Exchange of Ideas with Tomorrow’s Top Managers
Bertelsmann seeks out – and maintains ties with – tomorrow’s potential top managers in a variety of ways. The various initiatives Bertelsmann Corporate Management Development (ZM) runs to do so include the Bertelsmann’s Entrepreneurs Program (BEP), in which particularly talented women and men with excellent academic backgrounds, strong business skills and initial successes with their own startups or other big business projects spend a year and a half passing through various positions in Bertelsmann companies all over the world. Meanwhile, Bertelsmann’s Student Challenge program seeks to maintain ties with outstanding former interns while they are studying, and get them excited about returning to the company. Last week, the current participants of both programs were once again invited to the Gütersloh Corporate Center for two days to meet with interesting contacts from the Bertelsmann world. In the case of the BEP participants, these contacts were particularly high-profile: the seven management talents met Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe, Arvato CEO Achim Berg, Group HR Director Immanuel Hermreck and GMC member Fernando Carro.
It is this personal contact with the top management that distinguishes the Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program – in almost no other company is external young talent given similar opportunities. And so the seven BEP participants from the U.S. and Germany used the opportunity to question the Bertelsmann CEO on the current state of the business and ask for an outlook into the future of the company. After an official welcome by Hays Steilberg, Head of Corporate Management Development, Thomas Rabe addressed these points in detail. He explained the strategic priorities and the status of their implementation, backing up his remarks with specific figures. Rabe said he sees special opportunities for young talents – like the BEP participants – in places including the growth regions of Brazil, India and China, where Bertelsmann is becoming increasingly active. "There are significant challenges for us here – and significant opportunities," said the Bertelsmann CEO. One important factor in being able to exploit these opportunities is the development of appropriate management teams, said Rabe and urged the participants to seize the opportunities they are offered at Bertelsmann.
Opportunities at Arvato, for example, as Achim Berg went on to explain to the BEP participants. He went into detail about the group’s organization into Solution Groups, which will enable Arvato to continue to grow while providing customers with more individualized services. He said that the close integration of national units would also serve to advance innovation more efficiently, and that Arvato is becoming more flexible, international and agile, which in turn has an impact on the management of the individual units. Berg’s remarks were met with great interest among the audience in the Corporate Center’s conference area.
Group-wide talent management
Immanuel Hermreck, Group HR Director and designated Chief Human Resources Officer, personally spoke to the BEP participants about the activities that Bertelsmann is aiming for in the overall area of "talent management." Hermreck is responsible for the company’s HR strategy and the measures that result from it, with which Bertelsmann aims to hold its own in the global "war for talent." Hermreck said that for Bertelsmann this specifically means winning promising young talent for the company early on – which is why the BEP was initiated. He said it was also important to identify in-house talent across company and national boundaries, and to promote their careers. To do this Bertelsmann has initiated a comprehensive talent management program, he added, which will be expanded in the next few years supported by a Group-wide IT system.
Steven Moran, EVP Transformation Management at Bertelsmann, then gave an overview of the Operational Excellence program, after which Benedict Dalkmann, Senior Director, New Business, spoke about the Education business – a segment to which Bertelsmann, as Thomas Rabe had explained earlier – is devoting more and more attention. He said the most recent example of this was the acquisition in October of Relias Learning, a U.S.-based learning provider in the healthcare sector that focuses on the areas of senior care, behavioral therapies and disabled care. Market opportunities in the field of Education are promising, said Dalkmann – which naturally implies the same for young managers’ opportunities for development. Pankaj Makkar, Head of the Corporate Center in New Delhi, agreed and went on to explain the great opportunities that await Bertelsmann in India, and the Group’s strategy for the populous Asian country, giving a few examples of successful Bertelsmann ventures from the recent past. The success story he related is also connected with his own résumé, incidentally: Makkar joined Bertelsmann in 2009 as a Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program participant before starting his job in India. In this respect, in the subsequent discussion with the young managers he was able to draw on his own experience and substantiate the well-known benefits of the program first-hand.
In his presentation Fernando Carro, CEO Club and Direct Marketing Businesses and member of Bertelsmann’s Group Management Committee, declared that managers must be able to cope with major challenges, especially in difficult times. For example, even when businesses are to be downscaled or shut down in the near future, Carro said managers had to pursue their tasks with full commitment and remain available to answer employees’ questions.
In parallel to the BEP event, ten young women and men from the Student Challenge program visited the Corporate Center. This year it was a very international group: For the first time there were two participants from "Talentum," a cross-divisional Bertelsmann trainee program for students from selected Spanish universities. Another participant had traveled to Gütersloh as the winner of the Chinese edition of the "Talent Meets Bertelsmann" careers event. Others were based in Germany, but are currently studying in the U.K., Portugal and Spain. On the first day, the students took part in an "innovation" workshop, at the end of which they had to present their ideas to a jury of experienced Bertelsmann managers. On the second day they listened to a series of talks given by employees from Bertelsmann and Arvato, or the Corporate Finance and M&A departments. And of course there was once again the opportunity to exchange ideas with the Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program participants during the "speed dating" session.