Creating a common identity among EADS's 109,000 employees is no easy task. The ghosts of EADS's founding companies still loom large and allegiances are not just national: in France the merger of Aerospatiale and Matra - just two years before the foundation of EADS - threw together two very different corporate cultures.

The situation is complicated further because half of the 109,000 staff work for businesses - Airbus and MBDA - that are themselves newly unified multinational entities with owners other than EADS. For instance, Airbus UK's 8,000 employees - who are counted as part of the EADS total workforce - were employees of BAE Systems until 2001.

The man whose job it is to bring these competing national and heritage cultures together under what he calls an "EADS umbrella" is himself an outsider. Head of human resources (HR) Jussi Itavuori is a Finn and he and Ralph Crosby, head of EADS North America, are the only members of the executive board who are not from one of the founding companies, nor French, German or Spanish.

Itavuori, who joined EADS from elevator manufacturer Kone in 2001, says the company is relaxed about employees' loyalty to EADS coming second to their local place of work. "At the core of what we do is people's passion for the products and the programmes. This helps us bring our business units together. Their primary sense of belonging is first to the programmes they work on, then to their business unit and, finally, to EADS as an umbrella, which is seen as giving certain benefits," he says.

He is impressed with the speed at which an EADS identity has been created. "When I joined, it was still very much a coming together of quite separate French, German and Spanish businesses," he says. "But this EADS spirit is really starting to emerge in people's minds. It's what we want to have in common as an added value. I'm pretty happy with where we are."

Like many aspects of EADS, counting the number of staff is itself a complicated task. All 50,000 Airbus employees are included, even though BAE owns 20% of the company. EADS owns 37.5% of MBDA (with BAE and Finmeccanica), but claims 50% of the staff. Half the workforce at ATR - a 50/50 joint venture with Finmeccanica - are included in the total, but none from Dassault, in which EADS has a 46% stake.

When EADS was created it opened the possibility for thousands of engineers and executives - previously restricted by the national scope of their companies - to swap Munich for Madrid or the damp north-west of England for the sunny south-west of France. However, encouraging ambitious high-fliers to relocate is still difficult, admits Itavuori. "Mobility is one of our key objectives. While we've seen our top 1,000 executives move more across business units than within business units, geographical mobility is more challenging."

Professionals in the USA often think little of upping sticks from New England to New Mexico to further careers - knowing everything from schools to shopping (if not the climate) will be similar. But in Europe, cultural and linguistic barriers still apply. "We'd like to make moving easier, but family issues are still the main constraints," says Itavuori.

To help pick out and push "high potentials", the HR department launched a "mapping process" that looks at the development needs of all senior staff. "We now have a corporate wide picture, which we share between business units to create transparency," he says. "We now regularly have meetings between the HR people from each of the business units to look at vacancies."

One of Itavuori's other main responsibilities is industrial relations. This tends to be handled at the plant level or nationally across a business unit, although there are Europe-wide works councils for most of the multinational EADS businesses, such as Airbus, as well as EADS itself.

Each business unit has its own human resources department, responsible tothe head of the business unit, althoughwith a "dotted line" accountability to Itavuori and his head office team. In addition, there is a senior HR director for each ofthe three main markets - France, Germany and Spain - who deals with national regulatory issues.

Source: Flight International