Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s streamlined approach to global recruiting positions them for success.
By Debbie Bolla
By its nature, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is a complex business. With 50,000 employees in nearly 70 countries, the leading science and technology company executes business in not one, but three sectors: healthcare, life science, and performance materials. In the United States and Canada, they are operating as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science and EMD in performance materials.
With such a high level of complexity, there is no understating the value of consistent processes. Just ask Severin Faust. The head of HR services and recruiting is tasked with overseeing the company’s nearly 7,000 annual permanent hires across its global footprint. When he took over the recruiting organization in 2014, streamlining the hiring process was at the top of his priority list.
“I came with a very particular mission and mandate from my organization to ﬁnd a way to make recruiting much more reliable, measurable, more visible to customers, and to identify the cost drivers,” he says.
Acting as a change agent, Faust brought fresh eyes and a fresh approach to a broken process. A few short years ago, the recruiting team was challenged to ﬁnd a way in serving already 6,000 hires with very limited internal resources of 40 recruiters. As Faust says, “No matter how you play the game, you will ﬁnd out that this is simply not feasible.”
Faust and his team had to take an agile approach since the company was not looking to signiﬁcantly increase its internal recruitment team. Faust’s solution? Enhance an existing engagement with workforce solutions provider Randstad Sourceright. At the time, the partnership between the two wasn’t as aligned as it could have been. As Faust says, all it took was a little common sense and a clear outline of key performance indicators (KPIs) to drive business strategy.
Streamlining processes was core to ensuring that global recruiting was consistent across all countries for both internal and external hires. The organization has an equal distribution of nearly 2,300 permanent hires per region in which it does business: APAC, EMEA and North and Latin America. When hiring was executed by the team of 40 recruiters in the past, some regions received more specialized, high-touch attention than others. To overcome the situation, Consistency was key.
“If we compare the past and today, very few countries had the same level of work from the internal recruiters,” Faust explains. “So we segmented recruiting and applied a strategy to define what hires would be done with internal recruiters—middle management and up—and the rest was to go external where technically feasible.”
This is not an uncommon approach. Volume hiring often falls to an RPO provider because there’s strength in numbers—an RPO provider has the resources and expertise to handle a large amount of hiring when needed. That’s been a consistent advantage of RPO—the ability to flex up or down. In fact, NelsonHall’s seventh Global RPO Market Analysis names “scalability and agility to meet business demands” as one of the five main reasons organizations leverage RPO. Within the global footprint of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the countries with the most demand for volume hiring include India, the U.S., Germany, Brazil, and China.
Middle and executive management positions are handled by the company’s internal talent acquisition team. “This way, there is a very clear connection to our internal talent, their development, and our succession planning,” explains Faust. “Internal recruiters are connecting the dots under the perspective of potential executives in the company.”
Once the “what” was determined, it was time to focus on the “how.” At the same time that the contract with Randstad Sourceright was updated, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, redefined its own internal global recruiting processes. There was a big shift to accountability, says Faust: “We have applied a lot of new principles to ensure accountability of line management for hiring decisions.”
For the complete placement process, each step of the hiring process is within the realm of the line manager’s responsibility—everything from search to selection and offer—but supported by robust HR processes and products. Faust says this mirrors the overall mindset of the organization, and helps to steer global talent management because it’s clear who made the hiring decision. And it has been well-received. “Our managers embrace this thinking,” he says.
The Details Within the Data
The company’s culture of accountability requires each business function to share its successes and challenges. For the newly restructured, global recruiting approach, Faust relied very much on data to show its strengths and weaknesses. Helping to enable this was technology. The organization implemented SuccessFactors in 2014 and Visier in 2015 to track KPIs as well as ensure processes were the same in every country. The dashboard is a global tool and accommodates language and country needs.
“The data really helps them looks more to the future,” says Chris Hutt, operations director for Randstad Sourceright. “It can be used for field steering and to drive the business strategy.”
Faust says the technology provides straightforward data in terms of metrics around time to interview, time to hire, time to offer, and source of hire. The organization also has a clear picture of costs—cost of hire, external costs, etc. “I can now compare the channels on a much more comprehensive level,” Faust says.
Outside of the normal metrics, Faust recalls one unique discovery that was made within the data. Reports were able to provide a clear picture of what sources were valuable in terms of hiring and which ones were coming up short. In fact, Faust says social platforms were initially not showing the outcomes that were expected, while the internal referral program was much more fruitful than hoped for.
“This was a real eye-opener,” says Faust. “Our working assumption was that nowadays, in the modern world, social platforms would work. But there are so many profiles with no pre-selection. It’s a question of the amount of effort you want to put in to digest all the different applications. It was surprisingly ineffective.”
This is a great example that shows data doing what it can do best—helping the organization change its investment strategy. The company reduced its investment in job boards and put that money to more effective use.
“The talent acquisition function is to get talent into the business with the right skill, at the right time,” explains Hutt. “Metrics and common process allows that. The science and technology company uses metrics and analytics to do workforce planning and drive a stronger message to market.”
A current talent management initiative for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is leveraging global talent pools and internal mobility programs. “We are looking to achieve more here,” says Faust. “We want to invest more in the mid-level hires because within our global talent tool, we can source from everywhere.”
Being in 70 countries is challenging, but also an area for growth. The company has so much talent within its global footprint—leveraging it through succession planning is a focus for the future. “It has lots of potential, especially with internal mobility,” says Faust. But the process of moving employees from different countries for vertical growth is something the organization is fine-tuning.
On the external hiring side, Faust points out that Randstad Sourceright excels at leveraging the talent pool of non-managerial positions to the benefit of its customer Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
Total Talent Management Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has also invested in Randstad Sourceright’s managed services provider (MSP) program for the management of some of its contingent labor. Compared to 10 years ago, the make-up of the workforce is a very different one, and as Faust says, the definition of worker types is becoming more and more blurred. By working toward a total talent management program, the company has more flexibility in finding the right person for the right period or for the right position.
“Having one view on the workforce is key to reduce barriers between permanent and temporary workers,” Faust says.
Through the recent changes, Faust has a much clearer picture of the global workforce. A hybrid approach to recruitment, one that combines both internal and external resources, allows Faust and his team to drive business strategy.
By The Numbers
Randstad Sourceright delivers RPO and MSP services to Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany across all global regions and in 19 countries, with additional countries to be added soon.
• 5,000 permanent and contingent hires per year supported by Randstad Sourceright
• More than €100 million MSP spend under management and €30 million contract workforce supply