainty in business. Second, she’s charged with attracting young people to Fortaco. “We’re competing with the IT industry for young people. Those with us tend to have real experience and know-how we can’t find on the market. We need to treat them with great respect, and it’s critical to show appreciation for them.”

There are more direct measures, too. “We know technology is something that attracts young people to work, so we’re investing in welding robots and other modern solutions. We also want to make the production environment less dirty. But above all is our culture. Everyone has the freedom to share ideas and sometimes make mistakes.”

Koziara says feedback is particularly important to young people. “They get feedback when something is done wrong, but not always when something’s done right. We’re always working to improve that.” To make sure feedback runs both ways, each year Koziara invites employees to European Work Council meetings and to take part in joint initiatives.

Creating leaders

“The Fortaco culture is about creating leaders,” she says. “A leader isn’t a person with a title, but a person who illuminates a direction and allows others to use their own skills to get there.”

Her two Swedish bosses once made Agnieszka Koziara a believer. And now it’s her job to create more believers within Fortaco. “If you’re working with believers, then it’s much easier to move forward.”