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Interview with Nicole Kurek, Head of Human Resources at Alphabet International

Digitisation, globalisation and a social trend towards individualisation are transforming the workplace and how companies manage their human relations. In the following interview, Nicole Kurek, Head of Human Resources at Alphabet International, shares insights into the changes taking place at many levels under the title "Working 4.0", and how Alphabet is meeting the challenge.

Nicole Kurek, Head of Human Resources at Alphabet International
Nicole Kurek, Head of Human Resources at Alphabet International

The world of work is changing. Keywords such as working agilely and digitisation are on the rise and new working methods are being explored. How do you imagine the future of work?

The future of work has begun, of course, and what we are seeing is greater diversity in what criteria are being used to describe work. Generally speaking, what appears to be contradictions will be integrated into new working models, in other words, we are moving from "either/or" to "and". Let me explain that.

Three trends, namely, digitisation, globalisation and individualisation, are having a big impact on the structure of work. Work timing, content and location will be interpreted with greater individualism and personal freedom, so work models will be evolving according to individual needs during a career. In fact, career models themselves are evolving into mosaic careers. The old idea of straight upward professional mobility is giving way to a broader "lateral" perspective. Changing professions during a lifetime will become more natural.

Companies will have to learn quickly how to manage these new work criteria and aspects. Individualisation and freedom will require that individuals have the ability to be more self-responsible and to motivate and lead themselves. Meta-competencies, such as resilience, team working and decision-making, will also be required more than today. Furthermore, since careers are transforming, life-long learning will become the norm, and with that learning formats and job offers will also adapt.

Finally, so-called "old values", like reliability, trust, authenticity, security and so on, will in fact gain importance. It will be up to the employers to provide both the freedom and the orientation, which in itself reveals the integration of two contradictory ideas.

How is Alphabet preparing for the future of work?

Flexibility and curiosity are essential traits if you want to be innovative in an environment in which products and clients are constantly changing. You must be willing to collaborate and take responsibility to develop new products and services. We maintain an ongoing dialogue in our community and are constantly learning. We seek to understand our employees' needs, how they are changing and how to design an attractive work environment. Among the things we discovered is the need for freedom mentioned above. People want to take responsibility for their tasks and work in a great team. And they demand orientation from Management.

This served as a basis for our "culture at work", which is made up of different aspects of collaboration. For example, we invite our employees to develop broad perspectives by sitting down with employees they are working with most frequently at the moment. In fact, preparing for the future demands a lot of communication, self-leadership and willingness to learn. Freedom, for many of our employees, means working from wherever they want. That, in turn, means taking responsibility for planning one's day, including the all-important communication with others in the team. In other areas, such as agile work environments, work may require more presence and personal exchange but the working style itself gives the team more freedom to self-organise and collaborate even more closely.

For its part, Alphabet tries to create work environments supporting sharing, communication, concentrated work and at the same time relaxation. Many locations are implementing campus-setups, which offer more space for different working styles. We've started that in the UK, Germany and France, for example. Our employees find canteens providing healthy food, attractive cafeterias to meet and share, gyms, good travel conditions, green areas that relax the mind, and so on. Even the furniture and technical devices are carefully chosen. Last but not least, you need a proper remuneration package, including attractive benefits and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Working agilely is a big topic when it comes to the future of work. How does Alphabet apply this concept?

Agile work is applied in some parts of the company, like IT, projects, and so on. In other areas, we prefer a more classic approach that is better adapted to the particularities of their projects or daily operation. So we implement our work concept according to our needs, business and otherwise. As for the concepts themselves, they are affected more or less by factors like the respective market, its needs, topic, local or legal framework. We might, for instance, implement new work or collaborative models, or introduce desk-flexing or mobile working.

On your recently relaunched career page you mention that working at Alphabet is different. What makes Alphabet stand out?

We asked Alphabet employees around the world how they would describe Alphabet as an employer. Overall, they felt it's a real community. They praised the fresh spirit and energy, the pragmatic approach to work and the flat hierarchies. Employees are encouraged to come up with new ideas and share them with others. These ideas can then become a reality. Real outside-the-box thinking is valued, as well. Alphabet’s company culture was also noted for its wide range of career opportunities, and the emphasis on self-responsibility and personal growth. The atmosphere in the company was described as motivating, a rich combination of youthful start-up and mature enterprise, inspiration and stability. This feedback from our employees was a wonderful affirmation of our work.

You also speak on the website about how Alphabet is a family. What is working at Alphabet like?

At Alphabet, we really appreciate and support collaboration, so people are encouraged to speak up and they are heard. It definitely is a community that embraces its members and gives them a feeling of belonging. It's about real relationships, team spirit and caring for each other.

Alphabet employees have access to AlphaCity. What are the benefits?

Mobility is a basic need in our societies, so easy and convenient travel is a must. That's why we offer AlphaCity, the Corporate CarSharing solution, together with some other top-notch products, like Alphabet’s eMobility solution, AlphaElectric and the AlphaGuide app, the enhanced Business Mobility. These provide stress-free travel in the daily lives of many, including, of course, our employees. Shared mobility has a world of benefits, from more personal freedom and flexibility, to easier parking and, in general, fewer traffic jams. Indeed, if other companies would offer such benefits to their employees, life in big cities would be a lot more relaxed.

Which recruiting methods does Alphabet use today in preparation for the future of work?

We are on a quest to recruit the most committed and energetic people for our company, people who want to put great ideas into motion.  If you want to shape the future of mobility, if you are imbued with a team spirit, and you want to work in an international team, Alphabet is for you. So a cultural fit and a shared vision is very important for us.

The way we recruit is through a variety of channels that tap into local culture and opportunities. In Germany, for example, we are participating in the BMW Group's Hochschulkontakttag (the University Contacts Day), which will be held in Munich on May 5th, 2018. It's where we hope to meet and attract young professionals who want to launch their career in this fresh, smaller company of a bigger group. In some markets we also started very effective collaborations with universities and schools. Our interns and apprentices are great ambassadors, who help us to spread the Alphabet spirit into their personal networks. Of course we use social media as well, like LinkedIn. And we actively social source through our staff members all the way to the interns.

Our HR marketing look and feel follows our global Alphabet employer branding. From the jobs postings to the new Alphabet International career page, you'll always find the same energy. And the candidates will find it in the Alphabet interviews, as well. We want to live up to our promises and meet the high expectations generated by the employer branding. That is, we are an energetic community, providing freedom to grow, with strong roots and an inspiring entrepreneurial spirit. At Alphabet you are in the company of fantastic people. And if an employee leaves the company, we use the same approach. We keep moving, and we don’t stop learning.

Thanks a lot for sharing your insights with us.

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