Mr. Čadež, CCIS is an important institution in the business environment of Serbia. What are your key activities?
In recent couple of years, owing to the reform and modernization of what is now a single chamber system, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has developed into an efficient platform for protection and realization of interests and strengthening the influence of the business community on decision-makers at the national and international level, and has become a place of reliable information and useful services, which we have developed to suit the needs of the economy. Everything we do – from the promotion of initiatives of businesspeople for improvement of the regulatory framework, through networking with partners from abroad, providing analytical services, to support in digital transformation and education, including introduction of dual education, is done to help our member companies in solving problems in their everyday work and to strengthen their capacity to grow and develop, to be more competitive and productive, to produce and export more.
Our magazine is primarily intended for development of people in business environment. How much is the business environment in Serbia aware of the necessity to invest in development of people?
It is important that in recent years, both in Serbia and the entire region, there has been a growing awareness that people are the largest and most important resource for improving both national competitiveness and competitiveness of individual companies. There is a growing readiness of the state to adapt the education systems to the needs of the economy, of companies to invest in their employees, but also of employees to acquire new knowledge and skills after completion of formal education, to get advanced training in line with fast technological changes, and thus to contribute to the achievement of their personal and corporate goals.
However, the idea of lifelong learning is still developing with us, and this concept is implemented mainly by big companies, which are aware that it is only through continued investment in, improved knowledge and enhanced competences of their employees, that they can keep pace with their competitors. Although it is invested into employees much more today than, e.g. five years ago, which is showed by the indicators on growth of the market of services for education of adults that has doubled in recent period, we have a lot of work to do and much higher investments to make to reach the average of developed countries and companies.
CCIS members are reputable entrepreneurs and businesspeople. What distinguishes companies investing into development of their employees?
People, their abilities, knowledge and skills, through which they contribute to the achievement of identified goals, is what distinguishes successful from less successful companies. The best companies are composed of the best people, and they do not consider investing in development of their personnel as an expense but rather as an investment in higher motivation of their employees, strengthening competitiveness and increasing profit.. As a rule, higher profits are generated by the companies with smarter, better organized, more proactive and innovative employees and managers.
The international corporations operating here have brought not only new jobs, and opened new export canals to the local economy, but also brought new technologies and business models, and they have shared with us their best experiences in corporate governance, including human resources management. They implement their systematised standards for each level of employees and managers, and they apply these matrixes depending on the market and industry in which they operate. They have developed HR services and often their own centres for training and continued education, but for education of their employees, they use the services of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and commercial education centres.. Having adopted the international practice and respecting local specificities, big domestic successful companies have also developed their own systems, but there are still a lot of companies that do not treat HR operations and education as investment but as expenses, which are first to be cut when it comes to saving.
Unfortunately, the majority of our companies do not have HR departments or divisions, which is partly due to the structure of the economy that is dominated by micro and small enterprises, mainly family-owned, in which the owner manages the entire business, including this segment. Although there are examples of good practices among them, few of them have human resource development strategy and training strategy, or clearly allocated budget for training of employees. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia makes efforts to provide to such companies services that would make up for their shortage of HR services and develop their awareness about the need for and importance of the development of the HR function and lifelong learning.
How does CCIS concretely help companies to find required workers, to plan better their staffing needs, and to develop and manage human resources more efficiently?
Chambers of commerce and industry have important roles in the development and implementation of professional education and training policy. According to the data of the European Chamber Association – Eurochambres, approximately 3.4 million people in Europe are trained within the chamber system annually, including 2.1 million young people completing initial training within the formal education system and almost 1.3 million employees acquiring knowledge and skills within the training programmes in the framework of lifelong learning concept. In some countries, chambers are, after the public sector, the second biggest provider of training services. For example, within the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of France, there are 540 educational institutions in the territory of the whole country, and the chamber systems of Germany, Austria, Turkey, USA, have similar experiences.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has a long tradition of organizing training programmes – seminars, courses and workshops according to the actual needs of businesspeople, and harmonized with the changes in business and regulatory framework. We are focused on the promotion of the importance of business education of employees, development of the methodology for identifying training needs and analysis of effects of completed training courses on work performance. We improve the cooperation with the National Employment Service in the area of organizing programmes of additional education and training, so that those looking for job could acquire new knowledge, skills and work experience, and employers get workers they need. We are a leader among the chambers in the region in introducing dual education according to the needs of the economy, in which more than 600 companies and 4,500 students have already been included. We have established our own business academy.
Our experiences will soon be used by other chambers in the region, through the project of introducing dual education, development of digital educational profiles and digital transformation of the economy in the Western Balkans, with the financial and expert support of the Austrian Development Agency and Economic Chamber of Austria.
This is important for decreasing unemployment in the region in which every third young person is unemployed, and in which every fifth company surveyed in the last year had difficulties in finding adequate workers. For two thirds of vacant positions, they stated lack of qualifications as the reason, because the education system is not adjusted to the needs of the economy. When we have people with qualifications and skills .necessary to the modern economy, there will be more investments, both domestic and foreign ones, and also new factories, new jobs for our companies and jobs for our people. Quality of staff is one of the key factors when making a decision on investing, equally important as political stability, safety, friendly, legal and regulatory environment, quality of infrastructure, and production costs.
What is the concept of the CCIS Business Academy and which programmes does it offer to the economy?
The Business Academy will provide its students with the qualifications and skills for high-quality work, which will decrease the gap, discerned in practice, between the knowledge acquired by employees in formal education and requirements imposed to them by a specific job.
We work on the development of the programme for licenced vocational education for certain production and service occupations, in conformity with the needs of the economy, in the sectors such as construction industry, food industry, textile industry, automotive industry, metal and power industry.
For example, in cooperation with the partners from Austria and Germany, and at the request by companies from the automotive sector, training programmes have been developed for their employees, which will ensure not only upgrading of the required knowledge but also promotion on the qualification scale. Also at the request of the economy, we are currently developing a programme of specialized training for work in drugstores. One of the characteristics of these programmes of professional qualification is a combination of theoretical learning and learning in real work environment.
In addition to these programmes of professional qualification, there are also modules Foreign Trade Academy and Skills Academy (e.g. leadership or communications), as well as the programmes in the area of tax consulting, bookkeeping and accounting, and training for IT security is under preparation.
Business coaching is one of the most efficient tools for development of people. According to you, what should be done to make more companies implement the coaching methodology?
Business coaching supports development, it is a good way to qualify employees to clearly define and achieve their business goals and aspirations, and to improve communication and team work. It is an efficient tool for solving conflicts and change management. It is still not sufficiently known discipline in this region, but our companies are starting to use this tool on the model of foreign companies that have entered our market. I believe that more and more domestic companies will, adjusting to the changes and fighting stronger competition on both local and domestic markets, recognize the benefits for their business and use all available tools, which can help them develop potential of their employees as much as possible and use them for development and growth.
Our magazine is read by managers in the countries in the region, and its online version is read all over the world. What is the role of CCIS in preparing Serbian companies for globalization of the economy?
Networking of Serbian companies with partners from abroad – from the region and the world, to attract capital and get integrated in their supply chains, promotion of export and investment potentials of the Serbian economy and Serbia as a business destination in the international business community, informing our companies about conditions of doing business in foreign markets and providing information and analytical services in connection with operating conditions in foreign markets and trends in individual sectors, are just part of the portfolio of CCIS services, whose aim is internationalization of the economy.
Only last year, we organized more than 120 events, of which 50 big forums with bilateral meetings, in the country, region and the world, only on the national level, not taking into account gatherings organized by line associations according to the needs of their members, and gatherings organized by Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry across Serbia, in line with the specificities of the local economy. More than 13,000 businesspeople participated in them. Helping our economy to position itself better on the markets, and opening new markets for it, with the financial and logistic support, individually or with partners, we ensured organized appearance or participation for more than 500 companies – our members from almost all business sectors – from food industry to creative industry.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has developed a unique service in the Serbian market of business association services – a Supplier Day, which will be in the focus of our activities in the coming years. In the last two to three years, almost 1,000 Serbian companies, mainly from metal and food sectors, have used this networking service, participated in the Supplier Day and got the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk with big foreign and multinational production companies and trading companies, from German and Austrian, through Russian to Japanese, about integration in their supply chains.
Many well-known companies and individuals from IT world write for our magazine. How does CCIS see the impact of domestic IT companies on the development of the entire economy?
ICT is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Serbian economy, measured by number of newly established businesses and percentage increase in export, which has recorded, in recent years, an average growth of almost 25 per cent. IT companies will have a leading role in digitalization of traditional industries, especially SMEs and the CCIS Centre for Digital Transformation, established last year, is already working on it. Digitalization will enable Serbian companies and those from the region to improve all segments of their business, implementing state–of-the-art technologies and innovations, from production, through administrative processes, to communication with consumers in domestic and foreign markets. Companies which digitalize their business on time will be more efficient and competitive, they will produce more products of better quality, products with higher value added, and they will link more easily with buyers, export more at lower costs, and get integrated in global supply chains. The study on impact of digital transformation on the Western Balkan countries shows that an increase in the general level of digitalization by 10 per cent would permanently increase the GDP growth rate in the Western Balkan economies by one per cent, and that increasing digitalization by only by one per cent, employment in production companies would increase by 1.2 per cent and productivity by 2.1 per cent.