“Working for us is something special”

What makes Messe München stand out as an employer? “Lots of things,” says Jennifer Hader, whose career at the company has led to her becoming its HR Director at the age of just 31

By Christian Focken and Stefan Tillmann

Jennifer Hader, Executive Director Human Resources, started working at the Messe München as an apprentice. What challenges is she facing today?

MM | Ms. Hader, you joined Messe München 16 years ago as an apprentice. What has changed since then?

JENNIFER HADER | A huge amount! We have grown massively, built new exhibition halls, worked on innovative trade fairs, and expanded around the world. Our employees have increased from 573 to 1,095 worldwide. But the changes at Messe München have not just been in terms of quantity. There’s been a real cultural change.

MM | In what ways?

HADER | Nowadays, we place greater emphasis on employee participation and promoting intercultural exchange. After all, we have over 300 colleagues in other countries, mainly China and India. We support this through our Employee Exchange Program. We also have a whole new set of job profiles, for example, we now have digital experts on board whose roles didn’t even exist 16 years ago.

“With us, you get the best of both worlds.”

Jennifer Hader

MM | Everyone is looking to recruit expert staff. Why should they come to Messe München?

HADER | With us, you get the best of both worlds. We currently have 14 employees in our—still very young—digital department. They get to enjoy a start-up atmosphere within a well-established, international company. They have an opportunity to turn product ideas into reality from the ground up and with a high degree of autonomy, and we give them an incredible amount of creative freedom in a high-speed growth environment.

Jennifer Hader, © DirkBruniecki

Jennifer Hader, 32, began her apprenticeship at Messe München in 2002. Meanwhile she has been appointed Executive Director Human Resources.

MM | With all these job profiles in so many different areas, how do you create a corporate identity?

HADER | Working for Messe München is something special. That’s the feeling we try to give everyone. We see ourselves as a strong team that achieves its goals when we pull together. The high approval levels in the 2017 employee survey also shows that a lot of people enjoy their work. According to the survey, 85 percent of colleagues identify strongly with Messe München as an employer. But of course, a good atmosphere and having fun are not the be-all and end-all, our staff also want concrete benefits.

MM | Like what?

HADER | It starts with small things, such as bike leasing, a subsidized canteen, summer and Christmas parties. But the hard realities also need to be right—and they are. We have a fair and transparent remuneration system and were awarded the “Deutscher Preis für Betriebliche Altersvorsorge” (German Prize for Company Pension Schemes) in 2015. We also do a great deal in the areas of training and health. In principle, anyone can register for internal and external seminars, and soon we’ll even be opening our own gym.

Human Resources 2.0

MM | Everyone is talking about New Work, a new relationship between work and leisure. What is your approach to this?

HADER | New Work is one of four strategic HR core objectives. We understand New Work to mean health and wellbeing in the workplace, but also developing approaches to agile working and flextime. There’s a lot going on. We will soon be signing a company agreement on mobile working to enable greater flexibility. We are making our offices more modern and open-plan. We are closely studying how we can work and communicate better, and which tools help us to do this. And finally, we also offer a childcare allowance, a parent-child office, and pay for an external family service if employees need it.

“We are keen to be even more strongly perceived as one of Germany’s top employers.”

Jennifer Hader

MM | What are the other three strategic HR core objectives?

HADER | People development, employer attractiveness, and strategic personnel planning. The last point, for example, concerns the fact that we plan our personnel requirements in close cooperation with each department so that we don’t end up firefighting in the short term. When it comes to personnel development, one of our main focuses is on providing experts and managers with attractive career options. Our new program for developing potential opens up new opportunities. We also work continuously on our in-house training program, so we are able to respond flexibly to current challenges. We are keen to be even more strongly perceived as one of Germany’s top employers. Since the beginning of 2018, applicants have been able to find out more information on our new career website. It includes totally unedited statements from employees.

Jennifer Hader, © DirkBruniecki

Jennifer is responsible for the company’s 1,095 employees worldwide.

Employees getting involved

MM | Because you believe that corporate values are important to employees?

HADER | Yes, they are important to them and us. And they have been proven to have a positive influence on corporate success. That’s why our staff have been involved in drafting our five corporate values: trust, team spirit, enthusiasm, responsibility, and innovation. Their involvement is very important to us.

MM | Where else do they get involved?

HADER | In our leadership principles, for example. Our colleagues were also involved in shaping these. The principles take our values a stage further. They provide orientation, encourage people to take responsibility, be prepared for change, promote diversity, and strengthen respect for one another. Each principle has a specific supporter on the Management Board.

“Our Reverse Mentoring Program turns young people into the experts.”

Jennifer Hader

MM | But values and leadership principles also have to be integrated into working life...

HADER | Exactly. That brings me to the sixth principle of leadership: Adopt a position and give feedback. Our workers have also come up with a wide range of ideas on how we can integrate and manage the leadership principles. In the future, we will be introducing leadership feedback as part of our HR tools.

MM | Your digital natives are already telling top executives what’s happening on the net ...

HADER | Yes, our Reverse Mentoring Program turns young people into the experts. All our directors and division managers have a young mentor. They meet regularly and exchange ideas. Then the digital native tells them about new trends on the Internet, social media, and apps. For example, my mentor draws my attention to oddball HR formats. And I ask her what she thinks about our HR ideas.

“There are lots of wonderful success stories at Messe München.”

Jennifer Hader

MM | At the age of 32, you’re almost a digital native yourself. How did you become an HR manager at such an early age?

HADER | Hard work, ambition, and a real passion for HR—all that was important. I completed my studies and other training programs while working a 40-hour week—that took some dedication. Messe München has always supported me in this. But it’s not just me—there are lots of wonderful success stories at Messe München.

MM | And how do you personally manage your work-life balance?

HADER | Actually, that’s easy for me. As soon as I get on my Vespa after work, I can switch off. And my weekends are sacred. It might sound old-fashioned, but part of New Work is not working.