Thomas Egenter is Human Resources Manager at Hansgrohe, a medium-sized company Company based in the Black Forest. In the interview, he talks about experiences with home office regulations, the response to the shortage of skilled workers and employer branding in small and medium-sized companies.
Thoma Egenter studied industrial engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Schwenningen and wrote his diploma thesis in the area of Human Resources. Since graduating from 1992, he has been with Hansgrohe, a mixer and shower manufacturer, initially as head of commercial training, later as a Personnel Officer, Head of Payroll, as well as Head of Corporate Procurement. Since 2000 he has been the personallee of German society.
Mr. Egenter, flexible workplace and home office regulations are not often found in medium-sized companies.
For us flexible workplace regulations are completely normal, at our location in Schiltach work by 2.200 employees about 30 on teleworkstations and about 80-100 in the home office.
What is the difference between home office and teleworking?
Teleworkers work at home for one or two days a week. These days are also contractually fixed.
The home office regulations are more flexible: the employees can stay one day at home for one day and work on a project, for example. This is not contractually defined, but our employees must register Home Office times in the system so that in the event of an accident, we can prove that they have actually worked at home.
In which areas do the employees work in the home office or in telework?
For example, in human resources, accounting, sales or IT - actually in virtually all areas except in production and in production-related areas.
How does the home office regulation look like - can employees go home when they want?
Not quite. If someone wants to work four days a week at home, that does not work, we allow a maximum of two days a week. Even if appointments would burst because of the home office, then that would be an absurd. However, our employees have so much self-responsibility, so we trust you to control them yourself.
If, for example, my employee from the personnel development says that she stays at home tomorrow to prepare a project, that is no problem. With this arrangement we have consistently had positive experiences.
There are companies that allow their employees to work completely in the home office. Is the German middle class still a little old-fashioned?
No, this has nothing to do with it. This is simply an organizational question: in our company, there are a lot of coordination processes, so the employees have to be in constant exchange with each other. This is best done on site.
There are also reconciliation processes, for example, in IT companies. What is different with you?
With our faucets and showers, we make products to touch. Since we have subsidiaries in 42 countries and export 80 percent of our products abroad, we have to adapt the design to the respective markets, for example. This requires several adjustments between product development, designers and sales, which can only be done on site.
If you follow the Workplace of the Future report of the IT company Citrix, companies will also use flexible workplace solutions to save office space - was that crucial for you when introducing home office solutions?
Of course, it is ideal if two teleworkers share a workplace, but that was not the question. On the one hand, flexible working hours were also addressed by applicants for whom leisure and private life are of a completely different significance than before 20 years - keyword generation Y. Companies must apply today to the employees - not vice versa.
Above all, however, the topic was actively in demand by our employees, who are returning from maternity protection - as a company, one should respond to the needs of its highly qualified workforce.
For the same reason, we offer, for example, during the school holidays a care for the children, with which then for example excursions are made. And even if family members are ill, we help with consulting services to find suitable help.
You were just talking about the generation Y - do you feel a skilled labor force?
So far we have been able to cushion any problems, but that is also because we are training disproportionately ...
What exactly does that mean in numbers?
Overall, we employ approximately 140 trainees, each year, 40-50 are added, and almost all of them are usually taken over as well.
Nevertheless, of course one must be prepared for the demographic change: The location Schiltach is located in the countryside, the next largest cities such as Stuttgart are about 90 minutes away. You have to come up with something to be attractive as an employer.
What do you think? What does your employer branding look like?
We have set up a comprehensive campaign, where our own employees appear as testimonials on ads and in Youtube videos and promote Hansgrohe as an employer. We are also targeting the graduates at trade fairs.
According to the feedback, our personnel marketing is always most successful where who came in contact with the potential employees personally or who got to know the company personally.
What are you looking for?
In principle, all: engineers, computer scientists but also business economists who can be used flexibly. Although we manufacture 80% of our products in Germany, we also have production sites in the USA, China, France and the Netherlands, and we have approximately 42 employees worldwide with our 3.500 subsidiaries.
That's why we always expect applicants to have an international background: they should have studied, lived or even worked abroad at least once. Internationality is an increasingly important economic factor.
Do you also advertise your employees abroad?
Good 10-12 percent of our employees come from abroad, but have been part of a long time in Germany. Recently, we specifically searched for business development in Latin America and found it in Portugal.
Of course, to hire someone like that, a company must also be prepared to help them with housing, bureaucracy and language courses.
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