Ettwig: Hello and welcome to a new edition of we.talk. Today we're talking about thyssenkrupp as an employer, the thyssenkrupp brand on the labor market, and how we're positioning ourselves ahead in the competition for good people. In short: We're talking about employer branding. Not alone, of course, but with our guests. I'd like to welcome Martina Merz, CEO of thyssenkrupp, and Mark Schlette, CHRO at Materials Services, to the studio.
Nice to have you here.
Ms. Merz, Mr. Schlette. thyssenkrupp is a company on the road to green transformation. It wants to help shape this, is in the process of shaping it. How do you see thyssenkrupp positioned as an employer brand on the labor market, which is also constantly evolving?
Merz: We are a company, like many others, in transformation. So we want to be among those doing it from the front. The green transformation is a good challenge for thyssenkrupp in several respects. We can play an active role in the various businesses, also from a position where we can show we are really doing something. We don't just talk about it, we move things, we invest, we change. We also have to constantly develop our performance in becoming greener. The shortage of skilled workers is certainly one of the very special challenges. thyssenkrupp is becoming greener and that it is becoming greener is also noted by our environment. And if you're such an "old" company, fortunately you have plenty of proof points where you can say, "We're succeeding, too, and we're succeeding with the bright minds in our workforce."
Ettwig: Marc Schlette, you are Head of human resources at one of thyssenkrupp's businesses with the largest workforce.
Ettwig: The labor market was mentioned as relatively dynamic in motion. How do you see it from your business perspective and, of course, in general?
Schlette: Well, we do feel that it's a very challenging environment. And actually across the board in all countries in which we operate and, to be honest, also in all qualifications. So we are far from thinking that this is an IT or tech issue. Of course we're looking for digitization specialists, of course we're looking for IT specialists, but we're also looking in the commercial sector, and in all countries. I can look to the USA, I can look to Germany, I can look to Eastern Europe. We simply have to make a great effort to attract people and retain those who are already there. So we can feel the tension. I can also say that we believe we are still coping quite well with this challenge at the moment. But you can see that every single vacancy means more work and there are more vacancies overall. That means we have to increase the energy we spend to remain so stable.
Ettwig: Some time ago, there was talk in the HR sector of a "battle for talent". Is it still like that? Or has there also been a development there?
Schlette: People know that they are operating in an employee market and are correspondingly self-confident. You can cite a whole series of examples. For example, the question: "Can I actually work remotely for you? If we answer that with "no," then we're out of the game these days. The same applies to the question of how we actually structure our application process. So if I say to someone, I still have about six interviews to go until we probably get back to you in three weeks with a decision – then we're out. That's why we've been working on this application process, for example. I don't want to say we're done with it, but I know the successes show us that if we do that consistently, we can handle this job market. After all, we have a good employer story to tell. We are a good employer and we can prove it. So I'm actually quite confident about that.
Ettwig: I heard two things: Firstly, not just "the fight for talent", but "the fight for all employees". Correct? The second thing: “It's urgent.” At least you described it as very urgent. Would you confirm that, or do I have a different perception there?
Schlette: It is "The Challenge of the Decade." So, you can't dramatize that now, but that's certainly a major issue. We need the right people for that. Which takes as to leadership, to culture, to atmosphere. Green transformation. We want to be climate-neutral by 2030. So, the whole package has to be right. And the younger generation in particular is very critical. This must also go in the direction of: What sense does it actually make? Are they behaving responsibly toward the environment? Is there a good team atmosphere, is there a collegial atmosphere? Am I being treated decently? Can I somehow reconcile my life and my job? These questions all come up, and we have to answer them.
Ettwig: What is important here? What does that mean for employees, but also for thyssenkrupp managers?
Merz: The German word “Führungskraft” for "leader" is composed of the words "strength" and "leadership". So, you can make a difference in both areas. I'll start with the word "strength". I think in difficult times like we have today, with multiple crises that overlap, that lead to uncertainties, it takes strength to say we have everything it takes. And if we don't have it, we'll work it out. I think that's where the word "strength" comes into play in leadership. We need to be convinced that we can make a difference in such a phase. So the word "strength" and on the other hand the word "leadership". Of course, "leadership" has something to do with setting priorities, with giving direction, with bringing people together, with orienting them toward a common desire, a common ambition, a common goal. I believe that in today's world, mental strength, strength and clarity are very important.
Schlette: And I think we can be glad that we do have the people on board who support us and keep the company on course.
Merz: In fact, we are certainly demanding on our managers. This reorganization has become so much more difficult in terms of time, but of course also with regards to the challenging issues. We have to admit that as a company we are already demanding a great deal in many areas. It's a particularly challenging time.
Schlette: And as an additional challenge, there's still winning people, keeping people. But at the end of the day, I choose a company where I stay or go there because the atmosphere is right. And, of course, leadership is a very fundamental part.
Ettwig: Now you both talked a lot about the importance of responsible, empathetic leadership. I think that came across relatively clearly. Now employer branding is even more than that. We have many different campaigns. Let me start with you, Ms. Merz. How do you see the importance of employer branding for thyssenkrupp?
Merz: A company unites people in order to create employment with these same people in competition, to generate income. So of course employer branding is the absolute number one. Of course, employees also represent to the outside world what they experience in the company. They tell their story about the company. Only those companies will really be able to achieve and maintain top positions that are also able to develop people in the best way, employ them in the best way, and also get the best. You can't want to be at the top without all of us seeing ourselves as a joint team and also being happy to be part of it. Customers and business partners sense that. Everyone senses that. And that's why employer branding is number one.
Ettwig: Mr. Schlette, you not only stand for 16,000 employees of Materials Services, but are also somewhat representative of all thyssenkrupp businesses. How do you perceive GENERATIONTK, employer branding at thyssenkrupp?
Schlette: I really like GENERATIONTK because it's an honest campaign. These are real people. And the way it looks in the pictures, that’s the way it is. Of course, that's always just one aspect. I think there's more to employer branding than a good visual impression. At the end of the day, the question for both candidates and employees is always: "Does the narrative fit with my working life?" It has to be responsive to our wide diversity, of course. We are a group with 100,000 employees on the road in every country in the world. But we do very different things. It's different if I'm working on hydrogen electrolysis at Nucera or if I'm working on new solutions in the Digital Supply Chain at Material Services. The GENERATIONTK campaign is designed exactly to show and appeal to a lot of good stories, a lot of pictures, different people, and indeed a diverse workforce. And I think that's the right step that does justice to this diversity. But still, it's an employer brand and an employer story.
And I will say, as Ms. Merz pointed out, we are in a major rebuild. That's why it's never going to be the case that 100% of the workforce is satisfied with the condition that the respective company is in at the moment. But I think if you look at the whole package, i.e. employer responsibility, safety, health, attractiveness of the job, competitiveness of compensation, career options, opportunities, I think we already have a package where we don't have to hide.
Ettwig: Speaking of self-confidence, Ms. Merz, what makes thyssenkrupp attractive to employees? Both for those who join and those who ideally stay?
Merz: What makes thyssenkrupp attractive is that we develop sustainable solutions with what we do. And we want to respond to real questions of humanity that somehow reach beyond the day. So we are transforming Steel, we are contributing solutions in the automotive industry for electromobility, for autonomous driving. We are engaged as a company in the hydrogen triangle: Between hydrogen production and use. So we – we as thyssenkrupp – we want to create solutions beyond the day, but be a team in the process. It's a bit like family sometimes. So, I think on the topic of employer attractiveness, you then sometimes don't realize that you're actually in the situation yourself where you feel well embedded. And yet we are ambitious and have the ambition to make sure every day that we really are a good place for our employees and for those we would also like to have on our team, a good future prospect.
Ettwig: Let's take that a bit further with the next question, why are we attractive, you've already said. Can we do it? Can thyssenkrupp do that?
Merz: thyssenkrupp can. I think you can see that when you open the newspapers and see where we are. I think the markets realize that thyssenkrupp is in the market with very relevant technologies, product services and offerings. The picture is changing. I actually sense that over the past three years. Our theme is that we have to turn the whole thing into a positive return on investment. A company hopefully is not just a place where people develop. It must also be a place where these people generate something for the company. We can always check ourselves amongst each other and say: "We can always do better! Let's show together that we can!" And I have the feeling we are on a good path there. We just have to prove it now. The markets are realizing that we are working on very future-oriented issues with the technologies, products and services we have and are showing, and that this is a benefit for our customers.
Schlette: There's hardly anything to add to that. I think we have an opportunity. But profitability is of course essential, firstly to ensure that this remains the case in the long term. And: People like to work in successful companies. That's the way it is. And I think we also really have to keep the whole spectrum of the workforce in mind when we talk about this. So, the fancy discussion is new work, agility, remote working. 50% of our workforce is blue collar. And they are essential for all these great things we come up with to work at all and for the products to reach the customer. From my perspective, we can't forget them in the process. This means that if we think about remote, if we think about hybrid forms of work, more agility, more self-organization, then we also need an answer here. In the end, there is a customer who unpacks a box from us, and then it has to fit spot-on. And only in this, in this interaction and in reaching the entire workforce: managers, commercial employees, industrial employees – in no particular order – succeed in this.
Ettwig: So we don't have to be afraid, Ms. Merz, to give you the last word.
Merz: No. We're not afraid, but we mustn't let up either. I think thyssenkrupp is a very attractive employer and wants to remain so. We have to tell everyone, want to tell everyone, and want to show it with our products and services. On every box, on every app. Show it to your girlfriends, your friends, your relatives and say, "They, they're great!"
Ettwig: I'll leave it at that. I'll hold firm: targeted employer branding helps us all. As a green transformer, we also have a good agenda for it. And the best news about that: We can still do it, too. In this respect, many thanks to both of you for taking the time. Thank you also to the audience. That was we.talk. We'll be back with exciting guests and new topics.
See you soon. Bye from Essen. Stay healthy.