To mark the rebranding of the Hungarian Service and Outsourcing Association (HOA) as the Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL), the Budapest Business Journal sat down with István Lenk, president of ABSL Hungary and managing director of Eaton Hungary Kft., to discuss what thename change means for the organization and the sector. The following are excerpts from that conversation. Look outfor the full interview in our Top Business Services Executives publication, due to be published early in 2023.
BBJ: The HOA was established by leading local and multinational companies in 2004. It has now joined the Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL) international network and rebranded as ABSL Hungary. When did you decide to take this step, why, and how long has the process been?
István Lenk: HOA was created to support shared service and outsourcing industrial players in Hungary. ABSL is an international organization in 11 countries: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. We started the discussion more than two years ago and finally became part of ABSL in May 2022, following a decision by the general assembly. We believe ABSL is the next stage of maturity, and we can leverage the international environment to get support, better understand our industry in the region, and grow.
BBJ: How important is the business services sector to Hungary’s economy?
IL: In Hungary, it takes in about 90,000 people. There is a trend moving to knowledge-intense jobs and roles. Companies are raising the number of higher value-added positions and investing in digitalization. It is primarily multinational companies that define the trends and how the sector is viewed from the outside; they provide a stable financial background for their long-term investments and commit themselves to hire and keeping the workforce for a long time. Their agenda is to attract, develop and retain talents to support their core businesses. Highly-skilled workers are the most critical asset. The industry provides a high-quality work environment, an open and inclusive corporate culture, flexibility, and a wide range of compensation and benefits packages. In this atmosphere, people are treated equally and with respect. The sector is a stable part of the Hungarian GDP and has opportunities to grow and expand further in countryside locations.
BBJ: Hungary has near full employment. Are you confident your members will continue to be able tofind suitable numbers of staff?
IL: Sector banding plays a crucial role; the more people know about the sector and its knowledge-intense jobs, and we can show that it is way more than a “call center,” the better opportunities we can provide future talents. Earlier sector players were looking for talents in the 20-30 year age group but the trend going forward is how we can reach other age groups, people who are career changers. Higher value-added activities require reskilling and upskilling existing employees but may also create opportunities to open the door for a broader talent pool.
BBJ: Inflation and the energy crisis are concerns for the whole economy. How is it manifesting in the BSS?
IL: The business services sector is organically linked with, and dependent on, the mother companies and follows their corporate strategies. Companies are working to find ways to compensate employees to retain thepurchasing power of salaries, while cost consciousness is a crucial topic everywhere. Centers need to find a good balance between fulfilling cost-saving targets and paying attention to what employees require.
This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of November 18, 2022.