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06-Nov-2018

What attracts junior talent to the corporate career

Brave new business world

Comfortable red seating areas, plush gray carpets. A warm light coming from futuristic ceiling lamps brightens the open space. Small groups of people sit together in different corners. A soft murmur fills the room. In a quiet corner, Patrick Nativel can be spotted wearing a dark blue suit and a white shirt, with a cup of coffee in front of him and his laptop... on his lap. The focus room is where he goes when he really needs to concentrate.

Depending on the task, Patrick can sit in a “focus room”

Working in an open space office means free choice of places: Depending on the task, Patrick can sit in a “focus room” to work completely undisturbed.

Patrick works in the Integrated Business Solutions area’s Transformation Office, where he has a workstation in the open space. “It’s great for engaging in relaxed discussions and working together – not just with colleagues on my team, but also with the different departments,” he says, describing the atmosphere in the shared space. Design thinking areas, focus rooms, coffee corners for informal chats – the transformation taking place in the business world these last few years is becoming very tangible here: Welcome to “New Work”.

Annika Fichtner has also been witnessing this change – and actively contributes to driving it. She recently started working on the Chief Digital Officer’s team, where she gets to experience the Group’s digital transformation up close. Her mission is to foster communication – both internal and external – to bring different areas of the company together, and to organize startup events.

“My job gives me enough freedom to be creative,” she says. Annika gets to see first-hand how the culture is changing within the company and how much entrepreneurial energy it actually harbors. After all, every large corporation started out small at some point.

Annika and her colleague Salima Douven (right) host an event

Learning from start-ups: Annika and her colleague Salima Douven (right) host an event where start-ups present their expertise to an interested audience.

Patrick is very familiar with this startup mindset. Just two years ago, his work environment looked completely different: 120 square meters in a Munich apartment. “It was more like sharing a flat with roommates. That’s the thing about startups: You rarely feel like you’re in a workplace,” he reports. The environment, where employees and managers were typically in the same age group, reinforced this feeling. “It made interactions more natural, and the borders between work and our personal lives became blurred,” says Patrick.

After graduating from university, he worked for the delivery service Foodora, a Rocket Internet company. “It was a place where career starters would have access to tasks that are exciting for this generation: growth markets, a future-oriented environment and responsibilities,” he says, recalling his first work experience. Speed, a small handful of lean approval processes, flat hierarchies and thus opportunities for moving up the ladder fast. Flexible work hours, lunch from the supermarket around the corner. “Everyone believed in the company’s potential to outpace established market players. This is a mindset that inspires and motivates young professionals,” he says.

“I think that having this startup background can be very helpful in a corporate setting,” says Patrick, who has now been with Henkel for two years. In his position as Manager Transformation Office in the Integrated Business Solutions area, he has a chance to develop what he learnt in the startup environment. “There are plenty of creative people with great ideas within the Group, too. You can’t always do everything exactly as you imagined, but then you just have to find a way to make it work within the given framework,” he observes.

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Patrick Nativel about how a startup mindset benefits him in the corporate world

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It was always clear to Patrick that he wanted a job with an advisory component. His role is the ideal mix of conceptual work and the capacity to implement it. “And I get to do this in the field of digital and technological subjects that I love,” he says. His decision to join Henkel, then, wasn’t the result of a choice between startup and corporation. “The position itself just appealed to me, because it combines all the aspects that are important to me: elements from the daily business of a startup and benefits that only a large group can offer, like internationality, networks, vast expertise and a steep learning curve.”

The corporate trend

Patrick wants to make things happen at work and be disruptive, too. At Henkel, he thinks about questions like how to make the Finance area more agile. He wants to take on responsibility in this context, and enjoy the freedom necessary to drive his own ideas forward – no longer in a startup, but in a more than 140-year-old family-owned company. This places him right on trend, as a recent student survey has found that 67% of graduates in Germany prefer to work for corporations. Patrick confirms this insight: “Many of my fellow Business Administration graduates in Maastricht and Rotterdam went to work in large corporations or consulting firms after their Master’s degree. A few began their career in startups, but barely anyone started their own business.”

Annika also made the conscious decision to work for a large company after completing her dual study curriculum. “After graduating, I received offers from a startup company in Berlin and from Henkel in Düsseldorf,” she reports. It was a tough decision. She had always had an interest in the startup scene, but was also keen to delve into the processes of a big firm. There were other arguments in favor of working for a multinational group, too: “I identified more with the products and the brand. I also saw more possibilities at Henkel – being able to see and learn so many different things, all while working for the same employer,” she says.

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Annika Fichtner explains what she really likes about her corporate job

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Now, she kindles the “startup flame” inside the company with her team. “Many colleagues attend our startup events regularly as a way of finding inspiration, discovering new business models and, above all, sharing experiences. Finding the time to network isn’t always easy, but it is important all the same. It helps to better understand the work that other people do. To communicate and learn from one another. To create synergies, drive projects forward together and think outside the box.”

Patrick and Annika

It is important to Patrick and Annika that they can make a difference in their job and develop themselves further.

To develop a big company further, you need to be open-minded. Corporations are increasingly integrating elements from startups in an effort to remain agile and be able to react quickly to fast-evolving markets in the digital era. Work methods like design thinking, which are more commonly associated with startups, as well as agile project management have become an essential part of Henkel’s day-to-day operations – and let’s not forget the startup spirit that inspires so many employees. “In startups, people are extremely ambitious and solution-oriented. Everyone pulls in the same direction,” says Patrick. “They want the big prize, but they also celebrate the small milestones together along the way.” People immediately see the product of their labor.

Workplace of the future

Patrick sees his own future within the company: “Here at Henkel, the conditions are ideal for me to grow professionally and make a valuable contribution. There’s still a lot to be done,” he emphasizes. Annika also enjoys working in the Group, and within its complex structures. “I am just fascinated by the processes. How does Persil get from the factory to the shelves? What and who is involved in that? The way it works is actually quite simple: locally and globally,” she says. However, Annika could also see herself venturing out into startup territory at some stage – to get to know different, perhaps more chaotic structures. First, though, she needs to plan the next event. She comes up with possible questions for the startups that her team has chosen based on the input of the different business areas. What innovative technologies does the startup use? What are the possibilities for cooperation? How do young founders rate trends in the digital era?

At the next Henkel X event – the company’s open innovation platform – she is onstage again. Her hairs cascades loosely over her shoulders. She wears dark blue jeans with sneakers and a flowy white blouse. She looks out into the audience. The spectators have made themselves comfortable on cube seats and Fatboys. They are anxious to find out which startup will be introducing itself today. Annika looks forward to learning about new business models, sharing ideas and networking with colleagues from other departments. That’s what she loves most about her job.

Business Type

Quick, get out of that meeting, your colleagues are already waiting for you in the cafeteria. You’re the corporate type! You wouldn’t leave the house without a tie or a smart suit on. PowerPoint is your best friend, and you get a kick out of finally getting the green light for your ideas after countless feedback loops. You think before you act, approach things strategically and thereby create the stability and security necessary to help large companies develop successfully in the digital era.

Mixed Type

Mixing it up: Sneakers go great with a suit, too! You take the best from both worlds. You like corporate structures just as much as the cool startup mindset. Words like casual Friday, flexible work hours and home office are music to your ears. A relaxed company culture is equally as important to you as clearly defined responsibilities. You bring your own ideas to the table and also have the hands-on mentality needed to implement them. You could do your thing in a big corporation and in a startup alike.

Start-up Type

Lunch is served! Your feel good manager has already saved you a seat next to your buddies, because you’re the start-up type! You’re passionate about your product and don’t shy away from any challenge in order to take it to the next level. Every day, you head out to the office – your second home – in sneakers and a hoodie, with your MacBook tucked under one arm. You feel comfortable there because it lets you fully express your personality. Still, corporates also have a need for types like you because you’re a breath of fresh air for them!