Perfectly positioned for future success
Good employees who identify with their work and working environment are crucial to the success of every company. A sustainable personnel policy has two main requirements: Finding the right workforce and retaining them in the company for the long term. This challenge is made more difficult by the shortage of skilled workers in Germany and in general by the demographic change, in other words the increasing proportion of elderly people in society.
To rise to all the challenges in the Uelzena Group, the number of employees in 2019 has again increased, as it has year on year. The increased milk quantity, the resulting higher production figures and additional processes within the organisation has led to new appointments in almost all areas, from production to engineering, from warehouses to administration. Another 32 people were added to the Uelzena Group’s workforce, making a total of 777 employees.
Qualified employees – a coveted resource
A “war for talent” has dominated the German labour market for many years. Suitable candidates need to be actively recruited if a company is to fill their vacancies with the right people. There is also a strong social trend – the rural exodus – the influx of people from rural regions into cities, which presents regional employers with several problems when recruiting skilled workers. This is also a problem for the Uelzena Group. The numerous opportunities and prospects it offers are up against the fact that the company’s rural locations are less attractive to candidates than the big cities. Shift work, particularly common in the production field, poses another obstacle.
The Uelzena Group counters these challenges by providing attractive workplaces with good further training and development opportunities. Wherever possible, simple procedures and processes are continuously optimised to ease staff workload.
EmployeesUelzena as a progressive employer
At a time when employees are a scarce resource, it is down to the company to improve its attractiveness as an employer. This “employer branding” requires clearly defined competitive advantages and strengths which can then be communicated externally and embedded in image advertising, graduate events or career days. In the Uelzena Group, a project group comprised of members of the management, marketing and human resources management is dedicated to this repositioning of the company as an employer brand. A fundamental difficulty doubtlessly lies in the fact that the Uelzena Group is less visible to consumers as a B2B organisation and therefore needs to overcome greater hurdles to reach potentially interested candidates and create a positive identification.
Generally speaking, the value-oriented culture and long-term vision of the Uelzena Group looks highly promising in 2019. In particular, the transparent and credible way it addresses the topic of sustainability offers great possibilities of gaining applicants in this context. It should also be highlighted that the Group is in constant communication with its workforce to strengthen its future viability.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the fact that we have exceptional employees who possess great team spirit and support each other. These are the ideal conditions for a successful future – both now and after the crisis.”
Ina Hinrichs, Head of Human Resources, Uelzena
Effective recruitment and identification of employees with the company
As an employer, the Uelzena Group provides an impressive number of attractive benefits ranging from generous holiday entitlements to flexible working and a company pension scheme. These are all benefits that contribute significantly to retaining current personnel and present compelling reasons when acquiring new employees. In future, these corporate strengths will be communicated even more clearly and aggressively in job descriptions and applicant processes. Prompt feedback is given following job interviews. These measures are well received by applicants as evidenced in the positive feedback on the employer assessment portal Kununu. Kununu is an example of the immense importance of digital media in modern communication with employees and applicants. Uelzena has become increasingly open to this development in the past few years and has streamlined several processes. For instance, an applicant management software was introduced as a special tool that provides considerable advantages in the specific processes. The results in the reporting period were very promising.
Successful recruitment culminated in a smooth induction phase, also known as onboarding – another process that was further optimised in the reporting period. Newcomers now join the company with a clearly structured onboarding plan, a workspace that has been optimally prepared, and colleagues whose role is to guide and make it easier for new arrivals to familiarise themselves with the new environment.
Family-friendly working conditions and the numerous health services that Uelzena offers are part of what makes employees identify with the company. Work – despite shift operation – can generally be balanced well with family life, a fact supported by the Uelzena Group again being awarded the FaMi seal for family-friendly employers for its Uelzen site in 2019. One example of the ways in which the Uelzena Group demonstrates its commitment to treating all employees equally is the “Guidelines for expectant fathers” it has issued in addition to the respective guides for mothers and their managers. This ensures male employees are supported through all the issues that parenting involves – with useful information on special leave, parental benefit, parental leave and child benefit, important contacts, addresses and many practical tips.
A special coaching programme demonstrates Uelzena’s efforts to promote employee health. Employees use the coach’s visit to obtain individual advice for health. In addition to workspace ergonomics, healthy eating when working shifts is another common topic. The Hansefit card, which employees can use to exercise at various sports facilities throughout Germany, continues to be popular. These are just a few reasons why so many employees remain loyal to the company – and why more and more former employees return to Uelzena after a few years away.
Development opportunities for employees and trainees
In today's professional life, continuous learning and constant further development are a given. For example, employees are being challenged at the Uelzen site to meet compliance with new and demanding production standards in switching food grades to infant grades. This gradual conversion is a good example of the openness and willingness to learn that is shown by our employees – those who make progress and growth possible in the first place.
The Uelzena Group promotes the development of its staff through a number of training sessions, workshops and further training measures, for instance to improve their English, how to use the Microsoft Office product suite or even defined specialist topics relevant to the company. Longer term, the group plans to set-up a digital learning platform, which will combine all such services in one place.
The Uelzena Group places a specific focus on attracting and training young talent at an early stage. Which is why several practice days were held in cooperation with local schools, during which students could learn about the different skilled professions and areas of work, and gain their first insights into professional life. A key factor in securing skilled workers is the company's dual vocational training system. The educational content is now more interconnected and the overlaps extended between the different occupational fields. Departmental employees with the new additional role of “training officer” support trainees with their commercial training.
A critical part of the success of Uelzena’s personnel strategy has been its active participation in relevant job fairs such as Nordjob or Parentum, which ensured Uelzena remained in the public eye. The “returnee day” in Stendal also deserves a mention: The Altmark-Käserei cheese dairy in Bismark successfully recruited skilled young workers from the region.
.Outlook for 2020
The proven or recent sustainability approaches will, of course, also be pursued in 2020. However, it is not yet possible to predict the scale of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Uelzena Group – not only with regard to the topic of sustainability but across the entire organisation.
One positive effect will doubtlessly be that digitalisation will have taken a significant step forwards in the entire group. Good learning curves are being reported on the use of new communication channels, while the video conference rooms set up in 2019 are extremely helpful. Uelzena expects that these investments will continue to be used intensively beyond the crisis and therefore, for example, fewer trips will be taken between the sites. A development that should reflect positively on the company’s sustainability balance.
The workforce at the Uelzena Group has been constantly growing for many years – the company has recorded an increase in employee numbers of 12 percent within in the past four years. In order to continue to grow in the future, the company needs specialist workers. However, in the future, there will be fewer skilled workers throughout Germany, as the number of people available on the labour market has been declining for the last 15 years. Up until 2013, it has decreased by approximately 2 million people. According to calculations by the Federal Institute for Population Research, a further 2 million will be lost by 2030. This demographic change is a challenge for German industries because it intensifies the competition for skilled workers on the labour market. In addition, there are fewer people willing to do shift work; flexible working time models are instead in demand. As the Uelzena Group is a company where employees are constantly needed to work in shifts, this is an aspect that makes the search for specialists even more difficult.
Another major challenge is the enormous technological upheaval that is taking place at ever-shorter intervals because of digitalisation and automation. Knowledge is becoming obsolete much faster with new skills being constantly needed resulting in lifelong learning becoming indispensable. The Uelzena Group is ready to face these challenges.
The action field, ‘employees’ comprises the following topics: employment, occupational safety and health, further education and training as well as the relationship between employers and employees. The way that the Uelzena Group manages these areas, the objectives the Group has and how these will be implemented is of interest predominantly for employees but also for members of Uelzena eG and local politics. See also: Stakeholder results.
Our sustainable human resources strategy – overview on targets and measures
Targets aimed at employees
- The appeal of the Uelzena Group as an employer – for specialised professionals and managers as well as for young people – should be further improved. This will enable our growing company to meet its need for new employees.
- Qualified employees – new recruits as well as senior employees – should be employed at the Uelzena Group for as long as possible. Therefore, it is important that employees are happy, stay healthy and are able to combine their family life with their job.
- The Uelzena Group supports the development and advancement of its employees to further their skills.
Qualified employees of the Uelzena Group can be sure that the company offers them a long-term and secure perspective within the company - including a salary that is attractive compared to the compensation paid within the industry and the region.
The Uelzena Group goes to great lengths to raise the awareness of itself as a company to potential professional employees. The Group is increasingly present at job fairs, offers internships and has a modern website. Applications can be made easily via the online application tool. In addition, the company supports students from various universities in the preparation of their theses and thus gains new highly qualified employees.
Education and training
- Employees and supervisors jointly discuss the possible requirements for education and training. These dialogues take place on a regular basis.
- Set-up of modern knowledge management in the company. This includes online webinars for education and training.
- The long-term pilot project “Production OC 2025” is aimed at improving the work processes in the production departments at the Uelzen and Bismarck sites. Plans have also been made for other sites. The central idea behind this is that the employees shall initiate optimisation measures independently.
- The Uelzena Group trains young people in a structured manner to become skilled workers. Each apprenticeship is based on a reliable training plan defined in writing. Moreover, the trainers provide the trainees with intensive support and assistance – whether in their daily work or in preparation for their examinations.
- For its training programmes, the Uelzena Group in 2018 received the "TOP" seal of quality from the IHK Lüneburg-Wolfsburg for excellent training.
Since 2016 there has been a central comprehensive health project in place for the employees of Uelzena. It includes various components, such as discounted membership cards for various sports and health facilities as well as comprehensive health coaching.
Reconciliation of family and work life
The Uelzena Group supports its employees so that they do not have to decide between work and family. For instance, employees with children or family members who require care are offered individual working solutions such as part-time work, as far as is feasible for our company. The FaMi seal, which was awarded again to the Uelzen site in 2019, attests to these good framework conditions.