How Freudenberg Group is navigating the post-pandemic world
The world is undergoing a time of economic and political upheaval. There are many changes taking place in the workplace too that will transform the future of work. What we're experiencing today may be the biggest revolution in work in our lifetime. The pandemic ended up being the biggest business disruptor across all sectors. As experts say, this is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to redefine and reimagine their work, the way they engage their staff, and how they adapt to a new global era.
People Matters caught up with Ester Maria Loidl, CHRO of Freudenberg Group to find out how the company is navigating the complicated post-pandemic work. The German family-owned global technology group develops technologies and services for about 40 markets and for thousands of applications.
Esther Maria Loidl is the global head of human resources at Freudenberg Group and a member of the management board. Esther Loidl brings more than two decades of experience in wide-ranging people management roles. She began her career in the tourism industry in 1991 before moving to Brose, an auto supplier, in Mexico. After a variety of personnel positions at Brose, Loidl joined the Freudenberg Group in 2013, initially assuming responsibility for human resources at its Sealing Technologies Business Group. Since August 2017, she has been in charge of HR at the Freudenberg Group.
Here are the edited excerpts.
What effects has the pandemic had on your business? How are you navigating the complicated post-pandemic world?
What was exciting for me was the speed and flexibility with which each and every one of us and we as an organisation switched to crisis mode. Many things that we had discussed before, whether mobile working, online meetings and collaboration using digital tools, were possible practically from one day to the next and were implemented without much difficulty. There are many advantages to this, especially in making working hours and work locations more flexible. At the same time, we are a manufacturing company and more than 50% of our employees do not have the possibility to choose their workplace or work location flexibly.
The pandemic has also taught us that we need to rebalance the distribution of jobs globally: Many of the country's experts and managers are located in Germany. In the medium term, the group would like to work on developing strong local and regional leadership, both in manufacturing and administration. The goal is to balance know-how and expert knowledge across all regions.
Are you facing talent crisis? How are you retaining talent amid this global labour crisis? Can you share some insights about your talent management practices in the hybrid era?
The goal of the talent management process is holistic and focuses on professional personnel development as well as the successful identification and advancement of potential future executives. In the process, employees receive balanced and calibrated feedback from their superiors. They also review their next development steps with them. As part of talent management, succession candidates are systematically identified for expert and leadership functions, to ensure the long-term stability of the leadership team.
Attractiveness Freudenberg provides numerous benefits that are being continuously expanded to attract new and retain existing employees. The benefits tend to vary from region to region and site to site, but are usually more generous than the minimum legal requirements in the relevant country. As part of the Talent Management programme, Freudenberg supports numerous continuing education programs at all hierarchical levels. Freudenberg also considers the maintenance of a good work-life balance as important in helping to ensure and improve employee health and well-being.
How has your work tech landscape evolved over the past two years of disruption?
Digitalisation is changing the world of work at a rapid pace, and this also applies to HR. One important task is to globally standardise HR processes within the Freudenberg Group. One example: We were faced with the challenge of unifying HR processes, from the administration of master data to talent management and succession planning, and mapping them in one IT system within the framework of a special structure with eleven business groups, very different IT landscapes, and branches in more than 60 countries. The choice: the system should be intuitive to use and expandable in terms of the integration of further processes - fell on the cloud-based software Workday. The implementation of the system was Freudenberg's first Group-wide HR IT project. In addition to the uniform administration of HR master data for all Freudenberg employees throughout the Group, Workday includes and harmonises the processes in talent management as well as around the topic of compensation with regard to checking salaries and calculating bonuses. All open positions are advertised via the system and are visible.
What role can leaders play to ensure a better alignment of HR technology investment and business goals?
The global HR strategy and its goals form the basis for meeting the challenges that will arise in the coming years, such as the battle for talent. Digitalisation and the global standardisation of processes play an important role in this. The use of digital and globally usable tools is a prerequisite for this; a successful example is the introduction of Workday at the Freudenberg Group.
Can you give us an overview of diversity and inclusion at your organisation? How are you leveraging work tech to fill DEI gaps the pandemic brought to the fore?
Diversity and Inclusion is anchored in the Group’s values and principles. Freudenberg is convinced that teams with people of various ages and genders and with diverse cultural backgrounds are more successful. In 2021, people from 136 nations worked together. An international working group is devising specific measures to further strengthen activities as part of an inclusive working environment while serving as a sounding board and multiplier. The goal of various initiatives is to create a working environment in which every person feels appreciated, respected and heard.
As CHRO, I am responsible for all of the company's approximately 50,000 employees worldwide and in this role, it is important to me that we have a working environment at Freudenberg in which all employees, regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religion, feel comfortable, respected, heard, and valued.