Employer Branding T.I.P S02Ep05 | Employer Branding comes from within: attract & retain people with the right mindset with Maike Hartung @commercetools


Ep. 5 of Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast is out! In this episode, you’ll be listening to Maike Hartung, Employer Branding Manager at @commercetools. Maike has shared with us vital information on the importance of attracting and retaining people with the right mindset. Employees come first! We couldn’t agree more. Tune in for more insightful thoughts. 

What you’ll learn by listening 

  • Employer branding accompanies the employees throughout their whole work life at a company
  • Internal & external employer branding 
  • Employees come first – attracting and retaining people with the right mindset is actually the key to our long term success
  • Team ideas, the key to fulfilling the company vision & purpose
  • Guidelines on maintaining employee engagement in these tough times 
  • Employee engagement initiatives to instill a sense of well-being & belonging 
  • Employer branding predictions for the future 

About the company 

commercetools is a next-generation software company that offers a true cloud-native, headless commerce platform that provides the building blocks for the new digital commerce age. Our leading-edge API approach helps retailers create brand value by empowering commerce teams to design unique and engaging digital commerce experiences everywhere – today and in the future.

Podcast link – enjoy listening! 

Podcast transcription 

Georgiana: Good morning, everyone! This is another episode of Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. My name is Georgiana, and today I’m talking to Maike Hartung, who is Employer Branding Manager at Commerce Tools. Good morning, Maike! Nice to have you here. 

Maike Hartung: Hi, good morning! Thank you so much for having me. 

Georgiana: Maike, you know, I usually start my podcasts with an introduction from the guest. So, please tell me what your role entails and what your company does.

Maike Hartung: So, Commerce Tools is a software company. We offer a cloud-native, headless commerce platform that enables our customers to design unique and engaging digital commerce experiences. And we were founded in Munich, but we now have offices all over Europe, the US, Singapore, and Australia. I am the Employer Branding Manager here in Berlin, and I care for the external and internal employer branding issues.

Georgiana: Well, you know, you’re one of the more experienced employer branding managers that I’ve spoken to so far, in the sense that the entire domain of employer branding is quite new. And while looking at your LinkedIn profile, I was so happy to see that some companies in Germany have had this role for a few years now. After a few years and four companies in this role, what is your favorite part about doing employer branding?

Maike Hartung: My favorite part is definitely the internal employer branding part; so actively contributing to the culture, the well-being, and the motivation of my colleagues, it’s just extremely rewarding and so exciting. Sometimes I actually feel like I can’t even believe that I’m being paid to do this. 

Georgiana: And if you were to think of a part that you don’t like about employer branding, in general?

Maike Hartung: So this is definitely not true for Commerce Tools. But I do see that there has been a great change in general. I would say that a lot of companies still think employer branding is almost only external. They invest in employer branding activities only when they’re in need of new employees. But they feel like they’re not getting the right applications in quality and quantity-wise sense. So they focus on the external part. And they roll out these expensive, yet really great campaigns, and hope that this will solve their recruiting challenges. 

Personally, I think it might work, but most likely just in the short run. Employer branding comes from within. To me, employer branding accompanies the employees throughout their whole work life at a company from the first day that they actually build the desire to work there, through the application phase, through the recruiting phase, the onboarding phase, which is also extremely crucial; growing and developing with the job, the role, until they leave for whatever reason. This is all employee branding to me. And the internal part is the most important part. So, I do not like when companies tend to focus on the external part without having the basis to back it up. 

Georgiana: Would you say this is also how Commerce Tools understands employer branding? With more focus on the internal part?

Maike Hartung: Yeah, definitely. Commerce Tools has, in my opinion, the approach that the employees come first, and that attracting and retaining people with the right mindset is actually the key to our long-term success. And it wouldn’t help us if we communicated to the outside world how great we are as an employer, and then fail to live up to these expectations. Even if we may have one of the best products out there, we have to invest in our people’s skills and happiness in order to keep being successful and to stay on top.  

I do feel like Commerce Tools understands that in the end, it is the team that comes up with the ideas and the innovation to fulfill the vision and the purpose of the company. So we definitely work on establishing and maintaining a work environment where people know and feel how appreciated they are because they are the reason for our success. And we definitely want them to keep being part of this exciting journey. And I really love this mindset about the company.

Georgiana: Well, you were mentioning the workspace and actually everybody nowadays talks about the hybrid workspace or the hybrid HR. I’m wondering if you know, at some point, we won’t be talking about hybrid employee engagement. How does the company maintain engagement in these challenging times?

Maike Hartung: This is a very good and interesting question. We do focus a lot of our efforts on exactly that at the moment. It is hard for all of us to be working from home every day; to get motivated, to separate work and private life when you basically just move from your bed to your laptop; and sometimes even with the laptop to your bed. But also, when a lot of the things people used to do to relax and unwind are just not possible at the moment. On top of that comes the distance to the colleagues due to not seeing each other at the office; no quick chats by the coffee machine or lunches together; no spontaneous after-work meetups, and everything just seems to be virtual and very distant. 

For the newbies, it’s just as challenging. They do remote onboarding. We focus a lot of our efforts on these topics at the moment, like initiatives on targeting well-being and the sense of belonging. But I also have to say that I’m absolutely impressed by my colleagues. They are such a great bunch of supporting, excited, and motivated people that whenever we propose or offer an initiative, or ask for a contribution, they take part; they actively support; they show up and that’s just great.

Georgiana: You know, as you were mentioning, onboarding, and the people being onboarded in the company, I just thought how difficult it must be to be onboarded during Corona. And I just keep forgetting sometimes that people are actually starting new jobs in this environment. And yeah, I just find this really, really difficult. I mean, I don’t know how I would do it.

Maike Hartung: That’s a very challenging topic, definitely. But I think Commerce Tools is doing a great job at this. It’s a great effort from our colleagues who are very communicative and supportive, and they’re always there for each other.

Georgiana: That’s great. Maike, you know, I usually ask my guests for something that they can recommend to our listeners. A nice article or a good book that they read recently? Do you have something like that on your sleeve?

Maike Hartung: I do. But it’s not necessarily employer branding related. It’s a book by John Carreyrou, and it’s called Bad Blood. And it’s about the true story of Elizabeth Holmes and her startup. For some reason, I really love reading books on business crimes, and this one I found particularly interesting. 

Georgiana: Well, you know what, I just started reading crime books, since Corona started. To me, it was like the one way I could really unwind and disconnect from the outside world. And it’s actually a type of book that I would always say, ‘Oh, I’m never going to read that, that’s never going to be for me’. I just loved them, I devoured them. It’s like, I wait for the evening to come to read another crime book. So I might just look into that, actually. Moving on, one mistake you’ve done in your career as an employer branding manager that you found has really helped you learn?

Maike Hartung: Probably focusing on the external part too much without making sure to have the internal basis to back it up. People will find out, they will realize if you try to communicate something that you maybe want to be, but you’re not there yet. And it’s better, to be honest, and say, ‘Hey, we’re working on this. We’re going to get there, but we’re not quite there yet’ than to pretend. People will get frustrated, and it’s not fun.

Georgiana: That strikes me as interesting and I personally believe that in a way, it could be some sort of a rookie mistake to just focus on the outside. Because whenever we work with our clients on employer branding strategies, we always look inside first. And we always survey employees to see what’s happening there, what’s working and what’s not. And only then do we draft the strategy for the external communication. So that’s surprising for me to hear that sometimes people focus too much or exclusively on the exterior part. I’ve heard it from a couple of friends and colleagues. 

But there has been a great change, definitely a notable change as well. So yeah, I’m hoping it’s going to continue like that. Hopefully, where would you say employer branding will be 10 years from now?

Maike Hartung: Well, as I said, the focus has not only been shifting to the internal employer branding but also just like you mentioned. And I’m sure that this development will continue. And companies, do realize more and more that happy and motivated employees are the key to their success in the long run. 

Georgiana: I think it’s definitely going to be interesting for us. Because to me – I won’t call it movement – but this entire concern about employer branding is just starting to develop. And I feel like we’re at the beginning of the wave. So I think it’s going to be really exciting for us to see where the wave takes us. We’ll look back and say, “Ha, I thought about that or ‘I told you so’ or ‘I didn’t tell you’. So it’s gonna be nice. Okay, and my last question, if you had the ideal budget, what would you do at Commerce Tools in terms of employer branding?

Maike Hartung: Right now, I would love to create a big team event for everyone to get together for a couple of days. And just enjoy the company, the team, the people, everything. But this is not a budget challenge, as we all know. The great thing about Commerce Tools is that I feel like if you can argue why you want to do something, why it would benefit in the long or in the short run, and you can back it up, I’m pretty sure you’ll get the green light. So

Georgiana: And hopefully the health status, the health situation is going to help us a little more from now on. Okay, thank you so much, Maike, for talking to me today. I wish you the best of luck with Commerce Tools and hope to meet you soon.

Maike Hartung: Thank you so much for your time and the invitation. And yeah, I hope to speak soon.

Georgiana: Bye-bye. This was Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. You can find our podcasts on Spotify on Apple podcasts and content on employer branding-related things on employerbranding.tech. Until the next time, stay tuned.

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