Innovations at Human Resources: A look at the startup culture

In the preparatory talk concerning this article, I was asked to use English expressions sparingly or avoid them altogether. I’m sure you’ll understand that when it comes to startups this is not completely possible.

“I definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on that,” said our Head of Human Resources, Dr. Ulrich Leitner, in his video message concerning InnoCircle@HRM (Human Resource Management). That doesn’t sound bad at all…

InnoCircle@HRM is based on a concept that calls for employees to analyze the startup culture and develop innovative ideas for the HRM unit on the basis of their conclusions.

A twelve-person group was formed for this purpose. The members of the group came from all the Human Resources units of Powertrains — that is, the production network for drivetrains and components, which consists of the plants in Berlin, Hamburg, and Untertürkheim. I was a member of this group.

Three steps to an innovative idea

The first part of the program was a digital individual learning course at the Udacity Academy, a subsidiary of the Google company. This was followed by a cross-company experience — that is, work shadowing at a startup — and the last step was the phase in which we developed ideas. Finally, we were expected to generate an idea for the Human Resources unit on the basis of these impressions and experiences.

A digital self-learning course: “How to build a startup”

The digital course “How to build a startup” from the Udacity online academy gave us a basic understanding of startups. As a result of my role as a trainer in our work-study program, I looked forward to seeing how the Google company visualizes and implements “new learning.”

I’ve concluded that its performance is not bad at all. The learning videos and recommended eBook chapters are clearly organized and well coordinated with one another from a didactic perspective. The Canvas business model was explained to us. It’s a tool that visualizes and tests a startup idea to see whether it makes sense from a business perspective. There is a checklist of questions at the end of each section.

Our Team, from left to right: Me (Sebastian), Sven, Tolga and Rebecca.

Because Udacity is also available as an app, I was able to study the chapters while I was on the move. In theory, the concept of startups and innovations sounded exciting. But now it was time to put it into practice. After the InnoCircle participants had completed the course, the group was divided into three teams of four members each.

At this point I’d like to introduce our team: Rebecca from Hamburg, Tolga and Sven from Mettingen, and I (Sebastian) from Esslingen-Brühl. We were now Group 2 of the InnoCircle@HRM. Cool, let’s go — but what is the plan?

The cross-company experience at the GOODWERK startup

After a short orientation period, we got organized and agreed on how to proceed. In the next step, we prepared for our cross-company experience, which consisted of work shadowing at a startup. This was meant to give us important insights into the startup scene. How is a startup organized? What motivates its employees? What’s the decision-making process like? And above all, what can we learn from all this and put to use for Daimler?

For my cross-company experience I was assigned to the GOODWERK startup. It was founded by Nicole Driemeier at the beginning of 2017, and it deals with the topic of learning-experience design. For me, this cross-company experience amounted to diving into another world for three days.

My workplace in the Co-Working-Space.

On the first two days we worked in co-working spaces, which are in effect a microcosm of the startup scene. These are open-design office spaces that startups can rent. It are meeting places for people who have projects or business ideas — people who would never have met each other if they had stayed in closed individual offices, and who can now benefit from each other by sharing ideas.

You quickly get into conversations with a wide variety of people, talk about your ideas, and expand your personal network. These processes are essential for the initial foundation phase. Thus co-working spaces are “the place to be” in the startup scene.

My personal highlight was the workshop called “Innovation through meaningful digitalization.” The motivational talk by a representative of an Israeli startup made clear that the success of a startup depends on various different factors — for example, leisure time that enables you to adopt a different perspective on things in your own mind, and the ability to see the failure of a business idea as an opportunity.

The GOODWERK-Team: Nicole and Hannes.

The startup supports Israeli company founders so that they can gain a foothold in the German market, and it is therefore analyzing the framework conditions that create a suitable “climate for the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Brainstorming to develop implementation ideas

When I came back from my cross-company experiences, the members of my team and I met in Stuttgart for the first time. In a face-to-face discussion it was easier for us to share ideas about our experiences and to brainstorm in order to develop ideas on how to implement them in our own company.

What do startups actually do better than Daimler, and what can we conclude from that fact? It’s obvious that there are no general answers to philosophical questions like this. On the basis of my experiences, I would like to answer this question as follows: Co-working spaces enable people to share ideas in a casual atmosphere, generate new ideas and, above all, inspire one another.

Across all Locations-Meeting: From left to right: Britta Riehl, Leif Bothmann, Patrick Haag, Marius Reinhardt.

The opportunity to simply try things out and develop a culture of learning from your mistakes creates a bold and innovative way of working. Diverse digital platforms are tools that make it possible to easily access and process all the relevant information and media. These platforms can be used anywhere, at any location and any terminal.

Our idea: Doing active networking with “HRM meets business”

We now had to implement the know-how we had acquired and develop an innovative idea for the HRM unit. This is how the initiative “HRM meets business” came to be.

Its purpose is to strengthen the mutual understanding between the Human Resources unit and the various specialist units — for example, by promoting active networks, developing more needs-oriented products from the HR unit, and positioning the HR unit even more actively as a strategic partner.

We use the digital platform to communicate various formats for encounters between the HR unit and the specialist units. These formats are called “HRmB sessions.” During these sessions, colleagues from the HR unit present the topics they are dealing with at the moment and provide information about the challenges ahead.

The specialist units report on their current projects and specify where they need support or advice from the HR unit. In addition, we offer co-working spaces that provide room for creative thinking and networking.

The InnoCircle ceremony — everybody won

During the presentation of our ideas, we could directly demonstrate what we had learned from the startups. Our ideas were selected by all of our colleagues from the HR unit in an online vote that was held after the video pitches were presented.

The pitches and ideas of the other two teams were also great, and I think that after having these valuable experiences all of the teams can feel like winners. That’s why each of the teams received a prize at the InnoCircle ceremony, which was supposed to choose the winning idea. The innovative ideas have now been presented. Now we’re going into the second round of the InnoCircle — the implementation phase.

It’s now the turn of the Creation Circle. Let’s see what it does with the ideas!


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He is responsible for all levels of training in the plant Untertürkheim as a training manager. At the "Duale Hochschule" he supervives the students in electrical engineering. He is very happy about the cross company experience.

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