#15: Thinking about personnel recruitment and development together
Shortage of skilled workers everywhere we look. There is a shortage of computer scientists, doctors, plumbers and truck drivers. Qualified jobseekers - intensified by the pandemic - are plagued by a lack of choice. But, what is the situation at the university? Do we have enough of everyone? Can every position be filled appropriately? Katharina Vorwerk talks with HR developer Annette Hoeschen about what makes the OVGU attractive and where there are still problems in order to remain successful as an employer in the battle for talent.
Personnel development and recruiting have always been passionate topics for Annette Hoeschen. Since April 2020, she has been developing the university's concepts and offers as the Personnel Development and Recruiting Officer, thus completing the Personnel Development and Planning Department. She works with many colleagues across the campus to make good and appropriate offers for all employees. This can be handouts such as guides for structured job interviews or specific further training offers. She enjoys cycling to university and dreams of training all staff to become communication professionals.
*the audio file is only available in German
The Podcast to Read
Katharina Vorwerk: I'd like to welcome you to another episode of our podcast and I'm glad you're listening to us. My name is Katharina Vorwerk and today I walked out of the press office into building 06, specifically into room 317, and am now sitting in the office of Annette Hoeschen in the university's staff development and recruiting department. Over the next half hour, I'll be talking to her about what her job entails, why the university needs HR development in the first place, and why she enjoys doing what she does so much. Good afternoon Ms. Hoeschen and thank you for finding the time to talk with me.
Annette Hoeschen: Hello, Mrs. Vorwerk, I am pleased that you have found your way to my office.
Katharina Vorwerk: Ms. Hoeschen, we are sitting here in your, shall I say, a modest office, at the very end of a long hallway. But, it's a special place on campus, because this is where the staff development planning and recruiting unit has been located since April 2020. Enlighten us, what is developed and conceived here?
Annette Hoeschen: I'll refer to your image across the campus in a moment-the path you took to get here. I talk a lot with colleagues, in all areas, to find out what development is necessary. I offer personnel development, create concepts, design measures, build on the measures and concepts that have already existed before. Develop those further and make them more precise…
Katharina Vorwerk: Let's address the topic of personnel development. Why do we need something like this at all?
Annette Hoeschen: We all need development all the time. Development is constantly taking place around us: digitalization, social developments. And, we want to keep up with the developments, have to keep up with the developments and constantly develop ourselves for this. We are responsible for that.
Katharina Vorwerk: So it's primarily about making university employees fit. That's how I understand it now. In what specific ways and for what? What are the concrete offers? To make that clear.
Annette Hoeschen: In concrete terms, we are concerned on the one hand with making offers that contain qualifications and are useful for embracing the developments that are taking place outside of us. I would mention digitization, but also many offerings that in turn enable employees to develop the university. In other words, offers on work organization, offers on diversity, offers on interdisciplinary topics, and so on.
Katharina Vorwerk: If you Google the term personnel development, you'll read a lot about professionalization, processes and leadership. Why is this so important?
Annette Hoeschen: This is so important because it sets the framework for developments. We can imagine a plant that only grows in the sun. At the university, we need good processes and good leadership as a framework for the individual and the university as a whole to develop.
Katharina Vorwerk: So you make sure that the sun always shines on campus. You've been with us for a good year and a half now. What were your first steps as a personnel developer? How did the processes start?
Annette Hoeschen: In my work, I have been able to build on the personnel development measures and concepts that already existed, and have further developed and designed additional measures. I offer consulting services. I have created guidelines for good job advertisements, for good job interviews, which are available and continue to work on them.
Katharina Vorwerk: Now, there are exactly two perspectives in personnel development, namely that of the university and that of the employee. But, how do we reconcile the needs of one with the wishes of the other? Is that a problem?
Annette Hoeschen: Actually, no. One is that the employees develop the university, and the university develops the employees. In principle, they are two different sides of the same coin. What we need in order to be able to work well is, in that sense, the cooperation of everyone. The management, the employees themselves, also have to get involved in personnel development. We want them to get involved in order to promote this development and make it possible.
Katharina Vorwerk: Can anyone who wants to request or register for personnel development actually say, "Well, I'd like to do something else now or broaden my horizons"?
Annette Hoeschen: The open programs we offer are just that: open. Anyone from the university can sign up. Of course, there are offers for specific target groups. We work very closely with the Graduate Academy, with strategic personnel development for the professors, with the Office for Gender Equality and also with the Career Service to be able to make specific offers and to be able to make offers where there is something for everyone and something that suits everyone.
Katharina Vorwerk: University employees, as you have already briefly mentioned, or rather their tasks are really extremely heterogeneous, whether in administration, research or teaching. How is it possible to keep an eye on all of them, or can we do justice to all of them in terms of personnel development? Or, are there some for whom ... there's a bit more sunshine than for others?
Annette Hoeschen: As I said, much depends on the initiative of individuals. The employees themselves have to take an interest in it and bring in their topics, take their topics further, and also inform themselves. The supervisors and we are also available for discussions, and cooperation with the various departments here at the university is very important. We are not the only provider of personnel development, but also the other offices mentioned: Graduate Academy, Office for Equal Opportunity Issues, Career Service, Family Office, the other departments that also work together to ensure that everyone has something to offer.
Katharina Vorwerk: Now we've been talked thoroughly about our employees, i.e. university staff. Let's move on to the second focus of your work, recruiting, as it is so nicely called in the new German language and actually means nothing more than personnel recruitment, which admittedly sounds a bit antiquated. How would you present OVGU as an employer to potential professionals? In short: What do we have that others lack?
Annette Hoeschen: We have a lot that others may not lack, but that sets us apart. And that is, above all, our strong collaboration. A while ago, we conducted the GEPSY employee survey. It showed quite clearly that we can look back on a very strong cooperation of which we can be proud, on a very good work climate in most areas, and on a high level of motivation to get involved and many opportunities to get involved. And this is confirmed in personal conversations, in contact with colleagues, that we really have opportunities for development here.
Katharina Vorwerk: That's nice, but now it sounds all too sweet--like chocolate. In your opinion, is there also one that tastes more like bitter almond, to stay with the image?
Annette Hoeschen: Yes, of course there always are. Here, too, we know quite well about the survey. We know that we still have room for improvement in terms of the feedback culture, in terms of regular committees in this regard, and we are working on this with seminars and other assistance.
Katharina Vorwerk: So the big issue of internal communication, is that what you mean by that?
Annette Hoeschen: Exactly!
Katharina Vorwerk: You have already mentioned the large-scale survey that we conducted two years ago to find out where the shoe pinches at the university. So the internal view is well known. But, do we also know how outsiders view us as an employer?
Annette Hoeschen: Yes, we know that quite well, too. We have the employer rating portals at our disposal. But, we also have discussions with many partners: IHK, employment office, the Initiative Hierbleiben (StayHere), with whom we can jointly perceive and find out what the external impact is. The main problem is that we are primarily perceived as a university, i.e. as a place of education. Of course, that's good, but for us as an employer, that's sometimes limiting. However, if we are then perceived as an employer, then we are also perceived very positively. To the outside world.
Katharina Vorwerk: You hear a lot about the shortage of skilled workers at the moment. Certainly also intensified by Corona. Especially in the skilled trades, there is a lack of apprentices ... There is not a lack of places, but a lack of apprentices. Or in industry. Is there also a problem at the OVGU to keep employees or to fill positions at all?
Annette Hoeschen: There is a problem filling positions in some places. In this respect, we are no different from other companies in terms of the general conditions. This is particularly true for IT. But, it also applies to law and, in some cases, to young scientists, especially in the engineering disciplines. We try to counter this with good working conditions and explicit recruiting measures.
Katharina Vorwerk: Which would be, for example? What do you already have as a staff unit in this respect, i.e. in recruiting? Has there been any movement in the system? Have you been able to achieve anything? What were the first steps?
Annette Hoeschen: On the one hand, we are present in significantly more media than we were before, both with profiles and job ads, as well as with contacts - simply with networks that we also spin in the social networks. And then the applicant management system "byt" has already been introduced. We are constantly developing this further, also in the sense of an on-boarding concept, so that employees who apply here, or potential employees who apply here, receive good information at an early stage about what awaits them here, what their tasks are, but also how they will be integrated into the team, so that we have a reception for new employees. A lot of that was there and some of it, we're doing new or just making sure that it's even more known.
Katharina Vorwerk: You just spoke of the on-boarding concept, if I understood correctly, what is that?
Annette Hoeschen: This is the sum of the efforts we make to give employees a good start here. This means that we inform them very early on about the opportunities they have here. It starts with the cafeteria, parking, sports facilities and continues with the welcome reception. It also means that we have designated contact persons and that we communicate in an even more targeted and structured way, even before you start work: We look forward to seeing you! In the future, there will be a small welcome gift for new colleagues. We very much hope that this will be perceived accordingly.
Katharina Vorwerk: In this context, we often hear about so-called employer branding. What does the OVGU brand actually look like that we want to be or become? Because we probably have to look more to the future.
Annette Hoeschen: The beauty of working on the brand is that we don't have to invent anything. We don't have to make anything up or postulate anything that isn't there, but we can go back to the surveys, to the things we know and say with a very good feeling: We are rethinking the world together. We are very well linked. We are very well connected internally and externally. We enjoy working together and we have high standards, strive for excellence and are on a very good path. And, we communicate that to the outside world.
Katharina Vorwerk: One more question that I would like to ask here: Does the university, with its very fixed structures that are not so changeable even now, sometimes get in its own way? Or, do we have enough legroom or creative freedom?
Annette Hoeschen: Freedom is always what each individual sees and uses and makes manageable for him or herself. I believe that we have very good conditions for this in our structures. Of course, we have restrictions through legal and contractual conditions that bind us. But overall, we are a modern university, a diverse university and a university that is on the move, that is constantly questioning itself and thus constantly reinventing itself to some extent. And that is very noticeable, even in everyday life. For me personally, but also for all the colleagues I talk to, this movement is very present.
Katharina Vorwerk: In retrospect, the pandemic was more of a driver in digital teaching, for example. The situation is certainly different for personnel development and recruiting, isn't it?
Annette Hoeschen: No, I wouldn't say that. We've been very responsive to the pandemic, to the conditions - by necessity, of course. We came up with new formats, experimented with new formats. That hasn't always been entirely voluntary, and we haven't always been entirely happy with the results. But on the whole, we have kept up well with developments and used them to try out new things. Right now, leadership discussions are taking place as an online format, modular, in order to advance leadership development even in these times and to give it its own sphere of activity. And in other areas as well. We've used online fairs, we're using online lectures to also advance the awareness of the university. We are also working on all of these issues under pandemic conditions and taking advantage of the opportunities that arise.
Katharina Vorwerk: So we are learning that satisfied university members are the best advertisement for OVGU as a company. So we have to keep a close eye on those we want to have, but also make sure that those who are already there stay satisfied or at least become halfway-content. Frustrations or challenges for the personnel developer, Annette Hoeschen?
Annette Hoeschen: That's actually logical for me. One belongs to the other, and I am also very pleased that the university thinks about it in this way, that it is thought of together, that this position can and should reconcile both topics, and that there is also a high level of support for this. The university management is also very supportive of personnel development and recruiting, and challenges the players, not only me, but also the other departments and especially the participants from all departments. And, I think it's very successful to think about it all together in this way, and I'm very happy to do it myself.
Katharina Vorwerk: An optimistic and beautiful final sentence, with which we have almost reached the end of our talk. As usual, however, we'll conclude with our short, but smart motto: Long story short. I'll give you three sentence starters and ask you to complete them spontaneously. Ready to go?
I usually encounter setbacks and failures in everyday work ...
Annette Hoeschen: … serene. Some things you can simply enforce later, think about again and use an open window.
Katharina Vorwerk: The ideal university employee for me is ...
Annette Hoeschen: … For me, he or she is open-minded, creative, tolerant, capable of solving problems, and responsible. By the way, this is already part of our mission statement.
Katharina Vorwerk: For my personal personnel development, I would like to see ...
Annette Hoeschen: … that the diversity of the university is preserved, the intellectual, the personal, the structural. Because I learn the most from diversity and from encounters.
Katharina Vorwerk: With these sentences, we have reached the end of our podcast and I would like to thank you, Ms. Hoeschen, very much for joining our podcast despite a bit of debut fever. I would also like to thank you on your mobile devices for listening. And maybe you're already tackling a long-held desire for continuing education. Beyond that, if you have any ideas or suggestions for our podcast series or would like to provide feedback, feel free to email us at And the next episode of our internal podcast will come as a musical Christmas edition, as we will attend a rehearsal of our Academic Orchestra and visit with the musicians. Until then. We look forward to hearing from you again, and make it a good one!
Intro voice: Listening to the podcast about the workplace at OVGU!