Skip to content

Wienerberger employs more than 19,000 people in 27 countries – mainly in Europe and North America. You want to be the employer of choice in your local markets. What’s the idea behind that and how do you succeed?

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner: Many companies simply want to be the Number One in their industry. At Wienerberger we have a different approach. We want to be an employer of choice in our local markets. And then we take that one step further: We want to be at the top of every jobseeker’s list in those places where we have a local presence – that is, with our plants. Because this is where we compete with other employers and can make a difference to people’s lives.

We are part of the community and know what people need, engage in dialogue and with local networks. Many of our companies are directly involved with their communities and support clubs or voluntary organizations such as the Volunteer Fire Brigades. We encourage such partnerships and activities because we have a strong sense of identity as a local employer. We are Hungarians in Hungary, Poles in Poland and Americans in the United States.

What makes working at Wienerberger so attractive – and what sets you apart from other companies?

Baumgartner-Foisner: At Wienerberger we do not believe that "One size fits all". Of course, you have to have certain standards. But this can never be an excuse for failing to respond to the needs of local people at an individual level. This begins with simple things such as: How do our colleagues get to work? What is the infrastructure like – is there any public transport, do we need to organize a shuttle bus to the factory or do we make it possible for our people to use e-bikes? Is childcare available locally? How flexible do working time models have to be?

Wienerberger has relatively few top-down requirements in this regard, not even within the country organizations themselves. Consequently, managers have a great deal of leeway – in consultation with the human resources department and the employees. We have very flat hierarchies at Wienerberger. We operate at a local level and thus understand what motivates our people.

“We have very flat hierarchies at Wienerberger. Because we are engaged at the local level, we understand what motivates our people.”

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Senior Vice President Group Organizational Development and HR, Wienerberger

Wienerberger has made a clear commitment to help build a better future. What lies behind this vision?

Baumgartner-Foisner: Our vision at Wienerberger is to improve people’s quality of life and create a better world for future generations. To this end, we develop innovative, sustainable solutions for people, for the planet and for convenience. We put people first, our products and solutions are made by people for people. We are committed to protecting our planet for present and future generations. And we offer our customers and partners the solutions they really need.

Trust, Respect, Passion and Creativity: These are Wienerberger’s new corporate values. Why have these been more clearly defined and how are they anchored in the company?

Baumgartner-Foisner: The main motivating factors were the work on our vision and an increased level complexity due to an enormous volume of information. We wanted to use the four corporate values to clearly communicate who we are at Wienerberger: Trust grounds us, Respect connects us, Passion drives us and Creativity brings us to life. These are our core values that accompany us shape the way we act. On every continent, in every country, at every location, across all areas of work.

In addition, it was important to us to keep our corporate values simple. Our workforce is a very diverse group of people – ranging from female factory workers to engineers and the Head of Investor Relations. The values must be understood and embraced by everyone. This is why we support our colleagues in translating them into everyday actions. For example, we have developed examples of specific behavior for employees: How can we exhibit trust, act with respect or passion? How can we put our creativity to practical use? At the same time, we also applied our values to our management model and leadership principles because executives should enable and anchor the values within the company.

What kind of mindset should new colleagues ideally possess? Who is a good fit for Wienerberger and who perhaps not?

Baumgartner-Foisner: People who think entrepreneurially, have passion and ambition and who want to act creatively – in a way that is appropriate to their work and the company – are a good fit for Wienerberger. Those who do not fit in are people who negate the needs of other stakeholders or departments. However, people who are willing to take on responsibility and deliver on their promises reflect our culture very well.

Wienerberger combines tradition and the future like almost no other company. How do you reconcile the needs of different generations? What role does diversity in general play at the company?

Baumgartner-Foisner: In many respects we already have a high degree of diversity – in terms of length of service or nationality for example. Approximately 40 percent of those working at our headquarters in Vienna are not originally from Austria. This is fairly unique for an Austrian firm. One reason for this is that we are an international company and strongly encourage mobility. Another is that we deliberately seek talent on international labor markets – especially in Europe. Our headquarters is also very diverse in terms of gender.

At Wienerberger we value direct communication from person to person, as this allows us to better sense and to understand what people need. I can only provide an employee with the right working environment if I know the person. People are at very different points in their careers and life paths. A working model that is too rigid excludes those who cannot, or who do not want to, work within this specific framework. Regardless of their gender or length of service: It is important to us that we respond to needs and find the right answers together. This also enables us to maintain our diversity. 

Does the architecture of your headquarters also facilitate communication among employees?

Baumgartner-Foisner: Oh yes. Because the departments were able to decide what kind of working environment they wanted. The IT department for example chose an open-plan office. Other departments need somewhere quieter. They work in small teams or in individual offices, because that suits their needs better. There is a cafeteria on every floor and ample meeting rooms. The restaurant in the building is also very good. Meeting colleagues and also new members of staff for lunch is part of the culture at Wienerberger.

Approximately 80 percent of the workforce at Wienerberger are blue-collar workers. Aren’t new flexible working arrangements – like the four-day-week – impracticable in factory settings? As a manufacturing company, what challenges does the new way of work present?

Baumgartner-Foisner: The diversity of workplaces in our company means that employees have very different needs. It is therefore necessary to provide individual solutions for different groups of workers. Of course, we could say that office-based staff at headquarters can work from home five days a week – that would be technically feasible, and employees could take a workcation on a beach in Ibiza. But our production workers could not do that as the team has to be on site and in the plant. Our answer is to find individual solutions that reflect our common culture as a company. We sit down with the workers at the respective location and ask: What do they want, what is fair and what can we make possible and what not? As a result, approaches vary from plant to plant.

Let’s take an example from Austria: The workforce at Pinkafeld, Burgenland, wanted a four-day-week. Since a plant like that usually works around the clock, the general rule is three eight-hour shifts. Together with the works council, the team, and in consultation with occupational medicine experts we developed a working time model specifically for this location. As a result, we introduced twelve-hour shifts. In other words, two daytime shifts and two nightshifts of twelve hours each, followed by four days off. This working time model was launched at the beginning of 2022 as a pilot project. It proved so popular with the workforce that it is being continued.

“Of course, we could say that office-based staff at headquarters can work from home five days a week – that would be technically feasible and employees could take a workcation on a beach in Ibiza. But our production workers could not do that as the team has to be on site and in the plant. We have to maintain, reflect and strengthen our common culture in the decisions we take.”

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Senior Vice President Group Organizational Development and HR, Wienerberger

The world of work is changing. For an increasing number of workers, a healthy work-life-balance has become crucial. How does Wienerberger support this?

Baumgartner-Foisner: In principle, we allow flexible working arrangements within the framework of our works council agreements in consultation with the manager. These are handled individually – with support from HR to coach managers on using their leeway. A work-from-home agreement creates legal certainty for employees and managers alike. Members of our office staff can work from home two days a week. But they are under no obligation to do so; everyone at the company has their own workstation and there is no desk sharing. In individual cases, we go much further, for example if someone needs to work from home more. Where we can make it possible and it suits the team and the circumstances, we do it.

What other specific benefits do employees at Wienerberger enjoy?

Baumgartner-Foisner: The biggest benefit is that the sky’s the limit in terms of career progression at Wienerberger. If someone has the will, shares our values, is passionate and uses the creative freedom we offer, then anything is possible. A good example is Harald Schwarzmayr, COO West at Wienerberger. He worked within our IT department and held a number of executive positions – including Managing Director of Wienerberger UK and CEO of Pipelife – and worked his way up to Chief Operating Officer and Wienerberger AG Board Member for Western Europe.

This kind of career across departments, national borders and cultures is not a given at other companies. We have an International Mobility Team to assist colleagues embarking on a new career adventure abroad – it helps with everything from relocating to finding schools for their children and completing tax returns.

The second big benefit are Wienerberger’s employee share participation programs. What do you offer here?

Baumgartner-Foisner: The aim of our employee share participation programs is to create an additional incentive and allow employees to participate in the long-term growth and success of the company. In addition, we want to turn our employees into a stable core shareholder. Wienerberger is a publicly traded company listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange and all shares are free float.

The first program was started in Austria in 2019 and due its great success is being continuously expanded and extended to other countries. The aim is to make the program accessible in all our 28 countries. The scheme is run by the Employee Participation Foundation, which covers all administrative costs, manages the shares in trust in accordance with the legal requirements and collectively exercises the employees’ voting rights. Employees also receive an annual dividend on each of their shares. The scheme is open to all employees in participating countries who have worked for Wienerberger for at least one year. For every two shares purchased, they receive one additional bonus share for free. Participation is possible even with small amounts and we also offer save-as-you-earn share schemes.

In 2022 the company also introduced a bonus share program to allow employees to share in its profits. What can you tell me about that?

Baumgartner-Foisner: This year, for the first time, we are giving out free shares to all employees who were working for the company last year. In future, if we have a successful year, all Wienerberger Group employees will receive the same number of shares – regardless of whether they work in a production plant or at headquarters in Vienna. 

There is nothing more important than health and safety at work in the manufacturing sector. What does Wienerberger do to support its workers here?

Baumgartner-Foisner: For Wienerberger as a manufacturing company with more than 200 production plants, safety is a top priority. “Safety First” is at the heart of our culture and every management meeting begins with safety as the first item on the agenda. We have a safety organization and our own safety officers at all sites to improve the framework conditions for safety. This ranges from audits and staff surveys to our Safety Days, when once a year the entire plant is shut down and production is halted.

Health and safety go hand in hand. At Wienerberger we have a wide range of health promotion measures that are managed locally. At headquarters, last year, for example, we had a focus on mental health with workshops, seminars and lectures. We regularly carry out the evaluation of mental and physical stress at the workplace. We take the results very seriously and respond with concrete action plans.

Of course, we also offer a classic program of medical and non-medical preventive health services ranging from vaccinations to yoga and sports. These are flexibly adapted to suit local needs. One example: Some plants have a running club, others a soccer club. We make sure that we provide targeted support for such activities.

“For Wienerberger as a manufacturing company with more than 200 production plants, safety is a top priority. ‘Safety First’ is at the heart of our culture and every management meeting begins with safety as the first item on the agenda.”

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Senior Vice President Group Organizational Development and HR, Wienerberger

Wienerberger offers its people horizontal, vertical and international career growth. Support is provided in the form of various programs and mentoring. Which of these would you like to highlight?

Baumgartner-Foisner: At Wienerberger we consciously promote exchange between headquarters and the local sites. In addition, we have an ambitious quota of internal appointments. We have set ourselves the goal of filling a high proportion of management positions with internal talent. We have a succession plan not only for every management position, but also for other critical functions.

We always make sure to include an international element. For example, in the middle of the year we will be welcoming a new country manager for Piping Solutions, who will be joining us in Vienna from one of the Nordic countries. He will spend his first time at headquarters getting to know all the important people, functions and departments. This international exchange is important to us – be it in onboarding, succession planning or in meetings generally. Our management conferences and plant management programs also take place at varying locations, consistently creating new perspectives and job opportunities.

And how does the Wienerberger Group build human potential?

Baumgartner-Foisner: Everyone has talent and potential. This is why we have defined talent development very broadly at the Wienerberger Group. People should show a lot of potential, social skills and a degree of willingness to be mobile. We have three talent programs that I am very proud of, as they address three completely different target groups. At the same time, we use them to promote international exchange.

"Ready2Grow" is for Young Potentials, who have only recently joined the company. They have the right spirit and have already surprised us at Wienerberger with the positive impression they have made. "Ready4Expertise 2.0" targets high performers. These are often employees who have been with the company from some time and who want to grow and use the new opportunities Wienerberger has to offer. And with "Ready4Excellence" we help international talent to hone their leadership skills and build networks within the company. 

Finally, let’s come back to the company’s values. From your point of view, which one plays the biggest role?

Passion is the value with which most of our employees identify. Passion for what we do is what drives our innovation capability, further development and our growth as the Wienerberger Group. My wish for the future is to have many more people with this kind of drive to strengthen our teams going forward.

About Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner © Daniel Hinterramskogler

To be there for people: This is Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner’s passion as SVP Group HR Lead at Wienerberger. 

Ulrike Baumgartner-Foisner has been responsible for all aspects of HR and Organizational Development at Wienerberger since 2021. The mother of two children is passionate about her work. What drives her? “A desire to be there for people, to see them thrive. If I didn’t love people, I’d be in the wrong job.” Baumgartner-Foisner obtained a degree in business administration from the Vienna University of Economics and Business and also spent some time studying abroad in Switzerland and in Thailand. Before joining Wienerberger, she worked at leading IT company for ten years, where she was responsible for human resources in Austria and eastern Europe. In 2019 she joined Wienerberger as Head of HR Processes & Systems.

Learn more about Wienerberger

Child hold hand of a women, walking

Our focus is on people

At Wienerberger people are at the heart of all we do: Our relationships with one another are characterized by trust, respect, passion and creativity.
Meadow, Trees, Green, Girl, water © Wienerberger AG

“Life-long Learning Broadens my Horizons”

Plant Manager Jagadeesha DJ knows living means learning and is honing his leadership skills on the Wienerberger talent program Ready4Expertise 2.0.

Building the Future: Wienerberger Careers

Passion, entrepreneurship and individual responsibility: These are the values that characterize Wienerberger employees. Take this career opportunity and apply now!