Interview Employees

Birgit Lechelmair

Head of Learning and Development

"The culture is the key"

Birgit Lechelmair sees a variety of challenges ahead for the Business Area Tobacco. However, she also believes these can be overcome through a corporate culture which is shared and shaped by everyone. In this interview, she explains how human resources development helps employees in the Business Area.

How is work changing in your Business Area?

Trends like Work 4.0 and changing markets make it vital that every single one of our employees is highly agile. We have to develop new styles of management and ways to cooperate and put them at the heart of our daily work. We are also adjusting the focus and content of our training programmes to address these new topics. These initiatives coupled with our enhanced employment models and recruiting strategies will help us to remain an attractive employer.

What are the most important expectations of employees in the Business Area Tobacco?

First and foremost, our colleagues want to be appreciated when they do a job well and receive feedback that helps them to identify potential for improvement. That means more than thanks and a good salary. They also expect us to offer them the freedom they need to organize their work themselves and adapt our corporate and management culture accordingly. In addition, they want fair opportunities to advance their careers and develop their skills.

Many employees today are experiencing stress in various areas of their private lives, not least due to the ageing of our society. How is this affecting their expectations?

Above all, they would like managers to show more understanding. They would also appreciate solutions which allow them to work from home more often and simplify their time management.

What are you doing to meet this wide range of expectations?

We are consulting closely with our employees and introducing a new, more agile development programme. This includes coaching and mentoring as well as measures to increase diversity. These measures not only consider gender balances but also seek to promote different ways of thinking and behaving. We are also designing new career paths, developing more flexible working time models and using innovative IT solutions for remote working.

The average age of employees in the Business Area is 45. At the same time, the number of apprentices is growing every year – how are you bringing young and old together?

During their training, our apprentices learn about a range of areas in the company and have the opportunity to work with our most experienced and knowledgeable staff. Moreover, we make it clear that everyone is responsible for their own development and help employees to transfer knowledge or adopt new forms of cooperation. The formats we use for this are all available to every one of our colleagues. We want to help them not just to meet the challenges of today but of tomorrow. We are therefore working to create a clearer business environment and set up new mentoring programmes. For example, we want to assign new employees joining the Business Area to an experienced colleague known as an "onboarding buddy".

Women make up 18 percent of managers in the Business Area as a whole – and over 50 percent in sales and at Hauni Malaysia. What makes these areas different and how can you extend this success to other locations and companies?

Even today, it is not easy to find suitable female candidates for engineering positions. In fact, a proportion of 18 percent is comparatively good. In sales and other commercial positions, on the other hand, there are more job opportunities for non-engineers – especially at Hauni Malaysia. The question is not so much what we can do to transfer best practices as what we as an organization can do increase the proportion of women in our company.

What are you doing to attract more women to work in the Business Area?

We are looking at ways to offer more flexible working time models, such as part-time or remote work – especially to women. These models force us to change our attitudes and overcome the limitations of the "present from nine-to-five culture". We also want to make it easier for our employees to balance their professional and family lives. It is another way we can make ourselves a more attractive employer for women. The goal is worth pursuing but both sides – the company and its employees – will have to be flexible for it to succeed.

How are you preparing your employees for digitization of the workplace?

Networks will become increasingly important for all of us in the future. They will enable us to work better and more efficiently. We are refocusing our professional development programme to help employees take advantage of these opportunities. We not only want to teach our employees about the various technologies but also look at the implications of networking for the Business Area Tobacco and each individual person. Digital networks will certainly offer us many opportunities to transform ourselves into the agile organization we aspire to be – and will have to be to remain competitive going forward.


As Sustainability Manager for the Business Area Tobacco, Dirk Kronenberg is your contact for any questions and comments regarding sustainability (tel. +49 40 72 50-29 22), e-mail

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