In an interview with Alexander Hornikel, Senior Partner at Kloepfel Consulting, Matthias Malessa, former HR manager at adidas AG, talks about his career at adidas, success critical goals and values, HR 4.0 and the war for talents.
WHY DID YOU START AT ADIDAS?
I would describe my career as a “career of perceived opportunities”. Originally, I wanted to work in international controlling after studying economics and i had this opportunity at adidas. Then the passion of my wife and me for Asia came into play and it opened up an opportunity to work as group controller for adidas in Hong Kong. Another opportunity arose 3 years later as managing director for shoe production in Thailand and Vietnam and so we moved to Bangkok, now with four people. After almost 8 years in Asia, I changed to the HR department of adidas at the headquarters in Herzogenaurach, where I assumed overall global responsibility in 2006.
YOU HAVE STARTED AT ADIDAS AS A TRAINEE AND CLIMBED UP TO CHIEF HR OFFICER. WAS THE POSITION HEAD OF HR YOUR GOAL RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING?
I’d say it was some kind of natural destination. I myself had never thought about going to the HR department. But the issues of leadership, people, relationships and mindfulness ran like a red thread through my life, which led to the fact that the management offered me this opportunity.
IN WHAT WAY IS THE FORMULATION OF GOALS ESSENTIAL FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAREER DEVELOPMENT?
Goals are relevant and important. Whether it’s just that you deliberately deviate from them and use opening doors. I even love to set myself daily goals and then literally tick them off. But even more important than the formulation of goals is the clarity with regard to one’s own purpose, in English the appropriate word for this is “leadership purpose”. Then the target corridors arise automatically.
WHAT VALUES HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED AS SUCCESS CRITICAL AND HAVE THESE VALUES CHANGED OVER THE COURSE OF TIME?
Loyalty coupled with courage and honesty and a good deal of curiosity and energy are important in order to always be open to new ideas. I think values are tested over and over again in the course of a lifetime. Sometimes we betray our values out of false ambition or misjudgment. On this path of life, which resembles a constant learning curve, we identify values and hopefully develop the courage to live them consistently. They serve as a compass.
HOW ARE DIGITALISATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES CONNECTED?
I would say that digitalization creates speed and transparency and thus time for coaching and real dialogue. On the other hand, big data and data analytics offer the opportunity for better diagnostics and more targeted retention management.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE WORK AS A HR MANAGER?
As a manager and HR responsible, I need to know and be able to play the keyboard of leadership 4.0. A corresponding affinity for networks and a digital interest are also important! The technical possibilities can be a curse as well as a blessing. I have to make sure that they become a blessing. For me, the primary challenge is the incorrect understanding of permanent availability.
FOR WHOM IS HR 4.0 RELEVANT?
In fact, for anyone who directly or indirectly employs employees.
HOW WOULD YOU PROCEED TO INTRODUCE YOUR 4.0 NEWCOMERS TO THE SUBJECT?
I would introduce them to the social megatrends that have emerged from the demographic, but above all technical, developments of recent decades and then jointly derive the resulting fields of action. Ultimately, it is about self-preservation through access to the internal and external talent market, but this requires a paradigm shift.
TO WHAT EXTENT DOES INDUSTRY 4.0 AFFECT HUMAN RESOURCES?
There are interesting new ways of working together through the networking of things. The HR manager must know this and use it sensibly in his own company. The employee of tomorrow expects at least the same technical networking and availability of knowledge and data in his working world as he knows from his normal life.
WHICH COMPANIES EXPERIENCE THE WAR FOR TALENTS THE STRONGEST?
B2B companies with a neglected employer brand will have the hardest time here. But a strong product or service brand that knows and appreciates my talent target group will of course also help my employer brand and strengthen my company for the War for Talents.
WHAT CONCRETE MEASURES CAN HR MANAGERS USE TO DECIDE THE WAR FOR TALENTS FOR THEIR COMPANY?
This area of responsibility is not only the task of the HR and recruiting departments. Increasing the attractiveness of an employer must be a task for the entire company. A trilogy of communication, marketing and HR as drivers must “discover”, develop and live an authentic employer brand from within the company and create a culture of networking, participation, agility and openness.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF INADEQUATE MAINTENANCE OF EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS?
A large number of risks must be taken into account here. On the one hand, top performers migrate and employees work according to regulations instead of realizing their potential in their work. On the other hand, innovation is absent and external talents do not come. Ultimately, this can mean the commercial end for companies.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE HEALTH MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS?
Think of yourself as “me plc”. How important is your health to you? It is of central importance – isn’t it? One of the megatrends in our society is a sharp rise in awareness in dealing with one’s own physical and mental resilience and nutrition. Therefore, a proactive approach to holistic health management is a must in the company of tomorrow!
WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION WOULD YOU GIVE TO PERSONNEL DECISION-MAKERS REGARDING EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS?
Expensive is not the way, expensive is not to go it! Take small courageous steps, involve the employees, always stay tuned and learn from others, “copy with pride”!
ON YOUTUBE ONE CAN SEE YOU IN AN INTERVIEW ON A SHIP AT THE SOUTH POLE. WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
The discoverer and adventurer Sir Robert Swan has walked both poles. His mission is to encourage people to live consciously and responsibly. He takes them to Antarctica, the last untouched place on earth, which according to the agreements of all riparian states may only be visited for educational and research purposes until the year 2041 and is administered and supervised by the UN. Rob has repeatedly invited me to lead the Leadership Program for the young education-hungry participants on one of these expeditions. Participation cannot be bought, it has to be earned.
Thank you for the interview!