Zalando: 5 Questions About a New Understanding of HR

Annika Keilen -unless-

An interview with Sarah Guerrier: In her talk "DisruptHR - Make Your Vision Relevant", the HR expert explained why employee-centricity is important. Having worked in Marketing previously, she tells us what in particular she loves about her new role as Head of People Operations.

1. You work at Zalando as Head of People Operations. How would you describe your work in your own words?
I’m responsible for People Operations, probably the most “classic” area of HR: My team is responsible for everything from creating contracts, certificates, preparing payroll, organizing trainings, supporting employees with questions about work permits or daycare to data management in SAP. Now my team has grown to 80 people, who take care of all the questions for more than 6,000 employees – a huge range, where the focus always remains on the employees.

2. From marketing to HR… How did that happen?
I worked in marketing for over ten years (the first seven at Procter & Gamble, then more than three at Zalando) and loved it! But I still wanted to learn something new! I had always had a preference for topics about people and proactively expressed my wish to switch areas. Then I had a bit of luck that this position became available precisely during my maternity leave – I didn’t let that chance pass me by, and I haven’t regretted it a single day.

3. What connections have you observed between these two areas?
I see a lot of commonalities between these two areas. In the end, they’re actually very similar: you always have to give your full attention to the customer and focus on them. In marketing, that’s the end customers, in HR it’s the employees. Most approaches and models apply to both.

4. What does diversity in a company mean to you?
For me, diversity means on the one hand that we all offer the same chances to everyone, and on the other hand that we use the strengths of a diverse team. This goes beyond the classic topic of gender diversity, so, above all, I see the advantages of internationally diverse teams.

5. About DisruptHR: What would you like to disrupt in HR?
Like in my last DisruptHR speech, I’d very much like to put more focus on conveying to employees the meaning of their work. In my opinion, it’s very important that we understand the big picture of the company and accordingly do everything we can to take care of the employees so that they can dedicate themselves to the business and don’t have to, for example, take care of a cumbersome visa renewal. Especially because it gets really operational in my area, it has to be clear why we’re doing all these tasks and why every individual is important for the success of the company.

Below you can see an example of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applied to employee motivation. Based on your experience, what would you put in each of the fields?

1812-B2B-91_Personelly_infographic_ENG (1)

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Annika Keilen,
Editor; Main interests: culture & diversity in organizations

From an economic perspective, it's easy to look at the world in figures and to lose sight of the human element. Annika believes employees are the heart of a company: At Babbel, she sees her values put into practice and documents her learnings so others can learn from Babbel's experience.

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