The Freudenberg Group is over 170 years old that develops leading-edge technologies, products, solutions, and services for 40 market segments in 56 countries. From automobiles to chemicals to medical products, the group’s offerings service a vast array of sectors. In an era of uncertainties and rapid change, how does such a diverse entity manage to keep over 48,000 employees on their toes and prepare them for the future?
The answer lies in one simple philosophy-‘We as Freudenberg want to develop everybody,” says Esther Maria Loidl, Global Head of Human Resources Freudenberg Group. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Esther shares about the culture at Freudenberg and how it believes in continuous learning to prepare for a volatile future.
Freudenberg was recently honored in November with a 2018 Top Workplace award by the Detroit Free Press news organization in Michigan. What do you think makes Freudenberg a great place to work?
Freudenberg Group’s stable and secure structure, social responsibility, fairness, empowerment, challenging environment, open-minded culture, approachability are some of the key factors making us high quality and successful. We have been in receipt of many such awards and this is one of them. We are glad to be considered one of the Top Workplaces in Michigan and in many other countries.
What are the key components which define Freudenberg’s culture?
Freudenberg’s culture is basically based on the Guiding Principles. They foster key opportunities for employees in areas like Reliability (Long term orientation), Development opportunities (Responsibility), Professionalism (Innovation), Integrity (Trust) and Openness (Creative work environment). These are key to bring forth a forward-thinking approach.
One of the interesting initiatives you have in place is the Freudenberg TANNER initiative where Freudenberg employee's children (between 16 to 21 years of age) are encouraged to travel to other countries where Freudenberg employees host them to increase cross-cultural engagement. What was the idea behind the initiative and how does the initiative help as far as employee engagement is concerned?
The idea of the TANNER program came up when Freudenberg turned 150 years old. A working group was developed to come up with different ideas of what can be done and instead of planning only monetary support for different deserving students, the approach was made based on the Guiding principles. Which was to do something sustainable and lasting and as a gift we gave this opportunity to provide not for the employees themselves but for their children, whereas the idea was not around CSR but for the employees.
Children to not only get exposure in another culture but also get an opportunity to plan an exchange with any other child somewhere in the globe and experience their daily life. It’s not a holiday or a language course but something different. It’s really an opportunity to experience daily life in another culture.
As a global technology group that develops leading-edge technologies, products, solutions, and services for 40 market segments in 56 countries, how do you ensure that your employees stay ahead of the learning curve and are motivated to innovate?
Talent management is a very important pillar for Freudenberg. It’s not only for an exclusive group of people.
We as Freudenberg want to develop everybody. We want to make sure that people are able to do their current job as we also want them to be future ready and that they are able to take up more job roles in the future as well.
While Freudenberg continued its good business development in 2018 in a volatile and difficult environment and managed to record strong growth, how are you preparing your employees for the future of work, which is becoming more and more uncertain?
We are supporting training, education, talent management, and continuous learning. We don’t believe that our people know everything and we encourage that our people are always open-minded with an attitude for learning and are exposed to new things.
The digitization wave is spreading across all organizations globally, streaming processes, dynamically altering business structures. How is Freudenberg incorporating it and preparing for the digital future?
We have many digital initiatives that refer to the various areas we work in. The role of HR, therefore, is not only to facilitate training but also change management to help people keep up with the pace of the changing future. We make sure they are fit for the future and are ready for the future world.
What are the three key things you look for in a prospective candidate for a perfect fit in Freudenberg?
We look for openness, willingness to learn and positive attitude.
We believe that if you are open and willing to learn, then you are ready to adapt to the future.