People looking to join a company nowadays want more than an interesting, well-paid job. In addition to the prospect of a responsible position, a good work-life balance is important for many new entrants.
Interest in companies which respond to this need is correspondingly keen. This is why Bayer’s employees have for years been able to choose between numerous models for organizing working hours. One employee who is taking advantage of this choice is Jürgen Schreer.
Jürgen Schreer is one happy man! “I’ve got everything I ever wished for: an interesting job and time for my family,” says the IT specialist at Bayer Business Services with a big smile on his face. An agreement with his company plays a large part in his happiness: Schreer works just four days a week. He usually has Mondays free, but he can equally stay at home on any other day of the week.
“The only thing that matters to my boss is that the work gets done,” explains the 50-year-old, who develops and implements technical concepts for Bayer. Specifically, Schreer provides customers in Human Resources with software that employees can use to participate in the annual stock program, for example.
Cornelia Schreer works half-days in an office at a small trade business. She’s glad that her husband can use his free day to deal with the things that she would otherwise have to do in addition to her job, looking after the home and bringing up the kids. Things like visiting administrative offices. Or taking the car to be serviced. Those are things that her husband can do now. He also uses his free day to look after his 83-year-old mother who lives in a retirement home in Gummersbach. And he gardens and makes sure he gets some exercise too.
An interesting job is important, but so is a happy life.
Jürgen Schreer shares this approach to life with plenty of other people. His colleagues at work have a wide variety of working models. Some of them work three days a week, others half-days. Yet others spend more time in their home office than in the company’s office. These models used to appeal mainly to women, but nowadays they are being used by an increasing number of men. Throughout the Bayer Group.
Improving the compatibility of a family and a career
“Work first” is often not the top priority nowadays. A survey carried out by the German Association of Managerial Employees found that more than 60 percent of respondents do not want to put the needs of their family and personal well-being second to their career. It’s a trend that is evident in other industrialized countries too.
Bayer offers a number of options for pursuing a better work-life balance: flexible working hours, part-time working, home office, tele-working and childcare facilities. Take part-time working, for example. In 2011 around 8,300 people throughout the Bayer Group were working on a part-time basis, equivalent to 7.2 percent of the workforce. Childcare options such as daycare centers are traditionally part of the package offered by the company in Germany.
The Group’s efforts are much appreciated in the USA too. This year Bayer featured for the ninth time on the list of the 100 best companies for working moms. This accolade is awarded every year by the magazine “Working Mother.” It is based on eight criteria including career development opportunities for female employees, childcare, corporate culture, flexible working models, paid parental leave and other programs designed to make working more compatible with raising a family.
the respected journal “The Scientist” counted Bayer among the 100 most attractive employers.
Bayer already has an offering in place to meet the requirements of many young university graduates. They no longer give absolute priority to classic career advancement. For them a work-life balance is at least equally important. Jürgen Schreer can only agree with them. “An interesting job is important, but so is a happy life,” he says. A satisfied employee who can organize his time to suit his needs and has the confidence of his line manager is also motivated to do his best in his job.
Talent Management: Everyone should be able to make the best of themselves
Career perspectives are important at work. That’s why talent management – the development of qualified employees – is one of the company’s leading strategic concerns nowadays.
With good reason. “We can only profile ourselves against the global competition as a strong and attractive company if we succeed in enabling every employee to make the best of his or her attributes,” explains Gabriele Oehlschläger, Head of Talent Management.
One of the primary principles in Bayer’s talent management efforts is “to identify and promote individual strengths and abilities.” “The focus here is not only on employees with particularly great potential as candidates for higher management positions,” Oehlschläger adds. “We want to pay more attention to the development of all our employees.” Human resources development in this context doesn’t always mean the next rung on the ladder; it can also mean continuing development in the current position to enable the employee to adapt optimally to constantly changing demands.
Wei Wang gazes out of the window of his office. In the distance he can see two cranes. Underneath them are long metal pipes and a staircase made from white concrete rising through several levels.
These are the first visible components of the construction project that Wang is working on, known as the “tdi project.” When it is finished in 2014, the building will house a new facility for manufacturing TDI, an important raw material in flexible polyurethane foams. Wang is used to working on projects to construct major production facilities. What he’s not used to, though, is working in Germany. This is the first time for the chemical engineer. Until 2011 he headed up the implementation planning team at the Shanghai site.
In early 2012 he came to Germany. It was his manager’s suggestion. Two years in another country sounded like a good career move. And now he lives in Cologne. In his office in Dormagen he regularly writes reports on the status of the construction project and discusses with his colleagues how best to avoid delays. He’s been able to contribute experience from his work in China on several occasions.
employees were deployed at a foreign location in 2012.
Wang is one of 600 or so Bayer employees who were deployed at a foreign location in 2012. Dr. Horst-Uwe Groh, Head of Human Resources at Bayer, believes that today it is more important than ever to gain experience in other countries and among other cultures. “Employees who have got around in the world are valuable for the company,” he says. Wang also believes it is very important for a company to enable its employees to gain experience abroad.
“Nowadays everything is global, so we need to globalize our work too and standardize it in the process,” he says. And that’s easier to do the more intensively people talk to each other. It is useful for him personally to become more familiar with the way Germans think and act. “After all, I often work with German colleagues when I’m in Shanghai,” he adds.
Interview with Dr. Horst-Uwe Groh
Why are diversity and international experience so important to you?
We currently generate more than 85 percent of our sales outside Germany. This is why it’s important for our managers, in particular, to know how the people in our markets live and what they need. This means that we need to employ considerably more people from growth markets and develop them in management positions. In this way we can ensure that business decisions are guided by the situation in the country concerned.
What are the advantages to the company of deploying employees to other parts of the world?
Our human resources strategy requires us to give employees international experience. They can use their knowledge and skills while they are working at sites in other countries, and these opportunities also enable them to gain experience which will come in useful later on in their careers. Our goal is to promote diversity in our workforce and to involve all employees optimally in our activities. The quality and performance of our employees worldwide is ultimately a significant factor in maintaining the Group’s competitiveness in the future. Technology transfer is a good example. Sites worldwide benefit when, for instance, engineers from Bayer Technology Services are deployed on projects abroad, enabling them to input and increase their expertise.
And where will tomorrow’s employees be headed?
Asia, particularly China and India, Latin America, especially Brazil, the USA, Germany and Russia are set to play an important role in the future. But unlike in the past, it won’t only be colleagues from all over the world who are sent to work there to gain experience of other locations. These countries will also be sending their employees to other locations in preparation for management positions at home, for example.
You’re aiming to increase national diversity particularly in management positions. That’s a major challenge in terms of developing human resources in the company.
Absolutely. That’s why we need to review and modify our current approach in some areas. There are plenty of talented employees in our company, but we need to be more courageous and give them responsibility earlier than has been usual in the past. And we need to give less experienced candidates a chance more often when filling management positions.
What do you hope to achieve with these changes?
Introducing talented young people to demanding tasks early on in their careers is the best way for them to learn fast. Practical experience is still the factor with the greatest impact on personal development.
And finally the question that is probably of greatest interest to potential employees. Why should they join the company in the first place?
Bayer is an international corporation capable of offering many challenges and perspectives. The company is very well positioned in three major sectors of industry with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. The development opportunities it offers scientists, engineers, doctors, IT experts and business managers – to name just a few professions – are correspondingly varied and numerous. I am convinced that Bayer will continue to be an attractive employer in the future, one that promotes commitment, value orientation and motivation.
But living in Germany is quite another matter. It’s an exciting opportunity for Wang, because the differences between his home country and Germany are very plain to see. “In China planning work is carried out by much larger teams,” he explains. “In Germany there are far more individual teams who handle their sub-projects on their own.” And when the longing for home gets too great, he drops in on the Chinese regulars’ get-together, where he can talk to people from his own country and find out how they’re getting on in Germany. Many of them are in fact colleagues. There are 50 other people from China working in the Chemical Parks in Leverkusen and Dormagen alone.