The HR Manager

HR departments are now called Human Relations. And employees in these departments no longer have to be rigid and conservative. In times of skills shortages and working from home, the world of HR management is also changing dramatically. Exciting challenges for HR Manager Ines Ludwig from Blomberg.

Ines Ludwig, Head of Human Resources Phoenix Contact

Anyone who knocks timidly on the door of the HR department for an initial interview with Ines Ludwig will be surprised: instead of conservative stiffness, the energy of the Bielefeld native takes you away, the atmosphere is relaxed, the tone laid-back. And instead of suits, the entire department is sometimes out and about in white sneakers.

The current HR manager has been working at Phoenix Contact for 15 years. “After graduating from high school, I completed an apprenticeship as an industrial clerk in a small company. I still benefit from this today, as I was able to get a taste of all areas there”. She stayed there for a total of nine years. From the second year of her apprenticeship, she was already responsible for payroll accounting. This paved the way for her professional career and she went on to train as an HR specialist. While working, the Bielefeld native added a degree in business administration, specializing in business law. A short time later, she was offered a position as head of department at Phoenix Contact. She completed her outstanding diploma thesis “on the side”, so to speak.

Personal values instead of numbers

Today, Ines Ludwig is responsible for shaping the working situation at Phoenix Contact, among other things. This includes company agreements with the works councils on topics such as mobile working. But applications also land on her desk. A job with charisma: Ludwig and her 15-strong team deal with issues that affect around 5,500 employees at the end of the day.
She herself greatly appreciates the company’s family focus.

“After my previous company was taken over by a large holding company, it was important to me to return to a family-run company. I wanted to work with real people again and not with personnel numbers. Employee appreciation is an important topic at Phoenix Contact.” Of course, a lot has changed here too in recent years: “We have become bigger and therefore more standard process-driven.” Nevertheless, being close to the people in the office or in production is important to Ines Ludwig. “I couldn’t work from home five days a week. I would definitely miss something.”

The perfect applicant

“They don’t even exist anymore!” Ludwig laughs. “In the end, it depends on the job and the skills required, but in many areas these days we’re looking for pattern breakers rather than applicants with streamlined CVs.”

Despite extensive application procedures, gut instinct also plays an important role for Ines Ludwig. “You can still acquire specialist knowledge if necessary, but unfortunately not values. There are applicants who are shy and introverted in the first interview. But then they work really well in a team. Or people who talk everyone into the ground but are not willing to work together in their departments.” It’s no easy task to find this out accurately during the interviews.

Location Advantage Hinterland

Generational change is also a major topic at Phoenix Contact. The baby boomers are gradually retiring and many young people are joining the teams. How does the family-run company from Blomberg remain attractive to young professionals? “With good training opportunities such as the dual study programs. With an excellent training center in neighboring Schieder. And with numerous opportunities to make an international contribution through their achievements.”

5,780 employees at the Blomberg site
22,500 employees worldwide

She doesn’t feel there is a locational disadvantage in rural Blomberg: “Our main location in Blomberg is great. We are surrounded by nature, we can see far and wide and there is affordable housing. There are also lots of cultural activities in the surrounding area. In addition, working models have become much more diverse thanks to mobile working and working from home. Today, many employees work for us who don’t even live in the surrounding area. Incidentally, Phoenix Contact has other locations that are also in metropolitan areas, such as Berlin.”

Ines Ludwig reports that there has also been a significant change in terms of company affiliation. “Especially in IT professions, it’s no longer in vogue to work at the same company until retirement. Today, we deliberately take the risk that an employee will only stay with us for a few years. We also have to make compromises that are unusual for us.”

Shortage of skilled workers and women

“Employees from migrant countries are definitely a target group for us in view of the shortage of skilled workers.” The issue of workers from refugee countries is a matter close to Ludwig’s heart. “We have taken on our first permanent employees from Ukraine or Mexico. Not so easy, because their teams suddenly have to speak English. That’s a challenge for some of them,” reports the 45-year-old. And bureaucratic hurdles such as work permits or training recognition don’t make the recruitment process any easier, sighs the HR manager.

Phoenix Contact is a company that is active in more than 50 countries. What about the values that create identity in Germany? “Political conflicts must not be brought into the company. For us, human rights apply equally everywhere. This also applies to sometimes sensitive issues such as equal rights. We cannot change the social conditions in the countries in which our subsidiaries operate. But our values apply in our companies.”

And what about equal opportunities at the home location? “We will be implementing a diversity policy this year. And we have many new female colleagues with a lot of self-confidence who are also prepared to take on management positions.” The fact that Phoenix Contact is a company in the technology sector, where there are still too few women, is still particularly difficult. “Our women’s network ingenious is an important step in this direction. This is where our female engineers network and exchange ideas.”

HR and conservative? Not at all!

And what does Ines Ludwig like best about her job as HR Manager? She laughs: “That I can really get involved.” She becomes serious: “I’m in a position where my decisions influence a lot of people. I find this responsibility an exciting challenge: keeping an eye on and positively balancing the interests of everyone from part-time employees on the production line to the CEO.”

Provincialism and a shortage of skilled workers, new professional worlds and working from home, family businesses, internationality and women’s quotas – rigid was yesterday. Today, we have to be just as flexible as our applicants’ profiles and think outside the box.” (Paula Meier Galbete)

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