Juliane Kästner: Let us first talk about Netstream and about your role as Human Resources Manager. Do you work differently compared to “classical companies”?
Leandra Amsler: Our executive board mainly consists of people under the age of 40, not being caught up in a hierarchical thinking. They may have titles such as CEO or CIO, but it does not mean a lot to them. In our company it does not matter, which title or hierarchical level one might have. We meet at eye level.
How do you approach motivation? Do you work with extrinsic factors in form of bonuses or do you foster the intrinsic motivation of the employees?
We have no bonus system, all employees are receiving a fixed salary. The reason that people like to work with us would rather be our style of personal interaction. Everybody has the freedom to experiment, to introduce new technologies and frameworks.
Above all we focus on the core of each employee. What truly motivates him or her? I am convinced that a human being is not motivated by the amount of free coffee or REKA cheques, but by being in his or her element.
Which path do you take in the further development of Netstream?
After a period of growth, we now have a reached the point where the size of our company is leading us to rethink our goals, our mutual principles, our culture. And this in turn will naturally have an impact on our structures, roles, practices, and processes.
We would like to find out, for example, whether self-organisation is appropriate for our business at all, whether it might help us to become more efficient and effective. Maybe we will also find out at the end of the process, that classical hierarchies suit us best. We are accompanied by a coach to get to know different ways of thinking and methodologies.
Which experiences did you gain with changes to date?
We recently had a change in the management of our development department. At the same time we won a large project. And so we thought about how we would like to organise ourselves accordingly. We created new roles such as “Technical Lead” and “People Lead” and separated the technical and personal leadership also in the operating business. Additionally, we built a technical body and “Feature Teams”. We used to have individual teams for front- and for back-end development. Now, teams with mixed skill-sets are working together on a respective feature.
What were the first reactions to these changes?
Against every theory we implemented this change overnight without any change process. The employees responded well, probably also due to the fact, that they could perceive an added value and direct benefit for themselves.
And which impact of the transition could you observe?
We are not able to document the impact with hard data. It can also not be determined whether an impact has be achieved by the change itself or also by other factors. The pure external perception is that the level of employee satisfaction has increased due to the fact that we have simplified the cooperation and have reduced dependencies with this change.
You repeatedly are questioning the role of HR . How do you fulfil the role in the current development of Netstream?
I realise rather quickly where we have challenges. And I actively introduce suggestions in which directions we should go or which measures we should initiate. I am constantly dealing with what is important in the actual development of the company or what is important in the respective situation on the part of HR. I do not see my tasks as merely administrative.
Are you working with a roadmap in the framework of your visions?
Yes, I surely did. But I had to realise, that it was nice to have brought it on paper but that the direction also changed relatively quick due to changing circumstances. At the beginning of this year I have been convinced, for example, that we shall define and implement salary ranges and hierarchy levels. But at the moment, this would make absolutely no sense. Especially in the context of the actual coaching process, which shall help us to develop a mutual, clear image on the level of human collaboration and culture. Of course, this will have a huge impact on how we will reward our employees or what structures or promotion processes we will have to support our culture appropriately. If I was acting out of my old structural thinking I would undermine the new culture already.
Some companies define and implement a new management system and subsequently plan the establishment of a wanted culture. You chose a path the other way round. First you rework your own identity and culture and then you will derive structures and processes.
Yes, this is exactly the way we go. Since we have learnt that it does not work to design structures and diagrams, to define tasks/competences/responsibilities and bodies. The papers looked beautiful until we realised that we first need to create a culture to be able to effectively shape our interaction with each other and the respective structures. Initially we also made this mistake.
What do you think. Why does the executive board engage in these “soft” subjects such as culture and human beings? Why are they so open for another path?
This development has already been starting two years ago. I, for my part, have continuously been working with facts, indicating for example that we had too many sick days generating costs. Based on that I have been raising arguments for an operational health management. There have been constant measures derived from figures, which all came back to one core: the human being. A human being needs meaning, a passion, a task.
What is you opinion? How should Human Resources develop in the future?
For one thing, HR should certainly create the appropriate frameworks and instruments such as coaching, helping managers in promoting the wanted culture. In other words, if one wishes a culture in which the emphasis is on teams, HR shall not come by, wanting to perform quality reviews with each single employee.
Culture is one thing. Providing the appropriate frameworks and instruments naturally affects the entire company. What is the path that the company will take in the coming years in regard to finances, turnover or markets?
In which direction should the coaching go?
The understanding of the leadership role will be very different. A leader will not be in the frontline anymore, pulling the team together, but rather in the background, coaching and supporting the team members. This role is a lot more demanding. It is imperative to create the appropriate environment and to employ each human being in the work and tasks so that he or she is in his or her element. HR can support the leaders as a coach in these responsibilities but also in the understanding of the new role.
In one of the bootcamps we joined together you have been called “disruptive HR”. Is this a compliment for you? How do you see yourself?
For me this is an enormous compliment. In many cases the image of HR in large corporations is rather poor. I hear stories about companies in which people cannot be employed timely since HR needs five weeks to provide an employment contract. That cannot reasonably be.
I aim to develop HR in a different way and to move it in another direction. Classical HR, as one knows it, does not add the value to a company it could add.
How did it come that you set yourself these aims?
Maybe I have a too big ego (bursts out laughing). No, I have a business administration, marketing, and human capital management background. I want that a company does well, that it efficiently provides inspiring services to its customers and that it is able to grow. Behind everything I do is a business aim.
However, also my definition who the customer of HR is, is following a different approach. Because it is not the leading line, the managers, and the executive board. The customer is the company as a whole with all its different stakeholders.
A statement at the end?
I wish more courage from HR, more self-confidence and belief in acting for the benefit of the entire company. And of course a great persistence, since not every effort will come to fruition overnight.
Dear Leandra, I thank you very much for this interview.