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Budapest Airport Building on ‘Strong Employer Brand’ and ‘Vibe’

HR

Zsuzsa Zahorán-Pirisi, Chief Human Resources Officer at Budapest Airport.

Zsuzsa Zahorán-Pirisi, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Budapest Airport, talks with the Budapest Business Journal about the HR challenges and opportunities of working in the aviation industry.

BBJ: How many people are employed at the airport?

Zsuzsa Zahorán-Pirisi: Over the past 2-3 years, the group has developed dynamically, in line with the growth in passenger traffic. Almost all organizational units have grown; thus, the headcount at Budapest Airport (BUD) and its subsidiaries exceeded 1,600 in April 2024.

BBJ: Given the general labor shortage in Hungary, do you find it difficult to fill positions?

ZsZ-P: More than a hundred professions are represented at the airport, from frontline to specialist jobs. With the way things have developed in recent times, I can’t think of a day in our lives when we haven’t had a vacancy, and we are currently hiring as well. At the same time, I believe we have a strong employer brand and a good reputation in the market, which is one of the reasons why we fill all our positions without exception. According to a representative survey conducted in 2023, the perception of Budapest Airport among Hungarian employees is not only good, but among the best, with both white- and blue-collar workers ranking it among the top, and many people believe it is a good place to work. I think that if someone decides to join us, we will prove this to them.

BBJ: Are you involved with the curricula of local universities or vocational schools, to help better prepare future colleagues?

ZsZ-P: Yes, we are present in educational institutions on several levels. One such program is called “Tájoló” (Orientation), where we present the diversity of the airport to primary and secondary school students, to help them choose a career. In addition, we are also involved in the training of aeronautical engineers, where our training center teaches a range of subjects on airport familiarization, procedures and safety, helping them to gain an insight into the workings of an international airport during their university studies. In addition, several of our colleagues regularly give lectures at higher education institutions, to provide practical examples and bring students closer to the aviation industry.

BBJ: What sort of career path is BUD able to offer? Do staff move on to other airports or employers quickly, or are you able to retain employees for a reasonable period?

ZsZ-P: We are proud that our staff consider working at the airport to be their vocation. Almost half of our colleagues have been working for the company for five years or more, and nearly 15% have been with the company for more than 20 years. I believe that Budapest Airport’s offer is attractive to the labor market. There is no other workplace like it in the country, as we operate the country’s largest international airport. The “vibe” we have is in itself a retention factor, as no two days are the same: the work is interesting, exciting and varied.

We are also working hard to make it so. We have a range of HR systems in place across the company to ensure employee well-being: a bonus scheme rewarding individual performance, home office for flexible work, diverse rosters and work patterns for shift workers. We also strive to offer exclusive opportunities; for example, this is the third year that Budapest Airport has a dedicated skybox in Budapest Park, which is open to our employees.

BBJ: How long have your longest-serving employees been with you?

ZsZ-P: At the end of each year, we hold an award ceremony to honor those members of our team who have been with Budapest Airport for at least a decade. Last year, a total of 119 colleagues who were part of Budapest Airport’s daily operations for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years received certificates and rewards. Our longest-serving employee has been with us for 46 years. Just a personal addition: I have been working at Budapest Airport for 17 years.

BBJ: Has the on-off nature of the government acquisition of BUD made it harder to recruit?

ZsZ-P: This issue is handled at shareholder level, which does not affect our day-to-day work or our recruitment.

BBJ: The airport is some way from Budapest and shifts can have early starts and late finishes. What sort of perks do you offer employees to make the role more acceptable (free/discounted transport, free meals, inconvenient hours bonuses, etc.?)

ZsZ-P: We are easily accessible by public transport and car from both the agglomeration and the capital. I always say that from Nyugati tér to Terminal 1, where most of our offices are located, is only 20 minutes by train. In addition, BUD provides free employee parking and travel subsidies for its staff, and free door-to-door taxis for our staff working nights and early mornings.

BBJ: What has been the most significant change in employment trends since BUD has been the airport operator?

ZsZ-P: I believe that today, employees are looking for more than just a workplace: a community to belong to. A community that they can count on and that values their work. Employers who can offer their employees a sense of belonging and a sense of vocation, coupled with appropriate remuneration, of course, will gain a competitive advantage. Budapest Airport has increased its wages by an average of 55% over two years, and our corporate events are full of participants. I think we can do all this.

BBJ: What do you expect to be the biggest change in the future?

ZsZ-P: We have weathered a global pandemic, we have experienced what it means to operate in an inflationary environment and there is a war raging in a neighboring country. These days, changes come unexpectedly and the question is how resilient an organization is. Budapest Airport has proven in recent years that it can emerge stronger from even the most difficult situations.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of April 19, 2024.

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