Worldwide shutdown. The current, unprecedented economic situation poses challenges for all of us. HR factory asked three decision-makers how they are dealing with the current changes in their companies, what solutions they are implementing, and whether there is a positive aspect to the overall picture for the time after the crisis.
In the interview:
What challenges does the current Corona crisis present you with?
Dr. Ann-Christine Hamisch:
In the area of personnel recruitment and development, we naturally have the very specific challenge that our business always aims to bring people together – at events in personnel marketing, at interviews in recruiting, in training or at training events. Since this is currently not possible, we have very quickly changed our processes here and now do a lot online.
First and foremost, of course, is the protection of our employees in terms of health, but also with regard to their financial situation. This includes, above all, enabling home office and, if I am speaking here explicitly for the Learning & Development area, offers that our teams can take advantage of from home and that may also help at the same time to continue to enable social contacts – now digitally. We also had to make a quick transition for new employees and implement an initial digital induction from home.
We face challenges in three dimensions due to the current situations:
First, we face the question of how we can manage to work, communicate, make decisions and move projects forward in a structurally effective and efficient manner in the home office and then later under appropriate hygiene constraints.
Then, of course, there are also strategic questions: Which of our fields of activity is affected and to what extent? Where are there forced pauses or delays in the planning of the business year? And where do new, unforeseen opportunities arise?
Last but not least, we are also confronted with the challenge that we have a very close, communicative and cordial corporate culture that is strongly oriented toward teamwork. Here, too, we currently have to find new ways of working together and adapt them for us.
What solutions are you currently working on in your teams and companies?
Dr. Ann-Christine Hamisch:
Of course, there are many planned events, such as large personnel marketing events, that are currently not feasible. However, we are currently using video interviews in recruiting and onboarding new employees via video conference with desktop sharing. So far, our experience with this has been really good and we have already made our first hires. Our online training programs, some of which already exist and some of which have only just been launched, e.g., in management development, are also currently experiencing brisk demand. Of course, our change managers are not currently holding workshops in persona; they are now designing online workshops and supporting our managers in dealing with the new situation.
We have a total of around 400 trainees – they now also work from home wherever possible. Our trainers invest a lot in maintaining the training and making the best possible use of the situation. For example, they create small YouTube videos themselves to explain the subject matter to the trainees and test other learning platforms.
In general, we at SWM were fortunately in a relatively good starting position, as we had already switched to IT workstations across the board and had many years of experience with home offices. On the one hand, we are trying to respond to the special situation during the crisis, but on the other hand, day-to-day business must of course continue, especially for us as an energy supplier and operator of critical infrastructure.
Our contingency plans are extremely effective here. On the one hand, our solutions are technical in nature. For example, within just a few days our IT department succeeded in setting up an extremely stable network for 4,000 colleagues who can now work from their home offices. On the other hand, the main focus is on supporting employees through this uncertain time. To this end, we have set up virtual coffee breaks in addition to normal meetings, for example, and accompany new team members who are now starting at SWM with daily check-ins. We have also drawn up guidelines for the Group on how to organize onboarding during these times. Across the Group, we are also benefiting from very good preparation for the crisis, e.g., through a crisis team that meets regularly, excellent internal communication and clear guidelines – this gives employees a sense of security in this unusual situation.
In addition to home office and the like, as well as the digital integration of new colleagues, my team is also working on making digital formats such as virtual sports courses, cooking events and fun challenges possible, as well as supporting and moderating them digitally. The intention behind this is to offer our employees the opportunity to keep physically and mentally fit even in their home offices. We will soon be able to implement the first assignments of this kind. The main focus is on team development and team cohesion, but also on supporting current business challenges. For the beginning of May, we are planning a large HR meeting for our Europe North region, which we can of course only hold digitally at the moment. In this context, we will test our options on a larger scale. In particular, we are curious to see how our digital tools and ideas work in workshops with several subgroups. Even before Corona, we had set ourselves a wide variety of digital goals by 2022. Now this is progressing much faster – also due to the openness of the users. We were able to launch several new digital offerings directly after the start of the home office phase. Normally, it takes several weeks to months from conception to go-live of such an offering, depending on the complexity of the topic.
We are currently lucky in that the Jochen Schweizer mydays Group has been working with agile concepts for some time now and has had a big focus on self-direction for quite some time. This fact is now benefiting us. We have formed crisp and decisive task forces for the most important and urgent areas of action. Here, work is carried out in rapid coordination and conception loops according to an iterative approach, and the effectiveness of the measures is monitored. In my personal opinion, it has never been more necessary than now to manage these currently complex relationships through agile working in the classic sense of the word.
If you could also draw a positive aspect for the working world of tomorrow from the current situation, what would it be?
Dr. Ann-Christine Hamisch:
I’m sure that after Corona, the working world will never be the same. Even in a department like ours, which was already practiced in dealing with home offices, we are now doing things online that we could not have imagined just a few weeks ago, such as onboarding events. At the moment, due to the circumstances, there is also simply a lot of trial and error, and surprisingly a lot of it works very well. We are also seeing that processes that seemed untouchable for years are now being adapted very quickly or even abandoned in order to be able to react well and quickly in a crisis. I wish that much of this “trying things out” will stay with us beyond the crisis. I also hope that many areas for whom, for example, home office is a new experience, will now realize that, with the appropriate trust and good communication, much more is feasible than previously thought and that we will all develop more courage to test modern or previously uncommon forms of work.
Ultimately, in the midst of all the uncertainty, I am also experiencing a great deal of cohesion and mutual support, and I hope that we can also preserve this – so to speak, as a view of what is really important in life. Incidentally, this is also felt by many of our employees who are currently working for Munich, such as our bus, subway and streetcar drivers, who are currently receiving a great deal of appreciation and gratitude.
I think that despite the current challenges, there will also be positive aspects for the working world of tomorrow. Home office, for example, will be more “normal” than ever, especially in the industrial environment – a development that is very gratifying and helpful. As turbulent as the current phase is for us and other companies and their employees, it has in any case clearly proven that it can work. The past few weeks have introduced us to a new way of working together – digitally and in a decentralized manner – which we intend to preserve in the future. Likewise, future training and development offerings will be significantly more digital, and these offerings will also be more widely adopted than they have been in the past. I am looking forward to going down this digital path together with my team and all the employees at Michelin Reifenwerke, and I see this as an opportunity to grow even closer together across countries within the Northern Europe region.
If you ask me: I think it behaves like in other crises: that is, people’s strengths come to the fore much more than in “normal” situations. Unimagined talents, abilities to improvise and “think around corners” are currently becoming visible. Some things are happening much faster than before. I also observe in view of the current situation that it is suddenly easier to slaughter “sacred cows” in the organization and to question paradigms. I believe that this “forced moving together at a distance” will have a lasting positive impact on our culture and cohesion. I am looking forward to discovering and experiencing this new facet of tomorrow’s working world more and more together with all employees of the Jochen Schweizer mydays Group.
We would like to thank our interview partners for their time, the very interesting and valuable insights into their current work and wish them and their teams as well as all our readers good health and strength for the coming weeks and the future after Corona.