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Hybrid work and job sharing as aces up the sleeve

A 35-strong team from 20 nationalities drives the procurement of marketing and media services for Beiersdorf.

They live and work in ten different countries, yet they feel closely connected as a team. As early as 2017, the Global Procurement Marketing department formulated the idea of creating a cross-location team. The goal: to develop international talents so that they can take on larger and more challenging roles in order to optimally position Beiersdorf’s global procurement strategically. Today, the vision is a reality. Between the USA and Australia, 35 colleagues with 20 nationalities are driving forward the procurement of marketing and media services for Beiersdorf, independent of time and location.

In 2018, Nelli Louloudi’s team, which was initially based in Hamburg, took two local colleagues on board in Bangkok, almost 9,000 kilometres away. “The distance was not easy, but we were able to gain important experience,” says the Director of Global Procurement Marketing & Media: “The technology for video conferencing was not fully developed, nor was there the desired feeling of togetherness. Both changed abruptly with the pandemic. We took advantage of the opportunities and completely transformed ourselves,” she says. The result is a hybrid working model with all the advantages of digitalisation that puts people at the centre. Nelli is as proud of this as she is of the fact that the benefits are high: “As a diverse team, we are more creative, very productive, agile and flexible. Despite many changes, we have delivered and even exceeded our 2022 targets.”

Nelli Louloudi, Director Global Procurement Marketing & Media

Hybrid working: Come to stay

What Nelli Louloudi and her team first bravely tested five years ago has come to stay across the board with the Corona pandemic. At Beiersdorf and across all industries, concepts for hybrid working are catching on worldwide. If the job allows, employees not only carry out their tasks in the office, but also in other places via the internet – in the technical jargon, “remote”.

In the constellation of a fixed team that forms a unit across borders, the Global Procurement Marketing department at Beiersdorf currently still has a unique selling point. Nelli Louloudi: “There was no blueprint, but from the beginning it was important to me to create the team feeling and the emotional bond between people and company also through the screen. It was up to all of us together to find the right way.” Together with her team leadership, she developed an initial concept in 2020 that took shape with the involvement of all team members. The result is not only shared values, clear rules and changed meeting structures, but also building blocks that strengthen well-being and mental health.

Advantages for the company

Companies can also benefit from hybrid cooperation. According to experts, employers who offer their employees a high degree of flexibility have a good chance in the competition for the best professionals – not only locally, but also on the international labour market. A long-term study by the renowned Fraunhofer Institute underlines this, as does a representative survey by Accenture Research. According to this study, 83 per cent of the 9300 employees surveyed in eleven countries consider hybrid working with remote working times of between 25 and 75 per cent to be optimal.

The challenges follow immediately, because flexibility and personal work-life balance are only one side of the coin. In addition to the emotional bond, managers are faced with the question of how diverse teams can be developed regardless of location. Nelli Louloudi knows this, too: “Asking questions, getting feedback, listening, changing – when you work together independent of time and location, this is very important from my experience. As well as empathy and the trust that employees complete their tasks in a results-oriented and self-responsible manner. This is a maturing and permanent learning process for everyone, which needs openness.” In Global Procurement Marketing, face-to-face meetings also play a role again after the pandemic. “A lot of travel will be omitted, but we plan to hold face-to-face workshops at longer intervals to complement the virtual workshops. People need direct exchange,” says Nelli Louloudi.

First tandem works from different locations

In addressing the topic of work-life balance, the transformation also brought the job-sharing model into focus. As a supervisor, Nelli Louloudi has good experience with this. A first tandem at manager level has been successfully bringing together different know-how from marketing and strategic purchasing since 2020. According to the motto “one plus one equals three,” another followed at team management level, combining the knowledge of a long-standing colleague with a management newcomer. Since the beginning of the year, Procurement Marketing has once again been leading the way with a third job tandem in the role of a so-called first mover: for the first time, there is a duo at Beiersdorf in which the tandem partners live and work at different locations in Hamburg and Vienna. “This will develop well,” Nelli Louloudi is convinced after only a short time and is already thinking ahead: “With each new constellation we learn something new and initially start internationally in the same time zone. It is conceivable that we will go one step further in the future.”

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.