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How HR can solve Germany’s biggest talent challenge

How HR can solve Germany’s biggest talent challenge

Written by:
Gregor Towers
Date created
September 19, 2023
Last updated:
June 20, 2024
5 min read
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Key takeaways

• Labor shortage is a major obstacle to economic growth and innovation in Germany.

• HR teams are developing creative solutions to retain and attract talent with the right capabilities.

• Companies like Bosch and TRIGEMA are reintegrating retired talent to close skill gaps.

• Nestlé is using digitized HR systems to create agile teams and maximize ROI.

• Deutsche Bahn is redesigning its HR model to be green, lean, and smart to improve employee experience and retention.

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 Typically perceived as outdated, baby boomers are becoming “gray sidelined” in businesses.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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