Freedom to create the mobility solutions of the future

Audi is transforming itself from being purely a manufacturer of premium cars into an integrated mobility provider, a change that will affect both the company’s workforce and the type of jobs. We talk to Audi’s Head of Recruitment and HR, Dr Jochen Haberland, about the skills that will be required in future, the new mood of optimism and excitement at Audi and the current coronavirus crisis.

06/29/2020 Reading Time: 4 min

Dr Haberland, how are you doing in the current corona situation?
The coronavirus crisis came as a surprise to all of us and, of course, it also presents a very challenging situation for the whole group. We are clearly seeing that our world is changing significantly and that we’ll have to adjust to the continuing impact of the virus. Obviously, this also affects Audi’s core business: developing, making and selling cars.

How is the company motivating its workforce during the coronavirus crisis?
In the past, we’ve relied heavily on personal conversations, but that’s clearly no longer an option. We’ve switched to digital processes almost overnight. Even though the option of mobile working has been available to our employees for around four years now, the virus has still had a big impact on our work, especially as there are roles which just aren’t suitable for mobile working – production being a good case in point. Together, we’ve developed quick solutions to enable transparent and regular communication without losing anyone. It’s working very well, even if it can’t be a 100 per cent substitute for face-to-face communication with employees.

Dr. Jochen Haberland

Audi’s Head of Recruitment, Dr Jochen Haberland talks about the skills that will be required in future

The crisis therefore inevitably means that work processes will change. What has Audi learned so far from the corona crisis?
As the saying goes: “every crisis is also an opportunity”. We’ve taken a further step towards digitalisation and made qualitative gains in particular. We will now digitalise many work processes even further to close any gaps. For example, we’re currently adapting our recruitment events and relying more on online interviews.

With a strong commitment to more sustainability and the consistent expansion of electric mobility, Audi is setting its course for the future. How do you translate this sense of optimism and new direction for the employer brand?
At present in the company we’re experiencing the transformation from a pure car maker to an integrated mobility provider. This also greatly changes our image as an employer. Our slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” points the way for us here. All our employees should be thinking independently about what the next step should look like to actually make ‘Vorsprung’ a reality, to give us a leading edge. That’s why we want to give all our Audi colleagues freedom. They should be free to introduce bold ideas, develop these ideas themselves and thus demand and take the best possible step forward for the company. For us, freedom is a tool to shape the work environment we need to make great progress.

Do you have a concrete example of what this freedom will look like?
Let’s take project managers as an example. They should be able to make autonomous decisions to drive their projects in the direction their experience and expertise tells them is correct. That means not necessarily involving management in every decision-making process, but rather taking the course of action one thinks is right, jointly and supportively with all project members. As I’ve already said, we want to enable our employees to be bold and to initiate unusual projects which may perhaps also lie outside our core competences. In the last year, our employees have submitted more than 20,000 suggestions and ideas for optimising processes, more than 50 per cent of which were directly implemented.

Our employees’ qualifications are the most important thing right now.

Dr Jochen Haberland, Head of Recruitment

Dr. Jochen Haberland

How are you encouraging employees to actually take on these new challenges?
In the first place, we try to avoid uncertainty. I think it’s human nature to be unsure about every transformation initially – even when most changes which we experience personally turn out to be positive in hindsight. That’s why we want to create a passion for the new and to support employees accordingly with the opportunities that we have. Such as our job platform, Audi myJob, where our employees have the option of updating their skills and capabilities and looking for their next job within the company. In addition, we offer qualification counselling in the company, so that together we can consider exactly what the next possible step for an employee may look like. Our employees’ qualifications are the most important thing right now.

What qualifications are particularly in demand at Audi right now?
Currently we have vacancies in the areas of IT and software development, which is, of course, a future market. But, ultimately, in some places there will always be a lack of specialist expertise which we have concentrated in so-called ‘future clusters’ so that we can drive forward the appropriate technologies there. Examples are digitalisation, electric mobility, battery technology development – in these areas, developments are running at full tilt. Here we are looking for external candidates who know the ropes at national and international level.

In this context, how important is training and development at Audi?
Obviously, we also want to focus on future skills in our training and give our own trainees the best possible preparation with appropriate opportunities to specialise. Internal training also ensures loyalty to the company is strong and knowledge about it is high. Our strategic HR planning looks into the future so that we can already say today which skills we will need tomorrow, which we may no longer need and which we must develop in time and where.

We don’t need ‘lone wolves’, we need team players who can navigate the digital world and work interactively with their environment.

Dr Jochen Haberland, Head of Recruitment

Why is now a good time to join Audi?
Because now we’re facing radical change. We’re a premium car maker and stand for products that excite people and that will take them into a new era of mobility. As an employer, we have also recognised the current trends in work and HR culture in good time and are building on them. One of the most important issues at Audi is that of working together. We don’t need any ‘lone wolves’, we need team players who can navigate the digital world and work interactively with their environment. I’ve been with the company for more than 20 years, I’m an Audi enthusiast and fascinated by the products that we have in the pipeline. And even if perhaps we weren’t the fastest when it came to the issue of electric mobility – here at Audi we are definitely the best!

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