Employees, the Secret Weapon

The Munich-based company wants to become one of the top five most prestigious employers in the world with the help of virtual reality.

  • Handelsblatt
  • By Axel Höpner & Bert Fröndhoff
  • September 8, 2017

The search for good, young staff has long since been a sure-fire success for large corporations. Young talents in the greater Stuttgart area strove for a career at Daimler or Bosch, Siemens was the big dream for many in Erlangen and in Munich, a term at BMW was the highest priority when planning a career.

“Before, large brands were almost automatically attractive,” says Siemens Manager, Rosa Riera. The prospect of a secure, life-long job at a well-known corporation was an important criterion for applicants. Today, however, she notes that founding a start-up or working for one is also very attractive.

Riera is responsible for employer branding at Siemens, meaning, reinforcing the brand as an employer. She has a clear mission: Currently Siemens is the eighth most popular employer in the engineering and IT sectors in the world, sixth in Germany. “Our goal is to move into the top five,” announces Riera in an interview with the Handelsblatt. With a global initiative that  starts in Germany next week, Siemens intends to take a large step and pass large companies like IBM and Intel.

Siemens is not the only company being forced to improve its image as an employer. The battle for the best talent is getting harder: top graduates in the fields of computer sciences, natural sciences or technological courses of study used to almost automatically end up at well-known industrial corporations. In the digital age, half the economy is courting them.

This competition is exacerbated by the already palpable lack of specialists. The need is clearly high: in the first nine months, Siemens hired 27,000 new employees worldwide. But nearly 1,200 positions in Germany alone still haven’t been filled. The trend also applies to the economy as a whole: according to the Federal Labor Office, the number of open positions has reached a record high. Across nearly every branch, the need for new employees at the companies continues to increase.


Added value for the community

Every major company has therefore been heavily investing in employer branding for years. They want to stand out from the masses. “Companies have to find out what makes them unique and they have to communicate this convincingly to the public,” Christian Jost from Personalberatung Hays (Hays Personnel Consulting) explains the trend. It’s about much more than a stylish cafeteria and the gym in the cellar at headquarters.

Siemens is also fine-tuning its image with this campaign. The corporation wants to highlight the engineers’ contribution toward progress for the employees and candidates. The additional value a company offers the community is important to job candidates today, observes Sascha Martini, Head of the German offices of the digital agency R/GA, who partnered with Siemens on the work. Companies from Silicon Valley are constantly held up as a model for how to skillfully establish a good employer image. “Facebook and Google are able to convey how it feels to work for them,” says Siemens Manager Riera.

As simple as the strategy may sound: Many companies have difficulties reinforcing their employer brand. They invest millions in campaigns, but in the end, their career websites and social media platforms all look the same. “In the digital age, it is difficult to stand out,” says human resources expert Jost.

The company’s employees are the key to an authentic and strong employer brand; in Jost’s opinion, they are the “secret weapon” for finding out what the company and work mean to the employees. Siemens Manager Riera thinks the internal effect is also more important than the work presented to the outside: After all, an employer’s reputation and image disseminates quickly these days via social networks. As part of the new campaign, Siemens wants to evaluate in more detail what people on the digital channels are saying about the company.

When it comes to branding, companies have long since used advanced technology, as has Siemens. In cooperation with the R/GA agency, Siemens produced films in a virtual reality format that tell stories about employees, for instance, an Indian engineer. Exciting stories about unknown colleagues in a 360-degree format should reinforce internal cooperation in Munich and help attract new talent. “Today, you have to offer a greater wow effect than just a YouTube video,” says agency director, Martini.

Cardboard glasses are handed out to every employee in the world which they can use to watch the movies. In India and China, the campaign was met with positive resonance and the German employees will receive their glasses next week. According to Riera, this should convey what it is like to work with Siemens elsewhere in the world. The glasses, which are plugged into a cell phone, will also be handed out to all potential applicants at trade shows and events. The talents should get a feeling for how it feels to work at the company.

Personnel managers from other companies have had good experiences with virtual reality. Bayer, for instance, produced 20 films in the 360-degree format. With virtual reality glasses, potential applicants can immerse themselves in the Berlin pharmaceutical laboratories or take a stroll through the agricultural department’s plant cultivation area. The Deutsche Bahn also installs virtual reality technology at every major recruiting event. Interested parties can experience what working as a train engineer or locomotive driver is like.  


Keeping promises

But impressive 360-degree images aren’t everything. The company has to keep the promises made during the campaign, says Siemens Manager Riera. In fact, frustration can run high if new employees come out of the nice, virtual reality and enter the harsh daily company life only to find themselves confronted by a lot of bureaucracy and entrenched management structures. According to Riera, talented people today expect shallow hierarchies and a lot of autonomy. “They are interested in the exciting projects they can work on.” Status symbols like a company car are less in demand in the younger generation.

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