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From Arvato Malaysia to joining the HR colleagues in Gütersloh for a couple of months, or from Gruner + Jahr in Hamburg to the Bertelsmann Corporate Center in New York – the Bertelsmann Exchange Initiative makes these moves possible. Currently, 16 Bertelsmann employees worldwide are participating in this pilot project launched in February of this year. They work at different Bertelsmann companies for up to three months, gain experience, establish contacts and add their specialist knowledge.
The goal of the initiative is to promote collaboration and personal dialog between the individual corporate divisions and various Corporate Centers of Bertelsmann, as Immanuel Hermreck, Bertelsmann's Chief HR Officer, explains. "Our employees would like to have more opportunities for personal development beyond their day-to-day working environment. With the Exchange Initiative, we want to fulfill this wish. If our colleagues gain cross-divisional international experience, this is of enormous interest for Bertelsmann as well, and we are spot on target with this initiative," he said.
Almost 30 applicants from nine countries and five corporate divisions applied for participation in the Bertelsmann Exchange Initiative (BEI), which was conceived under the direction of Aline Hohbein of Corporate Responsibility & Diversity Management in collaboration with Corporate HR at the Corporate Center Gütersloh. Marlies Hanfgarn, Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate HR, is certain: "We received applications from Spain, the U.S., Malaysia and Russia, among others, and the interest of the employees is still enormous. The support of the supervisors naturally also plays a decisive role."
As part of the Bertelsmann Exchange Initiative (BEI), participants transfer from the Corporate Center in Gütersloh to a different division and vice versa for up to three months – or they switch their workplace for a different Corporate Center, for example New York. Anna Mozolina is one of the first participants. The Account Manager of Arvato Russia in Yaroslavl worked at Bertelsmann Accounting Services (BeAS) in Rheda for two months as part of the initiative. "I applied because I always wanted to gain some international career experience. I learned about the program on BENET. My superiors supported me and I submitted the application," said Anna Mozolina, explaining her motivation for the exchange. She barely had any problems settling in: "Accounting works more or less the same way almost everywhere; the team in Rheda welcomed and integrated me very kindly. It was a pleasure for me to work in BeAS. I still keep in touch with some colleagues."
At Bertelsmann Accounting Services, Anna Mozolina was a big help thanks to her international background and worked on presentations in an English brochure for international use. "Here in Gütersloh, I realized just how big Bertelsmann really is. In Russia, this plays a smaller role in day-to-day life, but I am proud to be part of such an international group." The exchange was also a gain for Anna personally: "I have picked up plenty of valuable experience here and learned to take on a larger perspective. I made the best of my time here – for my career, but also for my personal life: I traveled a lot in Germany and Europe. Now I am returning home with mixed feelings, both happy and sad."
Chris van Wijnen is also one of the first participants of the initiative. The Senior Consultant Strategy & Business Development of RTL Netherlands has been working for the media company since 2012. For him, the initiative was launched just at the right time: "After four years at RTL, I was curious to explore the possibilities of an international career or look for a next step with RTL in the Netherlands. With this program I could experience and try out where my journey will take me."
From September until December, van Wijnen has been working with the team of the Bertelsmann Education Group in Berlin. For a total duration of three months, he supported the team in this new business with a focus on online education in Europe.
"I am certain that a period of three months makes sense in order for the exchange to be really advantageous for all parties involved," says van Wijnen. "In the beginning, literally everything was new: the team, the industry, the city and, on top of all that, a different culture and language. You need time to adjust and be able to really contribute," he adds. The RTL employee is certain that the exchange benefits both sides: "In the Netherlands, we are working on implementing our strategy towards 2020 and are exploring investing more in online education. I can gain valuable experience for this with the Education Group." On the other hand, van Wijnen is supporting the Education Group team with the set-up of a new business in the United States geared at online certificate programs for aspiring healthcare professionals and market research on the Benelux for Relias Learning using his experience as corporate strategist.
"What I would like to take home are some relevant and fresh insights into the online education industry and doing business in general," says Chris van Wijnen. He is convinced that the Bertelsmann Exchange Initiative is beneficial for the Bertelsmann Group: "The more people participate, the easier communication and sharing experiences among divisions will become." Personally, van Wijnen also believes that the program can be profitable for all employees with international ambitions: "This initiative is a great opportunity to find out what an international career really means."
Currently, alongside Anna Mozolina and Chris van Wijnen, 14 more employees are participating in the program and will each spend one to three months in a different corporate division or one of the Corporate Centers until April 2017. After the conclusion of the pilot project, a decision will be made about continuing the initiative and whether the exchange options should be expanded.