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7 expert insights from Zukunft Personal 2023 

Labor shortage is weakening the German economy. The lack of skilled talent is a major obstruction to economic growth, global competitiveness and innovation. 

And Zukunft Personal 2023, the leading event for the world of work, confirmed this plays heavy on the minds of leadership teams. Arbeitskräftemangel (talent shortage), Mitarbeiterbindung (retention) and recruiting dominated discussion headlines.  

Despite this, the conference revealed a promising insight - HR teams are developing creative solutions to retain and attract talent with the right capabilities.`

Which solutions are we talking about? Listening to HR and industry experts, three aspects stood out: 

  1. Automating HR systems is key to effective people management 
  2. Talent agility creates innovation but companies need the right internal set up
  3. Retention strategies are changing to solve labor shortage in the German market 

We selected 7 insights which illustrate the solutions HR teams are developing to address workforce challenges and bring growth to the German economy. 

Reintegrating retired talent closes skill gaps at Bosch & TRIGEMA 

A shortage in skilled talent is hindering German manufacturers’ ability to build smart factories and compete in the global industry. And so the standard procedure is to source new talent from the market. 

But Bosch and TRIGEMA are exploring another strategy - reintegrating retired employees to conserve valuable knowledge. Typically perceived as outdated, baby boomers are becoming “gray sidelined” in businesses. But both German manufacturers have flipped the perspective.

They have set up internal programs that reemploy retired talent to coach younger teams specialized in engineering and sales. Their former talent often not only has deep industry and technical knowledge, but also a commercial understanding of the business. 

Frank Leyhausen, founder at AgeForce1, recommends three steps for a successful reintegration: 

  1. Consider where the gaps are in your teams and which technical knowledge you need 
  2. Create an alumni network and then identify who retired in the past few years 
  3. Reengage appropriate talent and discuss financial plans, working hours and most importantly the purpose you can give them 

Nestlé’s digitized HR systems create agile teams

With 170.000 global talent, 17 local HR services and AI changing working environments, Nestlé’s HR team had to evolve their employee services. 

While automation improved the efficiency of machinery in factories, it also created more complexity. As a result, job roles became rigid and dictated by seniority level. Due to the fixed processes to manage the AI, Nestle started to lose talent such as project managers. 

Therefore, Nestlé’s HR digital transformation, led by Anja Kuhl, started with centralizing all systems to reduce complexity and give teams clarity. However, they also redefined job roles to increase agility and maximize ROI from machinery. 

For example, Nestlé reskilled their leaders to encourage adaptability in teams, help talent to share ideas and challenge fixed work processes. And they’re starting to see the results as teams improve their understanding of end-to-end AI solutions and ability to solve breakdowns. 

Otto Group is transforming its global culture to support global operation teams

“Culture is not only a question of mindset, but also systems.”

Vanessa Eller, Senior Project Leader at Otto Group 

Otto group, a global retail company, is transforming its global culture. Since 2015, they have been radically questioning their attitudes and existing structures in order to be able to reshape the present and future. This process is ongoing and participatory. However, the operational sector, with 13.000 talent, has its own special needs which are explicitly considered within the initiative "Kulturwandel@Logistik"

  1. Lean management 
  2. Leadership roles
  3. Employee autonomy 

The initiative supports all local subsidiaries with innovation, workfloor processes and talent satisfaction. Leaders, for example, are now trained to discuss results with their teams on a daily basis and are expected to spend more than 50% of their time on the manufacturing floor to create a supportive culture in teams. 

How Miele drive product innovation & talent creativity with Intrapreneurship

Dirk Ahlers, a specialist in sleep technology, is part of a small independent team funded by Miele and Pioneering GmbH. With just 3 people, their task is focused on intrapreneurship, innovating and experimenting with products related to sleep. 

With manufacturers’ revenue success based on innovation and market relevance, there’s constant pressure to design new products. And so Miele is giving small agile teams the freedom to challenge the status quo and create new product offerings.   

Dirk works in a demanding team environment where the chances of failure are high. However, he is producing results. His team is developing technology that regulates a sleeper’s microclimate such as temperature and offers customers a unique product in the market. 

In effect, HR and leadership teams in corporate companies need to explore new talent setups that encourage innovation and creativity. By establishing independent “incubator” teams wanting to develop ideas, businesses will start to see innovation projects transition into market maturity. 

Siemens & BCG: Why effective transformation needs internal know-how & external consultancy

Manufacturers are transforming their factory operations with AI tech. But how can they optimize internal know-how and external consultancy to lead an effective transformation? 

Experts Dr.Timo Holm, Head of Learning Organization at Siemens, and Christina Bösenberg, Managing Director at BCG, explain that transformation needs an inside and outside perspective to mobilize change throughout your company. And a key element is communication.

An understanding of the why behind your transformation needs to run from team leads to your CEO. Siemens, for example, organized workshops with experts to improve collaboration between the teams responsible for software development in their robots. 

“Communication is actually a social movement.

Christina Bösenberg, Managing Director, BCG

But Siemens also creates role models in different business units to lead transformation. This helps to embed trust in the organization and ensure that change isn’t a top down decision, but a social movement. 

Deutsche Bahn redesigns its HR model to be Green, Lean & Smart

Deutsche Bahn is digitally transforming their employee experience model to improve the performance and retention of their 220.000 talent. Why did they decide to change their HR model? 

Much like client satisfaction, talent’s experience influences their decision to stay or leave, work effectively or lose motivation, join the company or choose another. But with 25.000 new hires each year and 53.000 HR requests every month, Deutsche Bahn needed a scaled HR system to cater for their talent’s needs. 

Led by Ralf Berns, product and process manager, Deutsche Bahn redesigned their HR service based on three factors: 

  1. Green: paperless and sustainable processes
  2. Lean: profit and performance 
  3. Smart: employee satisfaction and experience 

At the heart of this redesign is a data-driven central portal and a focus on their people. The new system gives talent instant access to HR services such as contracts or hiring cycles as well as data tracking for the HR team to measure success and progress.  

As a result, Deutsche Bahn’s HR transformation has put them in a much stronger position to improve their people’s satisfaction, productivity and retention. 

How Bosch reskilled 700 talent to transform a French automobile factory

Manufacturers are shifting their automobile production methods from fossil fuels to electric for increased sustainability and to match consumer demand. But this shift is complicated. It requires talent with the technical knowledge and skills to transform operations. 

A Bosch-owned factory in the South of France found itself in this situation. The leadership team was faced with two options - close the factory or switch to electronic manufacturing. With 1.500 jobs at stake and talent with over 20 years at the company, Bosch made a decisive choice.  

The German manufacturer reskilled 700 talent and changed the factory’s production methods. Through an internal skill scan, they identified talent with the right knowledge and skills to facilitate the transformation and avoid hiring from the external market. 

And supported by Neobrains, Bosch also created flexible internal career paths to grow talent with relevant skills and ensure the factory produces electric vehicles in line with future market demand.

HR teams are supporting economic & people growth 

HR solutions are becoming more sophisticated and creative. As workplaces become more technical, complex and stretched across global subsidaries, German HR teams are improving their internal set up and systems to support talent performance at scale.

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Leadership Style Quiz

You’re in a Zoom meeting with new team members. How do you present yourself?

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You’re planning the business strategy for the new year. Will you:

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Leadership Style Quiz
What quote relates to you the most?

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What makes you a great leader?

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What is your weak spot?

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Leadership Style Quiz
Which personality traits do you think are the most effective for a leader?

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Your leadership style is: Democratic

DESCRIPTION: Monkeys have fascinating, complex social structures and hierarchies that involve decision-making, communication, and conflict resolution. Macaques, for instance, are known for their ‘majority first’ approach when deciding where to forage for food. They come up with different suggestions, reach a consensus, and then follow the monkey with the most followers: regardless of its age or status. This is exemplary of a democratic leadership style. Democratic leaders allow everybody’s voice to be heard. They consider the ideas and insights of their team members, giving them the chance to show their strengths and share their knowledge. This leadership style drives participation, teamwork, and personal accountability, leading to higher levels of employee engagement, retention, and workplace satisfaction, as people feel empowered and valued.

STRENGHTS: You are Creative, Stimulating, Innovative, Empowering, Collaborative, and Energetic.

CHALLENGES: When you’re a democratic leader, you might be faced with a risk of inefficiency as it takes longer to come to a mutual consensus. Also, this popular leadership style slightly suffers from the new, hybrid workplace because of the lack of spontaneous encounters at the office.

WORKS WELL IN: Startups, Scale-ups, the Creative Industry & Knowledge-based Industries

RECOMMENDATION: Lepaya training to develop your leadership skills: Collaboration & Influence, Storytelling, Analytical Thinking

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Your leadership style is: Coaching

DESCRIPTION: When you look at horses in the wild, you’ll see that the lead mare will guide the others in a certain direction and sets the pace. If a younger horse compromises the safety of the herd or wanders off, it will be gently and patiently corrected by the mature horses, and taught what type of behavior is preferable. Providing guidance, sharing constructive feedback, helping others learn from their mistakes and improve their skills: these are all typical traits of a coaching leader. Coaching leaders believe in identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of employees, so they can develop and achieve their true potential and contribute to the success and unity of the team. These leaders are all about mutual respect, long-term individual growth, compassion, and two-way communication.

STRENGHTS: You are Supportive, Patient, Loyal, Authentic, Compassionate, Reliable, Inclusive.

CHALLENGES: Coaching leaders aim for long-term success instead of quick wins. That requires a lot of commitment and energy, and it can take a long time to see results. Another challenge for you as a coaching leader is that you might focus on individual development rather than team goals, and you tend to become too involved in day-to-day tasks and micro-management.

WORKS WELL IN: Consulting, Sales & Marketing, Education 

RECOMMENDATION:Lepaya training to develop your leadership style: Resilience, Analytical Thinking and Taking Ownership 

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Your leadership style is: Transformational

DESCRIPTION: The eagle is known for its ability to soar high above the landscape, its sharp vision, and clear focus that allows it to spot prey from great distances. This powerful bird nurtures its young carefully, teaching them the skills they need before they spread their wings and leave their nest. This imagery is often used to represent the transformational leader's ability to see the big picture and inspire others to work toward the organization's goals. One of the other key aspects of transformational leadership is that it emphasizes the importance of empowering others to be successful in their own right, allowing their teams to perform beyond expectations. They usually create an inspiring and motivational atmosphere, providing individual support and challenging their team to always reach for the sky.

STRENGHTS: You are Confident, Bold, Fearless, Analytical, Inspiring, Visionary.

CHALLENGES: You can be dominant and tend to concentrate on the bigger picture which can lead to a lack of focus on details. Being a high-flier, you set your own standards high. However, you can also be demanding for your team. Be careful not to create a high-pressure work environment, because that can lead to employees feeling like they can't keep up.

WORKS WELL IN: Agile companies that require thinking outside the box and a shared vision, like start-ups, the tech industry, design & media

RECOMMENDATION: Lepaya training to develop your leadership style: Empowering Leadership, Collaboration & Influence, Diversity & Inclusion

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Your leadership style is: Servant

DESCRIPTION: Elephants are highly intelligent and social creatures. They live in tight-knit family groups that rely on communication and cooperation. The image of the matriarch leading the herd to find water and food is a great metaphor for managers who like to lead by example without putting their personal ambitions first. This is common to the servant leadership style. Here, your primary role as a leader is to serve your team members by empowering them, supporting their growth and development, and creating a healthy and safe work environment. A servant leader emphasizes collaboration and inclusiveness and seeks to create a culture of trust, empathy, and respect. With their calm and steady demeanor, they focus on building solid relationships with their team, listening to their needs and concerns, and working together in an emotionally intelligent way to achieve shared goals.

STRENGHTS: You are Understanding, Calm, Determined, Responsible, Committed, and like to lead by example.

CHALLENGES: As a servant leader, you’re sometimes so focused on the well-being of others that you tend to lose sight of your own needs and responsibilities. This can ultimately lead to stress and can slow down decision-making processes. Also, you might find it difficult to confront others and hold them accountable for their actions.

WORKS WELL IN: Service industry & non-profit organizations

RECOMMENDATION:  Lepaya training to develop your leadership style: Resilience, Storytelling, Taking Ownership

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Your leadership style is: Affiliative

DESCRIPTION: Dogs are known for their loyalty, honesty, and their ability to provide emotional support. They are usually outgoing and full of energy. You’ll find that these characteristics are similar to those of an affiliative leader. The main goal of these types of leaders is to create a company culture that is positive and dynamic. It’s a people-first approach that especially younger generations relate to, as it highly values happiness, purpose, and the sense of belonging to a tribe at work. These leaders celebrate success with their teams and encourage creative thinking. As an affiliative leader, you like to foster a culture of teamwork and inclusiveness. You are open in your communication and aim to create an environment in which everyone feels valued, respected, and supported. You also value personal growth and development, and encourage your team to take ownership of their own career paths.

STRENGHTS: You are Flexible, Calm, Positive, Dynamic, Empathic, Inclusive and Trustworthy.

CHALLENGES: As you highly value a positive and harmonious atmosphere within your team, tackling complex situations can become a problem if you focus too much on avoiding conflicts and negative feedback. This might reduce productivity, lead to underperformance, and losing sight of the organizational goals and objectives. 

WORKS WELL IN: Service-oriented industries like hospitality, healthcare, retail, banks & insurance companies 

RECOMMENDATION:   Lepaya training to develop your leadership style: Taking Ownership, Collaboration & Influence, Resilience 

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