from Shanghai Daily

Germans' winning employment policies

Some German companies have established a good reputation for their ability to retain people.
The Messer Group would appear to be one of them. Inside the family-owned industrial gas producer, many of its Chinese employees have been with the company since Messer's arrival in China 10 years ago.
It's a similar situation at Bertelsmann and Henkel, both Germany-based companies who have been operating in China for a long time. In the current climate, where changing jobs seems to happen as often as changing socks, the secrets of how these German companies retain their staff is worth exploring.
In a brochure of the Messer Group, there are a few statements elaborating on the key lessons that the company has learned in China. They read: Nothing is as important as people and people relations; and take leadership, team-building, company culture serious.
They may sound like soft issues, but they can foul up your "hard" ones if neglected. "Although we are in a capital-intensive industry, our success depends on the people who operate the equipment and systems," said Helmut W Schneider, Messer China's CEO. "We have always said that we are a people-oriented company."
These may be commonly espoused beliefs among bosses. But as Geoffrey Colvin, senior editor at large of the Fortune Magazine told Shanghai Daily recently, every company will say that it believes people are its most important assets. But very few companies actually behave as if this is what they believe.
Value young talents
The Messer Group, however, is deadly serious about these theories. Firstly, it paves the way for people to develop. In Messer China, most general managers are home grown and have come from within the company. There are very few outside recruitments who take the higher positions and this ensures that the Chinese staff truly have a chance to make a professional career within the company.
Second, young people are an important element of Messer's recruits. The company deliberately tries to hire predominantly younger staff and spends substantial amounts on training them. "Young people, although inexperienced, have enormous potential and passion. Also, our choices are based on the long term view," said Schneider.
It is quite different from the "hire and fire" approach, a recruitment attitude where companies employ people according to their needs of the moment. When "the moment" is over, the company sacks the individuals hired.
Messer is very careful about the people it hires.
Harmonious relationships with the emphasis on mutual trust and due respect lie at the core of its company culture.
There are few communication barriers between the higher management team and the ordinary staff. Schneider acknowledges he is sometimes impatient, but he makes sure he apologizes if he is.
In Messer China's quarterly employee magazine, people like planners, operators, drivers, accountants and engineers are written about. It features stories about a driver's record time, or an engineer who has just given birth, or just the arrival of a new employee. The magazine also reports various events organized for employees to involve their family members.
It's a common practice in German companies. Both Bertelsmann and Henkel have similar magazines and organize similar events.
"Another reason, which my Chinese colleague informed me, is that German culture is regarded by Chinese as sharing some similarity with the Chinese culture," said Schneider. "German people are thought of as industrious, serious about work and very time conscious. This stereotype of German people is helped by our local people and this also contributes, I guess, to the good reputation of German employers."
There might be one more reason: German people value a stable life and treasure loyalty - two merits also cherished by Chinese people.

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Jasmine Yan
Corporate Communications
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