A Pillar to Stand on: Growing and Moving

Telco

András Orbán (left) and Jeroen Kirschbaum.

Just a few months before moving into new offices – so new, in fact, the building is not yet complete – the excitement at ExxonMobil Hungary is palpable. The Budapest Business Journal sat down with the project leads to discuss the details.

ExxonMobil will relocate the equivalent of a small village in moving its 2,000-plus staff from the CenterPoint and myHive offices to the GTC Pillar building, just off the Váci ut office corridor in District XIII, in the spring of 2022.

“It will be the largest office in all of the Europe, Africa, and Middle East region for ExxonMobil. It is a global talent hub for all of the region and supporting the entire globe,” says Jeroen Kirschbaum, the lead country manager for Hungary of the Budapest-based Global Business Center.

“We’re making good progress. It’s pretty remarkable that despite the pandemic, we’re still, for the most part, on schedule; obviously, there have been a lot of challenges in the construction area in general, but we’re still in pretty good shape.”

The move will be a staggered affair, with a March-April time frame for moving in.

“We will have an early move stage where we make sure everything works in the building. That’s when we want all the inevitable initial problems sorted so that when we make the big move, day one is perfect for everyone else,” explains András Orbán, the business venture manager responsible for the Budapest building project.

“We think it will be two weeks, roughly, to get everything sorted out, then we will have the main move, and we will try to get as many people as possible into that. How long that is going to be depends on many things still, but let’s say two, three weeks, and then we will have the remaining 20%, roughly, who didn’t move in earlier for business reasons,” Orbán says.

ExxonMobil will be the only tenant in the Pillar building. But having signed the lease in October 2019, has the concept for how the building will be used changed, given the experiences learned through the pandemic?

Kirschbaum says there had been a clear strategy to build flexibility into the initial design long before COVID struck.

Evolution-proof

“We figured that things are gonna evolve over this lease. This is a long-term commitment. And things are not going to be the same five years from now, 10 years from now. We have to remain flexible to respond to the evolution of workplace needs and employees. The pandemic has accelerated some of those things, and we have made changes in design and how we use the spaces,” he explains.

“All of the meeting spaces are ‘zoom-friendly rooms,’ so that we can also effectively work in virtual or hybrid modes with all of our partners and business colleagues all over the world,” Kirschbaum says of the changes made.

“There’s full Wi-Fi across the entire building; it is the first ExxonMobil building in the world that will be completely wireless and one of the first buildings in the region.”

Orbán agrees that flexibility was already a crucial element of the new design. “We are tripling the collaboration spaces and areas compared to what we have today. We will have a large area we refer to as the Pavilion for informal collaboration, think tanks. We have team tables in the open plan area, so there are more opportunities for people to collaborate depending on their needs,” the business venture manager says.

“If it’s a formal format, they can go into an enclosed area; if it’s informal, they can use any of these open-plan spaces. The size didn’t decrease as a result of the pandemic, but we already have a significantly improved balance pushing collaboration,” Orbán adds.

ExxonMobil currently operates a hybrid model combining office and home-based locations due to the pandemic. While Kirschbaum sees the office as a “catalyst for innovation,” he says working for home is likely to remain part of the structure.

“I think there will be a tremendous amount of flexibility provided to all employees, based on their role, based on their teams, and based on their personal considerations,” the country lead says. He argues it is essential not to apply a “one size fits all” approach.

“Personal situations are not the same; work deliverables are not the same. And they’re fluid over time. So there might be projects that you’re working on where, for your personal growth, for your productivity, you should be in the office every day because that’s what’s going to make you successful,” he explains.

“And there might be other days that, maybe because of personal considerations, or because of the work deliverables, you’re most productive when you work from home. And I think applying that flexibility drives trust and accountability to the employees; to me, that’s the healthy model. With flexibility comes responsibility and judgment. It’s perhaps not the easiest way to do it, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Fishnet Carpets

As with all energy companies nowadays, ExxonMobil is keen to improve its sustainability levels wherever possible. A new office building (aiming for LEED “Gold” accreditation) with greater energy efficiency, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, bicycle racks, and EV chargers helps with all that, but so do the internals.

“We have acoustic ceiling panels that use 60-plus percent of recycled PET, for example, and we have carpets which are made 100% from fibers derived from discarded fishnet,” says Orbán

In the past year, about 300 positions were added to the Global Business Center. Are more on the way, and are there any concerns about filling those posts in a tight labor market?

Kirschbaum admits sourcing future talent is “top of mind,” although he adds, “We’re not seeing that as a constraint to expanding further the overall service offering and the work scope from the Budapest hub.”

He can’t yet talk about job numbers but says the quality of the position matters at least as much as the quantity. A good example is the global talent hub for ExxonMobil’s environmental and property solutions organization.

“This is a new service offering that has never been handled out of Budapest or in a centralized way. Now, most of the financial and commercial support for our property solutions and environmental activities worldwide are coordinated out of the Budapest hub. And so we appointed a new managing director, who is also the first female Hungarian managing director for ExxonMobil Hungary, to lead that new division. That’s also one that we expect to continue to grow and capture more opportunities.”

The appointment of a Hungarian woman as MD is timely, given that the company just this month produced its first annual diversity report. It is both a statement of intent and a record to be judged on and drive accountability, Kirschbaum says.

“It is important we explain what we stand for and provide a safe space for all employees in the workplace. We are proud of where we are and committed to further growth as part of our core values and focus areas.”

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of December 3, 2021.

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