With the mission constantly to improve the business environment and promote economic development in Serbia, AmCham has influenced many policy decisions and practices that have indelibly changed the institutional framework. We spoke with Amalija Pavić, AmCham Deputy Executive Director, about the organisation’s approach to the cooperation with the government and other stakeholders involved in the process of reforms.
Which internal mechanisms does AmCham have available in order to adapt its structure to member companies and their needs?
We see our members as customers but also as a resource of know-how, best practice, and entrepreneurship for fulfilling our raison d’être. Failing to infer the changing needs of our members would mean not only a lack of membership satisfaction, ultimately decreasing our membership, but also failing to seize the opportunity to foster faster economic growth. Therefore, we have different methods: from our annual investor confidence and business environment survey to daily meetings, special projects, and formats to gather information and provide a platform for showcasing best practices and pursuing novel approaches to solving problems. As a result, we have three main platforms in which we structure our activities. They are: Improving the Business Environment, Networking and Promotion, and Accelerating Professional Development.
How many committees does AmCham have today, and how do you confirm which new topics on which to focus and establish new committees to deal with them?
– AmCham has nine active committees focused on issues that affect our members and their operations, such as tax regulations and their proper implementation, the grey economy, improving the healthcare system, introducing e-government, tackling environmental rules, labour, and business regulations. Our annual business environment and investor confidence survey keeps our finger on the pulse of our membership, provides us with a list of priority obstacles our members face. And we structure the priorities of existing committees or form the new ones based on this key input. Our committees are expert working groups that give us action plans and input for resolving identified obstacles, but also anticipate future challenges from the international or technological environment and work to improve the preparedness of the business sector against such threats.
Thanks to the dedicated work of our committees, Serbia has conducted various successful reforms that affected the business environment and reaffirmed AmCham as a reliable partner for the government
Considering that improving the business environment is among AmCham’s key objectives, which forms of cooperation with policymakers would you highlight in particular as the most effective for improving the legal framework and practise?
In our 17 years of cooperation with the government, and the more than 150 regulations successfully changed and processes installed to improve the business environment, there is no standard form of cooperation or channel that works best. AmCham is a resource to the government’s administration to identify which regulations should be changed and how are they implemented. In some cases, alerting them to issues members face in the process of the application of the law is enough for rectifying the situation. In others, showcasing best comparative practices, how similar issues are regulated and implemented, is needed. Sometimes there is a need for capacity building in the state administration in order to best implement new regulations. The most important ingredient is the openness of the government, from the highest decision-makers to those implementing regulations, to talk, to comprehend the perspective of others and to be constructive regarding possible solutions. In such cases, all obstacles have been resolved.
The networking of members within and between business associations is a trend that is increasingly evident among business associations in Serbia. What do you offer your members and which new networking options are you considering for the future?
We believe networking is an important part of doing business, so we carefully combine various formats to provide additional value to our membership and stay open for innovative approaches. With our network of 200 companies in Serbia, comprising over 100,000 employees, we are provided with a state-of-the-art opportunity for professional networking and knowledge sharing of different structures within companies. We have different formats for topic-based networking with government officials, but also within the membership among CEOs, public affairs, finance or legal experts and HRs to the logistics, procurement and marketing specialists.
One of the segments that sets AmCham apart is certainly investing in the development of top professionals. Which topics and forms of education are most interesting for members?
AmCham is committed to doing what it can to bridge the gap between what education offers and what the business sector needs. That means programs and training for students, supporting and developing talents within membership, and we will be also lending our expertise to the government, through the National Academy for State Administration. The subject matter ranges from classical MBA topics to soft skills like leadership, development of mentoring and other forms of talent development. However, we see a growing interest in skills of the future that would enable success in the digital world.
We are proud that our AmChamps Youth Leadership Programme has served as a role model for the development of the capacity building programme within the National Academy for Public Servants
The AmChamps Youth Leadership Programme has now existed for five years. What would you single out as the highest achievement of this programme?
AmChamps is our landmark professional development program, launched in early 2014 as a showcase model on how academia and the corporate sector should work together with the aim to develop people who will lead the business community in Serbia. This program, year after year, demonstrates all the positive sides of this kind of synergy and enables an exchange of knowledge between talented young leaders from AmCham member companies, prospective students, and expert lecturers with extensive experience from everyday practice. So far, more than 200 students and young managers participated in the programme. We are proud that our program has served as a role model in creating similar mentorship programs, but we have been most honoured to be a role model for the development of the capacity building programme within the National Academy for Public Servants.