“We have to talk about organisational culture”

Jennifer Schewardo

Jennifer Schevardo

Jennifer Schevardo has headed the “Strategic Personnel Development” workgroup since May 2017. An important goal is to support the HZB employees in their professional development. “lichtblick” spoke with her about internal talent management and why it is necessary to work on the entire organisational culture.

What attracted you to HZB?

In my previous post at the Helmholtz office, I was spokesperson for the topics of leadership, talent management and career support. In Spring, an opportunity opened up to move to HZB and to set up the “Strategic Personnel Development” workgroup. This appealed to me because I am closer to the people here and I can directly observe the effect of personnel development services. I also find it exciting that HZB is currently going through a change process. That offers a lot of creative leeway.

How is HZB organised in this area?

HZB is a centre where qualification of employees has been supported for many years. Starting the workgroup has now established strategic personnel development firmly at HZB. This kind of institutionalisation of personnel development doesn’t exist at all the Helmholtz centres. We are a relatively small group, and have exciting tasks ahead of us.

What tasks would that include?

The scope of the workgroup currently spans doctoral student coordination, the offers for work-life balance, company training activities, and the school lab.

That’s a broad field. What are the focal points?

We will be increasing doctoral student supervision at HZB and also expanding the qualification offers for all employee groups. A new concept is career guidance, which we are offering for all employees. We want to establish Personnel Development as the go-to point where employees can seek assistance on all matters of their career. Beyond that, we also offer services to the managers, to boost their interest in internal talent management,

Can the superiors expect new tasks?

Not necessarily. Rather, we want to help the managers feel more at home with the responsibility of leadership and set aside time for it, as an aspect of their work. Managers have an obligation to assist their employees in their professional development. They should have an eye for their potential, but they also have to communicate openly and honestly about what is an option for an employee and what perhaps may not be. That is why it is so important for us talk about this kind of cooperation here at HZB, so about the entire organisational culture – a concept that the general management at HZB also actively supports.

How can managers be encouraged to feel responsible for the career guidance of their employees?

Performance reviews are an important instrument here. These interviews are a crucial way for managers to learn of their employees’ potentials and wishes. They also allow the manager to receive feedback, a detail that is often lost in the day-to-day.

What role does telephone coaching play in this?

Telephone coaching is a support service for concrete situations where managers wish to seek advice. The service is very low-threshold; you just have to pick up the phone. Ideally, the managers will then be able to apply their insights to more than one given situation. We would like for this to motivate them to really tackle conflict situations.  

The qualification programme is another important component. Do all employees have a right to further qualification?

A qualification agreement has been in place since 2007. It’s really great and it’s well worth a read. It says that everyone has the opportunity to participate in further training if they have a justified need and the agreement of their superior. This applies to internal and external events, and even includes in-service qualification courses, which can lead to the employee taking on duties in the centre that are more responsible and better paid.

HZB has created requirements profiles for various professional groups, which can be found on the Personnel Development page on the Intranet. What role do these play in qualification?

The requirements profiles help employees to assess themselves, where they stand professionally and where they could go from there. They can also find out whether they might need further qualification. The requirements profiles implicitly include HZB’s promise to support the employees in their professional development. In short, the requirements profiles confer the right to request qualification from the superiors, but they are also an appeal to the employees to always think about their own possible development.