News | Gütersloh, 05/11/2021

‘Talent Meets Bertelsmann’: Grand Finale With Live Concert

The first entirely digital edition of the “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” career event with participants from all over the world ended recently. Among other things, they were tasked with finding solutions to challenging business cases from Bertelsmann’s businesses. Chief Human Resources Officer Immanuel Hermreck awarded prizes to the winning teams.

It was the longest and most extensive virtual event in Bertelsmann’s history: 42 students took part in the 13th “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” international career event for three hours each on three days spread over a period of three weeks. And they all impressively demonstrated how effective an online event can be, how focused work can be done in digital workshops – and what results can be achieved. “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” was organized and managed remotely by colleagues from Corporate Management Development at the Corporate Center, with Pamela Taylor, Gabi Schnurr and Yasin Halil serving as moderators. “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” recently ended with the awards ceremony for the three winning teams that had developed compelling solutions to challenging business cases from Bertelsmann’s businesses. Bertelsmann Chief Human Resources Officer Immanuel Hermreck announced the winning teams, which had been selected by a prominent panel of judges comprising Shobhna Mohn, Executive Vice President, Growth Regions Strategy and Bertelsmann Investments, Madeline McIntosh, CEO Penguin Random House U.S., Bernd Reichart, CEO Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, and Jan Altersten, CEO Arvato Financial Solutions – and was even able to announce a live event that almost made people forget the special conditions under which “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” was organized this year.

Creative work in a virtual space 

“‘Talent Meets Bertelsmann’ is and will remain a key tool for us to recruit young managers. We are determined to keep it alive as a brand, and essentially reinvented it this year due to the circumstances,” explains Immanuel Hermreck. “The big challenge this year was to take what was originally a three-day career event in Berlin and turn it into a virtual format. We came up with a lot of ideas for this – and our new concept definitely worked,” he says happily. Indeed, the “TMB” project team pulled out all the stops to give the students, who had made it to the final round from around 450 applicants from a around 50 countries, a better understanding of the Bertelsmann world, for example in workshops and through direct contact with top managers. “This year, especially in the first week, we placed a lot of emphasis on team building and creativity – and having a lot of fun,” reports Gabi Schnurr, Director Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition, Corporate Management Development, who is also responsible for the “TMB” program. The first step was to have the six groups the students were divided into work together on a creative task to get to know each other better. They used the Miro interactive online tool, which allows for working creatively in a virtual space. Under the heading “Together, apart,” they told a shared story of the group in a video – without actually being together. They also took a virtual tour of the RTL studios in Cologne, accompanied by TV presenter Amiaz Habtu, for whom this also presented an opportunity to interview RTL CEO Bernd Reichart. During all three weeks, the “TMB” team supported the event with numerous posts on the social networks, especially on LinkedIn and Instagram. For example, there were short video clips about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into “Talent Meets Bertelsmann,” such as from the conference room in the Corporate Center, where the moderators entertained the participants and kept the mood upbeat, and from Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin, from where the award ceremony was broadcast. For their part, the students, spread the word on their own networks, as HR Director Immanuel Hermreck enthusiastically noted. 

Presentation to top management 

The second week revolved around working on the business cases – but was also repeatedly supplemented with other equally informative and entertaining program items. For example, the students watched a live reading by PRH authors Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, who presented their book “Designing your Life” from California, then helped their guests solve a problem in a breakout session. As part of a virtual “career fair” and during evening networking sessions and “speed dating,” the “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” participants also met with HR colleagues from various divisions. In the third week, the tension grew as the students ultimately had to present their final presentations to the high-ranking panel of judges. To help them relax, the students had the opportunity to participate in a virtual mindfulness exercise, guided by a professional coach. The business cases dealt with overarching issues from the areas of Creativity, Entrepreneurship & Data with particular relevance for Bertelsmann’s business – and therefore specifically with topics such as journalism, storytelling, entertainment, learning, supply chain, and tech & data. First place went to the Entertainment team, which worked in the “TMB” workshops with Maximilian Kolb, Managing Director GSA, BMG, and Nicolas Ley, Vice President Vidispine, Arvato Systems. Their task was to find out what opportunities non-fungible tokens (NFT) offer the entertainment industry and how they might be integrated into marketing and sales approaches. The proposed solution: Use blockchain technology to give musicians, for example, direct control over their work in the digital world and, moreover, direct payment. As a reward, the winning team can take a three-day trip to Berlin after the pandemic is over. 

Second prize went to the Storytelling team, which addressed the challenge of determining when and how to publish a novel to successfully appeal to a young adult audience. The proposal, developed with Casey McIntyre, Vice President & Publisher, Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers, Penguin Random House, and Hannah Bourne, Children’s Marketing Director, Penguin Random House UK, included various social media marketing activities, for example via the online platforms Twitch and Tiktok, and specially produced short videos. The prize for all team members was a voucher for a Udacity course. The third prize in the form of a $100 voucher for the Penguin Random House online store was won by the Tech & Data team. The task here was to use artificial intelligence on the platforms of streaming providers and e-commerce companies to attract as many relevant users as possible to a particular product. As a business model, the team, together with Natalia Friesen, Consultant Programmatic Advertising, AZ Direct, Bertelsmann Printing Group, and Pia Köhler, Project Manager Central IT, Bertelsmann Printing Group, developed a service that allows users to receive recommendations for desired products while watching their favorite TV show. The product placement is based on information provided by Bertelsmann Data Services’ central data platform and the Bertelsmann ID Framework. 

‘Expectations exceeded’ 

“The participants worked together excellently and far exceeded our expectations,” was Immanuel Hermreck’s positive assessment of the career event at the virtual awards ceremony, which was transmitted live together with Amiaz Habtu. “I’m also thrilled by the creative and innovative ideas that the students came up with under these conditions, which really aren’t easy, and by their professional presentations. The business models drawn up look extremely sound – we will certainly take a closer look at one or two ideas and see if we can actually implement them. We all know that ‘TMB’ can be the start of wonderful friendships – among the students themselves on the one hand, and between them and our company on the other,” added Hermreck, alluding to the participants’ career opportunities at Bertelsmann. “They are now part of the big ‘TMB’ alumni community. I look forward to seeing each other in person at the next opportunity.” 

Next year, and for the next edition of “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” there will probably be an in-person event at Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin again – with a proper closing ceremony. At the end of this year’s event, however, the participants from all over the world were at least able to enjoy themselves in front of their screens. On the roof of Bertelsmann’s Berlin Unter den Linden 1, Berlin, the Munich-based indie band Kytes gave a demonstration of their skills, performing live above the city streets for the first time in more than a year, and the concert was streamed live directly to the students’ homes.