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First cross-border jobsharing tandem blazes a trail

The two major European cities that can boast the most bridges? Hamburg and Vienna. And at the beginning of 2023, Beiersdorf’s first transnational tandem built a cross-border bridge. Ann-Christine Stjepandic and Gunda Faust share a cross-border position in Global Marketing Procurement. Their joint task is the worldwide strategic procurement of digital marketing services.

With this cross-border tandem, Marketing Procurement is once again a first mover, blazing a trail for others to follow. Nelli Louloudi’s team-members live and work in ten different countries, totaling 35 colleagues across 20 nationalities. The heart of their collaboration is a hybrid work model that maximizes the advantages of digitalization, aligned with the twin goals of achieving optimal results for Beiersdorf independently of time zone and geolocation, while driving international talent development. Jobsharing is also a key part of the strategy and three tandems are already working together successfully within the team. Nelli Louloudi explains: “We have developed the jobsharing concept further with each tandem, and have identified new advantages. Following the first tandem at team level and then another at management level with supervisory responsibility, the international cross-border tandem was the clear next step forward. It’s good to see that the “one plus one equals three” principle is working equally well for all job tandems!” 

But how does tandem work actually function at around 750 kilometers’ distance as the crow flies? How is this remote jobsharing model similar to a tandem at a single location, where are the differences – and what are the biggest advantages? Ann-Christine Stjepandic and Gunda Faust reveal all in our interview.

What tasks does your role comprise – and who works where?

Ann-Christine: As Global Category Managers, Gunda and I manage the procurement of digital marketing services – for the Beiersdorf corporate center as well as for the Group’s regional and local companies worldwide. For example, we organize pitches and carry out contract negotiations with digital agencies. Overall, our work is strongly focused on the future direction of digital marketing, so a lot of strategic project work is involved. 

Gunda: One example is “Digital Fast Forward,” the Beiersdorf-internal digital investment program, that the company is implementing Group-wide to shape its digital future. In special projects like these, we support our colleagues as Business Partners. Ann-Christine works from Vienna while I live and work in Hamburg. Despite the distance, our collaboration works very well. We are a great fit as a tandem and are both very happy with this model!

That sounds like a perfect match.

Ann-Christine: The chemistry between us is spot-on – we realized very quickly we were on the same wavelength. We both take a far-sighted approach, are very ambitious and thorough team players. At the same time, though, we definitely retain our two individual personalities. It’s precisely this point that is fundamental in a successful jobsharing model and an integral part of the concept.   

Gunda: I can absolutely confirm that. We’re similar in our structured working approach and share the same perspective on key goals and values. At the same time, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we bring diverse strengths to the game that benefit us both and complete our tandem. Regarding our content focus, we also complement one another perfectly in our shared role as we contribute varied expertise from key specialist areas: Ann-Christine has an extensive marketing background, whereas I come from the digital media environment and have been active in global Media Procurement at Beiersdorf for the last few years. 

As the first cross-border tandem, you’re still a special feature. How did you come together?

Gunda: For me it was a coincidence. I was looking for a change, but didn’t even consider the notion of working in a tandem. In the background, though, there were a couple of people who were convinced we would be an excellent fit, especially Nelli, who leads the international Global Marketing Procurement team. Her vision was to enable jobsharing across borders. The tandem model at Beiersdorf has support at the highest management level and this tailwind is a major help. Ann-Christine and I didn’t know each other at all, but when the idea was tabled I was open to the possibilities straight away.

Ann-Christine: And I’m happy about that! I had already got to grips closely with new ways of working models in the run-up to the decision and also collaborated with a number of tandems at Beiersdorf. I always thought the model was outstanding and that’s why I specifically launched this process. Whether it’s for family or other reasons, jobsharing provides high flexibility and interesting development opportunities at the same time.

What is it like to live and work as first movers?

Ann-Christine: Overall, it’s great. In Beiersdorf we are thankful for an employer who actively promotes the tandem model and even makes jobsharing possible across national borders. As first movers it will be wonderful if we inspire other colleagues to embrace this concept too (Note: In the meantime, there is already a second cross-border tandem)! In practice, a cross-border tandem definitely needs to be even better organized than a tandem at the same location. We therefore invested a lot of personal time and effort in preparing our collaboration and discussing how we wanted to work together. This investment has paid off several times over. 

Gunda: The fact that we can’t meet face-to-face spontaneously makes a big difference. Close coordination, very good communication and efficient dialog are absolutely vital. For example, this includes a morning check-in call and an explicit distribution of tasks. We always proactively arrange our upcoming meetings and plan well ahead. Ann-Christine schedules her trips to Hamburg for the whole year. What appointments do we want to set for this face-to-face time? Whom do we want to meet together in person? We think carefully about these and related topics a long time in advance.  

In a nutshell, as with all tandems you benefit from two people thinking. So what further advantages does a cross-border tandem bring?

Gunda: A major plus is our differing perspectives – the strategic, global perspective from headquarters on the one hand and the regional or local subsidiary viewpoint on the other. This is tremendously helpful because it means we look at things from several sides almost instinctively. In addition, there are the various networks that we bring to the table as tandem partners. I see our different holidays, holiday periods, event dates and so on as a further plus – if I’m out of office, Ann-Christine will be available to handle an important topic in good time and vice versa.  

Ann-Christine: Our model also brings advantages in the “war for talents.” If the company develops the cross-border tandem concept further, the pool for effective job pairings will become much bigger. At the same time, this will open new doors to potential talents through motivating personal development opportunities.

Sounds like you would both recommend the cross-border tandem model...?

Gunda: Very definitely. Okay, the challenges involved might be a little bigger than a tandem at the same location, but there are ways around these. Hybrid and digital working within an international team is completely normal for us – the pandemic did have a silver lining after all. So why not form a cross-border tandem? 

Ann-Christine: That’s right, a tremendous amount is possible. Admittedly, it helps to share the same time zone and the same mother tongue. For myself, I can say that although there are hundreds of kilometers between us, I feel fully connected to Gunda as well as to the whole team. 

Thank you very much for these valuable insights – and continued good luck in your tandem!

Jobsharing at Beiersdorf

In jobsharing, employees share a professional role within the individual distribution of working hours, based on the guiding principle of “two minds bring twice the creativity and better solutions.” Even highly complex jobs and demanding positions that would hardly be manageable in a part-time work model can be successfully tackled in a tandem. This also covers joint-leadership roles involving people-management tasks, a supervisory approach that has become successfully established at Beiersdorf over recent years as “top sharing” (see blog post from May 5, 2022). 22 current tandems in positions with leadership responsibility prove that nothing in this innovative model stands in the way of a successful career. As at 12/2022 no less than 42 tandems were working at Beiersdorf AG across a wide variety of functions. With firm support from the highest management level, Beiersdorf is actively promoting this flexible work time model and increasingly driving its implementation internationally; a second transnational tandem between Germany and Great Britain recently launched its collaboration. The Group is providing targeted support for personal development and qualification for more demanding roles. Here it is important that both partners are aware of the development opportunities offered by their shared position and that they explicitly agree on the development steps. 

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About the editor: Anna Hewing

Anna is part of the Corporate Communications team and responsible for the topics of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). Her stories are about inspiring personalities at Beiersdorf and the company’s social commitment.