This is how a boss establishes a good home office culture in times of Corona

San Francisco, Dusseldorf Katharina Borchert is sitting in a conference room in Mozilla’s headquarters in Mountain View. On the back wall is a large video conferencing screen. It is the end of February, one of the last days before the fear of the corona virus finally reaches Silicon Valley. A day before Facebook Thousands of employees on his campus in nearby Menlo Park “strongly recommended” to only work in their home office.

For Mozilla, which offers Firefox, the third most widely used Internet browser in the world, this is hardly anything new. Founded in 1998 as a foundation company on the ruins of the browser pioneer Netscape, it has its origins in the voluntary open source movement, whose headquarters have always been the Internet. Many employees started from anywhere in the world as programmers on individual projects and did not move to California when they got a permanent job at Mozilla.

The 50-person team that heads innovation chief Borchert writes codes for Firefox and has developed “Common Voice”, the second largest open source database for voice recordings, which can be used, for example, to train smart assistants.

The 47-year-old is the only one who comes to the Mountain View office. She likes to do that. She holds video conferences with the others, sometimes due to the time difference from walking in the morning until late at night. “The phone is extremely unsuitable,” she says. A video conference helps to avoid misunderstandings and confusion – if it works properly.

The employees work in nine time zones, in offices, coworking spaces or at home. Her former “Chief of Staff” called his office a forest hut in northern Sweden, others are based in Mumbai or Munich. Even her personal assistant works in nearby San Francisco, but saves the commute down to Silicon Valley.

A few weeks later, many companies around the world are Mozilla – forcibly. Because of the corona pandemic, companies in which stamping has just taken place must make friends with conference calls and trust-based working hours.

Bosses, who otherwise measure productivity by the office chair occupancy rate in their aisle, are now sitting in the home office themselves. Work routines, working hours, informal hierarchies, coffee gossip – everything has to be rearranged.

Home work par ordre du virus – it is a gigantic social experiment that could change the work culture far beyond the corona crisis. If companies succeed in integrating telework productively into their processes, employees who want it could stay at home most days. Workers with children could save themselves the triangulation of the house – daycare center – office in the morning. And city centers could be cleared of gray office complexes and commuter traffic in the long term.

If it fails, the looming economic crisis also creates a productivity crisis for millions of companies and employees who lose their minds between Slack news, zoom conference and changing diapers.

Many bosses distrust the employees in the home office

Borchert knows German offices – the ex-journalist was editor-in-chief of the news portal “Der Westen” in the Funke media group and managing director of Spiegel Online. In Germany there is a mistrust of whether employees in the home office really work. Even in the companies that Borchert was running at the time, she was never able to establish another culture. “I got my team to teach me what good remote leadership is,” she says.

And what makes it special? “You have to document a lot more – team norms, processes and conferences,” notes Borchert. If she writes an email at the weekend, she points out that she doesn’t have to answer until Monday. Borchert is only allowed to hold conferences with Europe until 10 a.m. – if the employees do not allow an exception. If someone sends a message in the Office Messenger Slack to all members of a channel, a bot will automatically inform them of the different time zones in which the members are and who may therefore no longer read them.

In general, Slack-Bots do a lot at Mozilla: Every Monday morning, one of the employees asks what important projects they did last week, what they want to do this week and whether there is anything personal that they want to share – the latter to get the gossip out of the Transfer coffee break to the virtual office.

When many new members joined Borchert’s team, the “donut bot” chose a different colleague every two weeks, with whom they could go for a coffee via video conference.

These are not just emergency nails, Borchert insists. Nor are they ideas that only work in the software industry or in a non-profit company. On the contrary, this culture brings advantages that have nothing to do with homework. For example, new employees could be integrated more easily because they know where to find important information or who is responsible for what – because the otherwise unspoken laws of a team are pronounced.

“In the office, the team norms wobble implicitly through the room,” says Borchert. “If you can no longer just go down the aisle, you have to make it much more explicit.” And honestly, how many companies organize coffee dates between old and new employees – whether by bot or on the bulletin board?

Mozilla is known worldwide, but a fairly small fish in Silicon Valley. A much larger campus also has its Mountain View campus and is courting employees similar to Mozilla. “I don’t have to go with Google compete to find the best machine learning talent from Stanford, ”says Borchert. “There are equally good people in Bulgaria or India.”

Google and Facebook are also popular

In the valley of inventors and developers, all factors for a strong homework culture seem to come together: a young, digitally educated workforce. Jobs where output counts instead of hours spent. And the tough talent competition, the gigantic property prices and salaries reward a globally distributed colleague.

But a strong homework culture is not a question of geography: Google, Apple or Facebook are digital companies, but they are by no means purely digital companies. With its gigantic headquarters such as the Googleplex, the U-shaped Apple Park or the Salesforce Towers have just built the Silicon Valley giants of the culture of the Cathedrals bulk office.

Before Corona, even Facebook employees with children who often wanted to work from home could often only stay in the home office for one day. In a telephone press conference, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that working at home with his wife and two children was also a major change for him.

This applies to his company, which even offers a platform for distributed teams with Facebook Workplace, all the more: After the home office order, Facebook employees got into a dispute as to whether discussions about which weekly market sells the best seeds belong in the internal work forums or Not. A kind of discussion that not only Facebook is currently experiencing.

“The big corporations here are just that: big corporations,” says Aaron Levie. The 34-year-old founded the cloud service provider Box in 2005 as a student, he knows Silicon Valley and its culture very well. “The companies here have all digital tools, but they face many questions of the same kind: How do we guarantee IT security if thousands of employees suddenly access our network from outside?” He says. Many people in the area around San Francisco have emergency plans for earthquakes, but not for a pandemic.

For the video call, the founder sits in his living room under an abstract drawing. It is the end of March, in the boxing center in Redwood City, right next to the railway line between San Francisco and Palo Alto, has only been an emergency occupation for fourteen working days.

Why does a company like Box need a head office? Levie speaks of spontaneous collaboration, of flipcharts that you can quickly stand up to. But he also says, “We’ll think about it very differently after Corona.”

He is currently learning in real time how telework is changing culture for the better. The weekly general meetings, in which most employees took part personally, now take place virtually. “More questions come from more different people. It’s more collaborative than it used to be, ”says Levie.

Perhaps it is Californian optimism to want to wrest positive things out of the crisis. Perhaps it is the business opportunities that a cloud entrepreneur like Levie sees through a trend towards remote work. But even if it is primarily software companies that promote a stronger remote culture, few of the reasons are limited to their industry. It is not only developers who prefer to put their children to bed than to be stuck in the commuter train at this time.

The result is more important than the hours worked

Of course, like many things, Silicon Valley companies are more keen to experiment. There are companies, like the developer network Gitlab, of three Ukrainian entrepreneurs who ended up in San Francisco through the start-up academy “Y Combinator”, but still call themselves “Remote Company” as companies without headquarters.

And there are corporations like Facebook that have to get used to the diaspora enforced by Corona just like some medium-sized companies or Dax companies.

At the same time, there are companies with a strong culture of remote working not only in the Laissez-faire state of California, but also in Germany. This includes, for example, the cloud provider Nextcloud. The company’s open source software is used, among other things, by the federal government for data exchange between authorities.

“We have an office in Stuttgart and one in Berlin, but our employees mainly work from home – sometimes across several time zones,” says Nextcloud founder Frank Karlitschek. For example, a colleague lives in Hawaii.

The 55 employees are used to agreeing on digital channels. “Home office requires that a company think results-oriented. I cannot check how long an employee works or how long breaks they take, ”says Karlitschek. In the end, the results counted and not the hours worked. “We don’t care who works where, when and for how long.”

In addition, the company relies on a way of working that can also be delayed. “Our processes also run asynchronously. We have few classic meetings. That’s why we work with chats. ”Agreements or tasks could be shared there, which an employee then takes up as soon as he has time – for example because he lives in a different time zone and is therefore awake at different times.

However, the Nextcloud team cannot do without personal contact either, emphasizes Karlitschek. “We meet several times a year for a week.” This would allow personal contacts to be established and deepened, which would later facilitate agreements. Actually, all employees should come together in Berlin soon, but that won’t work because of the corona pandemic. The meeting is now taking place as a video conference.

Editor’s note: Co-author Alexander Demling worked at Spiegel Online when Katharina Borchert was managing director.

More: Despite home office and contactless payment, the pandemic is only pseudo-digitizing. But it also offers the chance to change course.


“CEOs mustn’t duck away”

Office staff

Communication is now an important task for managers.

(Photo: Imago)

Munich In times of Corona, signs of solidarity are required. Siemens boss Joe Kaeser recently visited the generator plant in Erfurt with a face mask. After all, the workers couldn’t stay in their home office in their service to companies and society, he tweeted.

Despite all the rules on distance, it is important for CEOs to show closeness now. “Managers can now prove whether they actually live, what is promised everywhere: that the employee is at the center,” says Jörg Schleburg, founder of the VonVorteil consultancy. The employees are insecure and fear for their jobs. You need a hold and a perspective.

Managers currently have many tasks at the same time. For example, you need to secure liquidity and maintain supply chains. But according to experts, they should also fly the flag. “Overall, one has heard far too little from the corporate leaders,” said Stephanie Schorp, psychologist and managing director of Comites personnel and management consultancy.

They would have to speak out more about social and global political crises. “In our opinion, corporate executives cannot duck or dive. Even internally, managers should not be silent or communicate insensitively.

Schleburg, who specializes in employer branding, among other things, considers communication to be the top priority. “Open, regular and transparent.” Employees felt safe when their boss exudes security.

Video message from the canteen

For example, many CEOs are currently digitally turning to the workforce. OsramChief Olaf Berlien, for example, usually makes a video once a week. For example, he recently stood in front of the camera in the empty canteen and reported on solidarity actions by Osram employees.

For example, employees in China donated 500 UV lights for disinfection to hospitals in Wuhan at the height of the crisis. “With such great employees, we will also be able to overcome this crisis,” concluded Berlien. Encouragement is important for the Osramites, because of the upcoming takeover by AMS there is already uncertainty among the workforce.

According to the experts, strong leadership is of course required in times of crisis. “Confident and determined,” says Comites founder Andreas Föller. It was important to work out the appropriate concept for the company based on various disciplines. Pragmatic facilitation and savings should be decided and implemented quickly.

Otherwise, panicked decisions would have to be avoided. The CEO must not indulge in omnipotence fantasies. “He has to understand that there are things that are too big for you alone and even for a small group. The collective has to cope with that. ”

Schleburg sees the managers as being challenged twice. You would not only have to show how to meet the current challenge – from home office to short-time work. You would also have to develop a strategy where the company will steer in the medium and long term under the changed circumstances. They would also have to show how they want to act in a world in which nothing seems to be safe anymore. “Openness, networking and agility are the order of the day.”

Dealing with the crisis is not only decisive for the short-term economic well-being of the company – it also has an impact on the image in public, among employees and sought after talents after the crisis. “Employees will be proud when their company behaved professionally in the crisis and gets away with it with a black eye,” says management consultant Schorp.

Schleburg is also convinced: “Companies that emerge from the crisis stronger than before will become particularly attractive for talented people.” They have proven that they are prepared for a very dynamic future. In this respect, the crisis is an opportunity: “Those who may not have been known before can now strengthen their image by acting intelligently.” Conversely, a company that previously had a good reputation could also quickly lose reputation.

More: Commentary – The crisis shows which boss has true leadership skills.


Which banks cut board remuneration in the crisis

London More and more top bankers in Europe are foregoing salary or bonuses in the corona crisis. The British big banks also gave up their resistance this week. HSBC, BarclaysLloyds RBS and Standard Chartered announced millions in donations to various corona aid funds.

The largest single sum comes from RBS boss Alison Rose. She waives 25 percent of her salary for the rest of the year and receives no cash bonus. That’s a total of around £ 2.3 million. Barclays boss Jes Staley’s contribution, on the other hand, is significantly lower. This gives up just 33 percent of his salary for six months – a sum of £ 392,000. With the bonus, however, he makes no compromises.

The institutes act under pressure from bank supervisors. “PRA does not expect banks to pay cash bonuses to management,” PRA chief Sam Woods said last week. The European banking regulator Eba had also asked all institutes to set management board remuneration at a “conservative level”.

The model was head of the board of directors Ana Botin of the Spanish Santander bench preceded on March 23. Last week was the Spanish one BBVA and the Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit followed. With the gesture of the British institutes, the pressure on banks in Switzerland and Germany is increasing. So far, these have been preventing a waiver.

Selected major banks have previously announced this:

Santander: Chairman of the Board of Directors Ana Botin and CEO Jose Antonio Alvarez waive 50 percent of their total compensation for 2020, i.e. fixed salary and bonus. The rest of the Board of Directors waived 20 percent.

Intesa Sanpaolo: CEO Carlo Messina donates one million euros to Corona relief funds. 21 other top managers who report to him donate a total of five million euros.

Unicredit: CEO Jean-Pierre Mustier and seven other board members waive their cash bonuses for 2020.

HSBC: Chairman Mark Tucker donates his entire annual salary of £ 1.5 million. CEO Noel Quinn and CFO Ewen Stevenson waive 25 percent of their fixed salary for six months and receive no cash bonus. Quinn has around £ 1.4 million and Stevenson £ 800,000.

Barclays: Chairman Nigel Higgins, CEO Jes Staley and Chief Financial Officer Tushar Morzaria waived 33 percent of their salary for six months. However, bonuses are paid. In total, all three managers donated a total of £ 800,000.

Standard Chartered: CEO Bill Winters donates 50 percent of his salary by the end of the year and his cash bonus for 2020 – a total of over two million pounds. CFO Andy Halford and board members also waive. However, the amount is unclear.

Lloyds: CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio and other managers waive the full bonus, both cash and stock options. However, they get their full salary.

RBS: Chairman Howard Davies and CEO Alison Rose waive 25 percent of their salary for the rest of the year and receive no cash bonus. RBS was saved by the state in the financial crisis and is still majority state-owned.

UBS: The Swiss bank announced on Thursday that it would pay its dividend in two tranches this year. Should the second tranche fail in autumn due to the corona crisis, the cash bonus for the board members will also be canceled, the bank said. Additional remuneration decisions will be made “as required” in the course of the year.

Credit Suisse: CEO Thomas Gottstein told Swiss radio last week that the board is considering a gesture of solidarity.

Deutsche Bank: So far, the board members have kept a low profile, it just says “one is aware of the overall situation in business and politics.”

Commerzbank: The board members have not yet waived their variable remuneration.

More: Because of the corona crisis: More and more board members are foregoing part of their salary


JP Morgan punishes traders for using WhatsApp

JP Morgan

According to a Bloomberg report, a retailer was fired for using WhatsApp.

(Photo: AFP)

new York JP Morgan Chase has punished more than a dozen retailers for using WhatsApp at work. One person was released, the other the bonus was reduced, as it is said from informed circles.

Edward K., who worked for the investment bank for almost 20 years, was on leave in January and has now been officially released, said people familiar with the matter.

He is said to have set up a WhatsApp group and used it to exchange information about market events with other employees in the retail division. As you can hear, JP Morgan regards this as a violation of corporate rules.

K. was responsible for trading in corporate bonds and credit derivatives. The bonus cut sparked outrage among his subordinates who followed his lead and used the chat group, said those who only wanted to comment anonymously on the internal matter, assuring their anonymity.

A JP Morgan spokesman declined to comment. K. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption of the messages. As a result, the conversations cannot easily be monitored by Wall Street banks’ compliance departments.

This poses a problem for companies that need to ensure that their employees do not engage in illegal activities such as fraud or insider trading.

More: Flip is a kind of WhatsApp for companies – and suddenly in high demand.


How Amazon acts against a strike leader

San Francisco It’s a small round in that AmazonChief Jeff Bezos is currently summoning his top key managers daily to discuss the effects of the corona crisis. Neither Smalls nor Bezos would have ever dreamed that it would be about warehouse worker Chris Smalls.

But now the management of the global online retailer knows the name of the ex-employee. Smalls organized a strike last week against what was believed to be many defective corona arrangements in its Amazon warehouse in New York and many others in the United States.

Amazon then threw him out, allegedly because his protest violated a 14-day quarantine requirement after a corona infection in his circle of colleagues. According to Amazon, three employees in the warehouse are infected with the corona virus, the protesting employees claim that there are at least ten.

“Getting active cost me my job,” Smalls said later in an interview. Since then, a battle of words has raged between Amazon and Smalls. A struggle that Amazon top management would like to wage: “It is not intelligent or eloquent,” said Amazon’s chief lawyer David Zapolsky, according to a transcript from Bezos, quoted in the “Vice News”. “If the press wants to focus on a conflict between us and him, we are in a much stronger position than when we explain how we protect our workers for the umpteenth time.”

Zapolsky then argues that Amazon should explain to the public in detail why Smalls acted “immorally” and “possibly illegally”. “Make him the most interesting part of history and, if possible, make him the face of the whole union movement.” According to the report, “general consent” of the other participants is noted in the minutes.

Zapolsky confirmed “Vice News” the authenticity of the quotes, but in his answer aims again at smalls. His comments were “personal and emotional”. He was frustrated that an employee was putting his colleagues’ health at risk.

The affair over the fired protest leader could hit Amazon’s reputation hard. It’s a story of how Americans love it. The underdog against the mega-group Amazon. A proverbial little man against one of the largest companies in the world. The fact that the man’s name is Smalls is all the more beautiful.

Masks and forehead thermometers

The fact is that the online merchant’s struggle with organizing workers goes back a long way before the corona crisis. A strike in his department stores is coming at a particularly bad time for Amazon. In contrast to many other companies, the online retailer is very busy. What can no longer be bought in stores is now ordered online. In many places, Amazon has become as essential as Swiss Post. The company plans to employ 100,000 new people for its warehouses and delivery services.

But as the number of orders explodes, the company struggles to fill all shifts in its warehouses. An employee in a warehouse in Charlotte told the Wall Street Journal that at times only half of the necessary staff was present. There is also a lack of masks or disinfectants to keep the risk of infection low.

As of next week, Amazon plans to distribute masks and measure fever to all employees in European and American warehouses. Anyone with the contactless forehead thermometer showing 38 degrees or more will be sent home. Smart cameras would check whether warehouse workers keep enough distance from each other.

The spread of the corona virus and that of worker dissatisfaction are related to Amazon: Walkouts have also taken place in warehouses in Chicago and the state of Michigan. An employee from Romulus, near Detroit, told tech portal The Verge that it was rumored that Amazon was not telling people about infection. “I understand that we cannot do without us. But we can’t do without our lives either. ”

Amazon is struggling to get out of the corona crisis with a better reputation than before. On the one hand, customers around the world are learning to fully appreciate their range and delivery service during the corona pandemic. Even US President Donald Trump, who enjoys living out his rivalry with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, is now praising Amazon.

But the workers ‘protests give the company completely new political problems: Letitia James, the busy Attorney General of the State of New York, called Smalls’ dismissal “immoral and inhuman” and wants to examine measures against Amazon. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also wants the city’s Human Rights Commission to review the case.

More: Amazon supplies everyone who is stuck at home – and that supports the share.


Amazon under pressure due to strike organizer’s termination


Demonstrators in front of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Staten Island: The fired employee had started a protest.

(Photo: AP)

new York The world’s largest online retailer Amazon is at risk of being fired by an employee who had co-organized a strike for allegedly poor working conditions in the corona crisis. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday (local time) that it had ordered an investigation into the incident by the city’s human rights officer.

The fired employee had started a protest because Amazon was insufficiently protecting its employees in a warehouse in the Staten Island district of New York from the corona virus. However, the company denies this. A spokesman for the company told CNBC that the man had been fired for violating quarantine requirements and thereby endangering colleagues.

Previously, New York’s powerful Attorney General Letitia James had described the dismissal as “immoral and inhumane” and had announced that she would consider all legal options. She also called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

Amazon’s delivery services are important suppliers in the Corona pandemic in New York, but have recently been heavily criticized for their working conditions.

More: Amazon’s papers benefit from the corona crisis – at least in comparison to those of other companies.


EBA urges banks to cut bonuses and dividends

Frankfurt The European banking regulator Eba has clearly called on the continent’s financial institutions to support the European economy in the corona crisis – at the expense of bonuses and dividends. Before the Eba, several banking supervisors, including the European Central Bank, but also Bafin, had made similar appeals to the industry. The statements of the Eba are particularly striking.

“Eba emphasizes that the capital relief measures that regulators have implemented in response to the Covid 10 crisis must be used to fund businesses and households, not to distribute dividends or share buybacks to reward shareholders, ”said the Paris-based EU authority on Tuesday evening.

The Eba itself has few rights of access and supervision to individual banks in Europe, but essentially coordinates the work of the supervisory authorities throughout the European Union.

Indirectly, Eba also asked the banks to concentrate their business activities primarily on their home market and Europe – and less outside this region. “The distribution of capital within a banking group should serve the need to support the local and broader European economies, as well as the good functioning of the internal market,” said Eba. “This is particularly important in this time of crisis.”

Even during the financial crisis, financial institutions all over the world had provided customers in their home markets with financing. The call of the Eba hits exactly this notch. Many money houses, such as the major Spanish bank Santander, also have major activities in countries such as Latin America.

Santander bosses are doing without

From the authority’s point of view, not only the shareholders, but also the employees of the banks should contribute to coping with the corona crisis. “The responsible supervisory authorities should ask the banks to review their remuneration policies,” emphasized Eba. Bank supervisors should ensure that they reflect the current economic situation. “The remuneration and, especially, its variable portion, should be set at a conservative level,” said Eba.

The agency supplied a few ideas of how this could look like. “In order to adequately match the risks arising from the Covid 19 pandemic, a larger part of the variable remuneration could be deferred for a longer period and a larger part could be paid out in the form of equity instruments,” said Eba .

The head of banking supervision at the European Central Bank, Andrea Enria, had previously also called for a reduction in bonus payments to employees. Unlike the Eba, however, he put this appeal into perspective by saying that the bonuses were less of a problem than the dividends given the amount of capital required.

The major Spanish bank Santander set a good example a week ago. Ana Botín, the head of the board of directors, and CEO José Antonio Álvarez will waive half of their total salary, i.e. fixed salary and bonus, in the 2020 financial year. The individual country heads should also make their contribution. The dividend was also canceled. In addition, the bonus policy should be checked so that as much funds as possible could benefit customers.

German banks are hesitant

German banks, on the other hand, have so far been very hesitant to respond to the various appeals by bank supervisors or politicians. Only after repeated appeals to the dividend from the supervisory authority did Commerzbank announce that it would cancel its planned distribution. Real estate financier Aareal Bank has still not really committed to this. And German banks and savings banks are also hesitant when it comes to the request of the banking supervisors to support the real economy.

Banks and savings banks “could not throw regulatory requirements or their commercial diligence overboard,” stressed the president of the Federal Association of German Volksbanks and Raiffeisen Banks (BVR), Marija Kolak, shortly before the Eba statement was published. “This would be counterproductive and is of no use to companies or citizens. It would also not contribute to financial market stability. ”This year, the BVR is the leader of the banking association Deutsche Kreditwirtschaft. That is why Kolak spoke for all German banks.

Kolak’s statements had criticized Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD). Scholz had previously asked the house banks not to place excessive demands on small business loans in the corona crisis. Every bank employee should know that “this is now a great, joint, national effort that is necessary where everyone has to leave a little bit of a fifth, so to speak.”

Before BVR President Kolak, Sparkasse President Helmut Schleweis had already made it clear that the savings banks were not prepared to support the companies with loans at any price. As part of the loan program of the state development bank KfW, only those companies could be granted loans that are expected to be able to repay the loan within five years, Schleweis said in an interview with the Handelsblatt. “This is currently not the case for many companies from industries that are suffering particularly badly from the corona crisis.”

Greens politicians face consequences

Greens MEP Sven Giegold welcomed the Eba statement. “It is gratifying that the EBA is not only targeting dividends and share buybacks, but also variable remuneration,” he said. Across Europe, bank regulators must not allow banks to redirect the recent easing of capital requirements into generous distributions. In the current crisis, shareholders “to be blessed with a shower of money” are short-sighted and indecent.

Giegold also warned of possible consequences if they should stick to their planned distributions. “The longer the economic standstill from the corona pandemic lasts, the greater the losses the banks will suffer. Institutions that do not now have reserves do not have to call the state in a few months if there is a problem. ”

More: Financial supervision decides comprehensive relief for banks in the corona crisis


Brand expert “Companies can now learn from unicorns”

Hamburg Imke Schuller is an expert on corporate culture at the Landor brand consultancy. In a study, she examined the culture of unicorns in other words, startups that grew up with more than a billion dollars in goodwill.

In doing so, she wants to shake the myth of many digital projects of large corporations: that young start-ups should explain the digital world to old corporations.

In an interview, she warns corporations against emulating startups in cultural change projects – often these are the wrong role models. “We found that many startups make the mistake of just paying attention to the product, marketing and numbers and neglecting the culture,” she says.

Especially in the current crisis, managers would have to orientate themselves towards the really successful young companies: the unicorns.

They communicated differently than corporations, questioned their culture more often – but were often too focused on the respective founder.

Read the entire interview here:

Ms. Schuller, you are making a provocative thesis: It usually doesn’t do much for established companies to learn from a young start-up. Why do you think that?
We work with many older companies in slow growing markets. So of course we asked ourselves what they can learn from start-ups. Now 90 percent of start-ups don’t grow old and big at all. Only a small percentage breaks the unicorn brand, reaching a valuation of over a billion dollars.

That means: Whoever simply selects such a start-up may learn from the one who does not assert himself and makes too many mistakes …
I agree. It would be much better to learn from the unicorns. There are at least 250 of these companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. They have to do a lot right to do this – and they are in a transition phase from start-up to mature company. Unlike start-ups, they no longer cover just one country or region, but scale quickly. They show how culture can be used to grow successfully and quickly – while at the same time many new people are joining.

Imke Schuller

She is Executive Director Innovation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the brand consultancy Landor.

Given the challenges of the corona crisis, will cultural change still be an issue for companies in the coming months?
Cultural change is certainly not a priority in the worst, acute phase of the crisis. Now it will be important whether the culture of the company can withstand the crisis and maybe even make the company stronger. Here, for example, the question arises whether there is a sense of cohesion in the company in times of remote working and whether all employees know clearly from a distance what their company stands for and what the guidelines for their actions should be. In this respect, the crisis will show up as a cultural stress test and reveal weaknesses – as soon as we enter the phase of recovery and normalization, companies will often have to make cultural changes.

Can managers learn from unicorns even in times of crisis?
Traditional companies can now learn from unicorns. The unicorns are characterized by the fact that they live in constant change and have to constantly adapt to new circumstances. Unicorns hire hundreds of new employees in a few months and open several new offices in a short time – this is basically nothing more than a company that has to let hundreds of employees work from home at once and thus has hundreds of “individual branches” at once. Here, companies can learn from unicorns how to communicate effectively, how to create corporate loyalty even from a distance, which working methods are now proving their worth. Frequent and transparent communication, the feeling that we are all in this together, and decentralized decision-making structures are the success factors of unicorns that are now important.

What mistakes do unicorn founders generally avoid?
We have found that many start-ups make the mistake of only paying attention to the product, marketing and numbers and neglecting the culture. That is why these companies do not survive long. They are an empty shell, the motivation is extrinsically directed towards money. It is not a sustainable model.

Do the unicorns share a common culture?
Not all unicorns have the same culture, principles, and behaviors. But the way they deal with and pass on culture was very similar. What is striking in comparison with established companies is the much higher frequency with which the culture is updated. From the day it was founded, many unicorns have dealt with what kind of company they want to be and what they want to stand for. That is why from the outset they made a connection between brand and culture, i.e. they formed an identity.

So are you already committed to a permanent culture on day one?
Not at all. Because these young companies are growing so quickly, they have to update their business strategy very often. They don’t think like grown companies in 24-month periods, but rather in six-month increments. But at the same time, the management always considered: Can the current culture still help us to achieve this ambition?

Does it make sense for grown companies to renew the culture so often?
Probably not that often. However, we recommend always looking at the culture in sync with the strategy development. We often see in the slowly growing companies that the culture is viewed less frequently than the strategy – this is a mistake. As a result, the culture often no longer serves the business strategy.

Who defines the culture in the successful unicorns?
There is also a difference to grown companies: With unicorns, cultural development was always in the hands of the board, often the founder. The CEO always saw himself as an ambassador for culture and demonstrated this through exemplary leadership.

Wouldn’t every driver of a traditional company claim this for themselves?
In reality it is different. Leadership is often about authority rather than example. In grown companies, the subject of culture is mostly located in the HR department. Culture is therefore seen more as a factor for employee motivation and satisfaction, but not as part of the business success factors.

Do older companies have to take the unicorns as an example, or are the differences just an expression of different development phases of companies?
The old companies should learn from the newcomers and work on themselves. The unicorns ensure that they have a decentralized hierarchy and are thus closer to the customer and can react faster to changes. They give their employees more responsibility and place more trust in them – also through more transparency. Established companies are much more process-oriented and hierarchical – and thus sometimes block the path to faster growth.

How can a board lead by example?
In one case, we saw a townhall meeting at which the CEO was asked a very critical question in an aggressive tone. The CEO did not reject the question, but positioned himself clearly. He said: I understand the question, but I would rephrase it to match the way we deal with each other here. Then he answered factually. He showed that you can trust him. In the grown company, certain questions are often not passed on to the CEO – or the questioner is threatened with dire consequences.

Do you think the unicorns will survive their culture like this, or will they sooner or later become a run-in oldie themselves?
It depends how the unicorns deal with the aging process. The biggest challenge is the extremely fast growth – several hundred new employees in the quarter, many new external managers or the simultaneous start in several countries. This can break the culture. Some unicorns have regulated this well by making the culture clear to new people and thus preventing people from bringing their own culture with them from outside. This happens very often in corporations, especially when experienced managers come in from outside.

What do you mean?
One of the founders interviewed told us about one of his biggest mistakes: he hired a very high-ranking manager from a large beverage brand who brought his whole old authoritarian culture with him. That almost cost the company its head. But the founder acted – this person, who did not want to adapt to the culture, had to leave very quickly.

So it depends a lot on the founder?
Yes, often too much. With several unicorns, it was not clear what would happen to the culture once the founders left. This applies to cultures that are based on a great founding myth, which are ultimately very autocratic. There is no independent thinking. We saw panic on the faces when asked about saying goodbye to the founders.

Can you do better?
Yes. In many cases, the founders have ensured that the culture is anchored decentrally and ultimately does not matter whether they are still there. There the culture will continue to develop independently.

Ms. Schuller, thank you for the interview.

More: Dependency on foreign donors is becoming a problem for start-ups


The German middle class is the victim of promotionalism

The corona virus spreads as quickly in companies as it does in the general population. It is not surprising. Many companies are deprived of the business basis through the necessary measures to protect the health of the population and employees. Their existence is endangered.

While there were still voices last week that healthy companies could not run out of liquidity so quickly, these voices have largely died down today.

Others, on the other hand, are getting louder. For example, they demand that KfW loans be secured 100 percent instead of just 90 percent because time is short. Because apparently also healthy companies run out of money much faster than expected if the turnover drops by more than 50 percent.

In individual sectors such as retail or with organizers, in the travel industry or in trade fair construction, business often comes to a complete standstill. But the costs continue. Short-time work allowance, the possibilities of tax and rent deferrals are then no longer sufficient.

It was therefore a good and right thing to start the federal emergency aid, especially for small business owners. They get up to € 9,000 if they employ up to five people and up to € 15,000 if they employ up to ten people. Help is also available for large companies.

But there is a gap in between. According to the DIHK, ten percent of medium-sized companies are at risk of bankruptcy. According to the DIHK, 40 percent of the predominantly medium-sized businesses in the travel and hospitality industry report acute bankruptcy. The talks with the banks are not very pleasant.

This is actually because the companies would not pass a normal credit check at the moment if the entire turnover was lost. Like the Association of Family Entrepreneurs, the DIHK requires 100% of the collateral to be taken over by KfW. This should be done for a limited time.

Reluctant companies

In addition, there is another gap: The virus does not stop at the borders of the federal states, of course.A look at the aid programs of the 16 countries shows that there are grants and sometimes loans that are mostly repaid after a repayment-free period have to.

Companies hesitate because they really don’t know how long they won’t be able to generate sales. Then the money is burned, but the debts pile up and the company has to file for bankruptcy at some point.

KfW supports loans nationwide. However, the prerequisite is that the house banks check and still assume ten percent of the liability. It should all happen very quickly. But apparently it’s not going fast enough.

Time is short, but not all country programs are completely published. And there will probably be improvements. In one federal state, the entrepreneur no longer gets help if he has more than ten employees in the neighboring federal state.

So it is a matter of luck whether you get anything from the state rescue program. While Bavaria increased the emergency aid without repayment for companies with up to 250 employees from 30,000 to 50,000 euros on Monday, NRW gives grants to companies with up to 50 employees and Brandenburg supports companies with up to 100 employees, in Rhineland-Palatinate For example, or in Saxony, initially only granted loans that have to be repaid. So far, there are no grants for SMEs that are not covered by the federal program.

As a result, the federal structure aggravates or improves the situation of the individual companies. Richer states can obviously help entrepreneurs more than poorer ones.

But it shouldn’t depend on the state in which an entrepreneur operates. The corona virus and the ban on contact are not limited to a single federal state.

The open question is: Should we close the gap by securing KfW loans 100 percent? The entire risk lies with the state, and the house banks no longer have to check because they then no longer bear the risks.

Or would it be better that those who can quickly prove that they have gotten into the corona crisis as a healthy company can get emergency aid easily? So that they can cover their costs and look ahead again. The countries can improve there.

In any case, it should be decisive that the companies actually only run into liquidity problems after the outbreak of the corona virus. The decisive factor is not the number of employees or the postcode of the company address.

More: Follow the current developments in the corona crisis in our news blog.


This is how the interview succeeds via video

Interview from home

It depends on the right preparation. That applies even more to the webcam than usual.

(Photo: E + / Getty Images)

Dusseldorf Video recruiters get very unusual insights into the lives of their applicants: In an interview, for example, Anja Michael, recruiter at software developer Avira, the candidate got up because his wife called him. The questioners had previously seen the face and cutouts of the T-shirt, but now they were looking at his boxer shorts. He didn’t get the job.

The example shows: In video interviews, applicants can fall into completely new cases. This is also an unusual situation for many HR managers when the ongoing corona crisis forces them to use technical solutions. Many industrial groups currently have a hiring freeze, but there are still companies that are still recruiting – by video.

This also applies to Avira. For many years, the software manufacturer has been conducting a video interview with each candidate, says global HR manager Michael. And judges positively: “Especially for applicants from abroad, this helps to get a first impression.”

The flight is canceled, the company saves money, the candidate saves time. In a second step, Avira then invites promising applicants to the headquarters for the final interviews.

A job interview via webcam – this is rather the exception in normal times. In times of Corona, however, it has to work in many places, which has long been tried and tested at Avira. But that is complicated, Michael admits. “I only see a section of the applicant through the webcam, I can assess his facial expressions more poorly and I don’t notice how he approaches the team.”

Avira HR manager Anja Michael

“As a precaution, we point out to applicants that technical interruptions can occur and that they will not be interpreted to their disadvantage.”

(Photo: Avira)

What helps: prepare particularly well. This also includes technology. Are the programs running? Is the internet stable? Does the webcam work? In terms of content, the same applies as for the real meeting, says Hesse: “Applicants should consider what they have already done, what they find the new FirAuch for job seekers, it is unusual to introduce yourself via webcam. This is exotic for senior managers in particular, says Berlin application expert Jürgen Hesse. “Many applicants are already nervous and additionally inhibited in front of the camera.” Ma bring, and they should make it clear which wood they are made of. “

To get to the point

What is very important in the virtual job interview: to get to the point. The Cologne career coach Bernd Slaghuis strongly advises this. “Applicants tend to talk too much in real conversation,” he says.

Berlin application expert Jürgen Hesse

“Many applicants are nervous anyway and additionally inhibited in front of the camera.”

(Photo: private)

Slaghuis also sees advantages: Candidates could make notes. They don’t stand out on the desk as much as in a real conversation.

In order to take the additional technical worries away from the applicants, HR manager Michael tries to create a good atmosphere: “As a precaution, we point out to the applicants that technical interruptions can occur and that they will not be interpreted as a disadvantage.”

In conversation, the 53-year-old expects full professionalism. This also includes appearances, such as that the background is cleared up, the camera is set up correctly – and the applicant is dressed appropriately.

More: What you should pay attention to in your application letter