Harald Schirmer - es kommt nicht nur darauf an, was wir tun, sondern WIE wir es tun!

Ask your great Employees – you hired the best ones!

Organizations are so strange. Everyone wants the high potentials, the best employees on the market. But once they are hired, they are often put into the „leader“ (think, involve, solution) and the „employee“ (work, follow, problem) drawer.

So employees are not being asked or involved in decision making or planning. That might sound black and white, but ask yourself:


Who is asked in your organization,
once a decision is needed?
Leaders or Employees


I am happy to share with you the results of one of my recent projects at Continental on my future work mission – the Flexibility Engagement Campaign – For people, with people.



Click below to read the full story with additional videos, results and summary presentation:

To drive our Digital Transformation we have identified four management areas that are of critical importance to the ongoing success of digitized manufacturing, mobility, and our future work at Continental:

Flexibility, Diversity, Leadership and Learning:


In 2016 we developed an engagement concept to give all our employees the chance to be involved in our planning of a part of „Future Work“ at Continental: Flexibility


In more than 90% of our locations (50 countries) we roll out „Flexibility“ including Mobile Work, Part Time and Flextime Work and Sabbaticals. During this project, we involved our employees via our Enterprise Social Network „ConNext“ with the following goals:

Mission & Goals in our campaign:

  • Introduce our flexibility approach & actively ask for feedback
  • use the power of global diversity = better decisions
  • exemplify future opportunities by promoting role models
  • leading organizational change by transparency, appreciation and involvement
  • Provide training for giving feedback as well as  digital communication & collaboration via repeating circles


Typically the management is careful about opening the „concert of wishes“ and is afraid of what happens with this open box of pandora in terms of transparency, cultural differences, elimination of hierarchy (in the communication) and directness.

  • What if all start answering, demanding, criticizing?   … effort
  • What if there is a majority and we have to decide otherwise?  … loosing power
  • What if there is a shit storm? … critical issues
  • What if …    … doubts

Very natural questions, if you have no experience or never tried something like that. In the past employees have only been „involved“ via surveys or individual interviews. Standard Change Management Methods always focus on „involvement“, but until the availability of Enterprise Social Networking, real involvement of large, global groups has not been possible. Today we have the technical and cultural foundation for real involvement, live, direct, transparent, cross-culture and hierarchy … everyone, without filters or massive resources needed (e.g. for consolidation).

I am using such methods of engaging and involving large groups of employees for more than 10 years now, so I was confident this will work. Besides in my experience, the very typical fear of too many colleagues participating – potentially even „all of them“, creating too much effort:

It is never a problem of „too much engagement“!

Do not fear to get too much feedback (and if so, first ESN will automatically help you to consolidate with likes and comments and second, it is a great indicator for urgently needed action – which should never be ignored) but think of how to engage employees and provide possibilities for concrete feedback to concrete questions. We can also train people by not only asking, but also telling how you would like to have the answer. Make it a learning journey for everyone involved.

Social discussions or dialogs in a company on eye level have to be learned – by leaders and employees! This is why the setup of the campaign was designed in four equal circles, all starting with a video interview (to give basic information, inspiration and real life experience) followed by concrete questions to the discussed topic. Than everyone could answer and discuss it (all other questions have been allowed too). At the end of each cycle we gave an audio statement with „what we have learned“ and next steps.

We used a ConNext Community where we guided our employees with Wiki Pages (content, pictures, videos, links, timeline…) to the options for engagement via our forums, blog (commenting and liking.. to add relevance) and ideation blog for idea collection. In the files section all material and videos have been made available – which allowed transparent action tracking (downloads, sharing, likes, comments).

To demonstrate that the effort of involving a large amount of people (our board invited about 140.00o employees) can be handled I took over Community Management (I prefer leadership 😉 for the whole campaign – from introducing via open calls and web sessions, preparing and publishing content, to engaging discussions, routing questions to responsible’s, summarizing lessons learned and consolidating results and KPIs – with some help of great volunteers.

Campaign overview video:

(same as first video in the teaser of this post)


The results of the campaign:

As well the quality and quantity results impressed the campaign stakeholders – building the confidence and trust for more future engagements like this. As often it takes an experiment to create the experience needed for the next steps.

  • Everyone involved (HR Executive Board, Works Council, Project Team for roll out & our Employees) shared their great appreciation of this new approach
  • “We did not expect such a positive & constructive atmosphere
  • “The discussions and feedback really improved our quality
  • “We gained very concrete and relevant insights
  • “The impact on this open campaign could be experienced on multiple levels

In numbers, we could achieve more than 680.000 actions of our leaders and employees in this community, without any negative things like bashing, complaining or inappropriate comments.

At Continental we call that „Great People Culture“


To give you a real live impression – not „just“ promotional videos, here is a full length video interview (as we had 5 of them for each topic). Future Work Moderator Ingo Stoll from „Transformationswerk.de“ interviewed our Executive Board Member, Dr. Ariane Reinhart and Head of Corporate Labor Relations, Dirk Siebels for their final summary and conclusion of our Engagement Campaign. Both have been impressed by the engagement, openness and value in the feedback of our colleagues worldwide.



I am very happy that I was able to demonstrate to our leaders, how employees can be openly involved. Bottom Up works and drives better decisions – the fear of loosing power has been proved wrong – instead decision making is better by first hand perspectives, the richness of diversity and by involving people in this process. The following change and adoption process also become a lot „easier“ with less resistance. We could build the trust for future cross-hierarchy collaboration.

Finally I am very thankful about everyone involved before, during and even after the campaign – you can imagine how great it feels to see the results now even on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and other external channels. Special thanks also to Ingo Stoll and his great team (and awesome location) for all the support, moderation and video work.



On Slideshare you can find the
summary presentation of our engagement campaign:

Next to some facts and the summary you can also find a selection of statements from various leaders and employees participating in the campaign:

[slideshare id=72279952&doc=20170119resultsflexibilityengagmentcampaign-170217172555]



and we just got started!




Dein Feedback:

4 Antworten

  1. Avatar von Harald Lauritsch

    Thank you for sharing this journey, Harald,
    which frankly addresses the risks and concerns as well. And encourage to keep going, anyway 🙂

    Just summarized and linked your post to our internal social network. Already received some likes.

    Kudos — Hardy

    1. Avatar von haraldschirmer

      Thanks a lot, yes – we all know what it takes for sustainable change – lack of commitment, understanding and resources or persistence are surely the most critical ones

  2. […] mit weiteren Hintergrundinformationen ist mein ursprünglicher Artikel „Ask your great Employees – you hired the best ones!“ jetzt auch auf Deutsch verfügbar: Wie man mit Hilfe von organisationsinternem Social Media […]

  3. Avatar von Sebastian Hollmann

    Dear Harald,

    thanks for sharing such great insights into your work and your approach in particular – I really appreciate such an opportunity to get some inspiration for my own work.

    Besides, I really like the structure of the presentation you shared on slideshare. It’s always a good idea to start with the „Why“ (external necessity from a market perspective and internal mission towards the employees) and then proceed by adressing the What-(which aspects are covered) and the How-Level (methodology and first results/answers). So this turns out to be quite a good story for the reader – thumbs up!

    What remains a little unclear to me is the „training“ aspect on slide 3. What do you exactly mean by „feedback“ – do you refer to building general feedback skills (on perfomance and behavior) or do you want to receive feedback concerning the implementation of the campaign’s measures? Why do you go back to „introducing“ the approach after the feedback – this refers to a continuous improvement of the initiatives, right?

    What I would further be interested in (probably this will still follow) is what the concrety initiatives will look like and what will be the next steps to take in order to roll out the campaign.

    Looking foward to discussing this with you face-to-face and experiencing it from March on… Go ahead and stay NeuGierig 😉


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