Interview Marcus Merheim

German companies are suffering from an enormous shortage of skilled workers. What role can employer branding play here?

The job market has turned 180 degrees. Companies no longer get tons of applications. They have to rethink – and they do. They realize that they have to present themselves differently. Because for them, it’s no longer about getting the best people, but about getting people at all. Employer branding is often wrongly dismissed as an additional recruiting tool. But employer branding is about the core of the company: What values prevail? What is the vision, the mission, the guiding principle? In short, how is the company’s identity as an employer defined?


For whom is the topic of employer branding particularly interesting? For the small startup, the medium-sized company, the large corporation, or even for everyone?

Until now, employer branding has been something only for the big players, for the corporations with the fat budgets and inexhaustible resources. But that’s nonsense: Employer branding makes sense from the second employee onwards! I see this with my clients, who come from all sectors: The startup that uses employer branding to develop in the right direction, both humanly and culturally, and also a corporation with more than 10,000 employees. I would also go further in this context and not just talk about companies. Employer branding is important for all forms of organization in which people interact with each other.


What do you think are the biggest challenges for HR departments in the future?

Companies need to be able to really respond to the wishes and concerns of their employees. At the moment, there is often still a false self-perception. For example, I’m hearing from many companies right now who are saying that the home office worked out great during the pandemic. Now, however, all employees are forced to come back to the office – and make zoom calls from there. Nobody wants that! I’m convinced that companies that force people back into the office will definitely lose out. So in essence, companies will have to find and clearly define themselves in the future, they will have to be authentic and show that to the outside world so that the right people take notice of them as an employer. 


And what skills should employees bring with them in the future?

Curiosity is becoming increasingly important – on both sides! I’ve always celebrated the fact that when the Internet came along at an advanced age, my father didn’t resist it, but was totally open to it. We then discovered the Internet together, which was really cool. For me, that’s a great example of curiosity: being open and also taking a closer look at things that don’t seem that interesting at first glance.

At the same time, there is a new challenge for employees: the agony of choice! Today, everyone can constantly reorient themselves, become self-employed, work from anywhere. Frithjof Bergmann, the mastermind behind New Work, said: “How can I be sure that as an employee I will find the job I really want to do? In addition, many things are still changing and evolving today, because we don’t stop learning new things after school, apprenticeship, university, etc. – the keyword here is lifelong learning. 


That’s a good keyword: How can companies support their employees in this area and thus retain them?

I strongly advise companies to address this issue. There is nothing better for them than to give their employees the feeling that they are really investing in them. By that I don’t mean sweets in the office or free beer at the Christmas party, but something that really fulfills people and thus binds them to the company in question. 

Just as crucial is the way in which educational opportunities are offered. Here it is important for employers and employees to work out in dialogue which measures make sense. Above all, they should work together to create a common thread that evolves from year to year.


The Campus Founders want to continue to set impulses in the area of lifelong learning and are pursuing this topic with great commitment. Right up front with the Learn Tech Hub (LTH). In your opinion, what positive contribution can the LTH make to lifelong learning?

I think the LTH can make a big difference here. On the one hand, there is a tremendous warmth, a positive atmosphere and a lot of curiosity. On the other hand, you obviously have a lot of expertise, even if no one there would claim to already know everything – and that’s a good thing! This makes the LTH open to new ideas, and that is precisely one of the basic prerequisites for lifelong learning. 


The LTH sees itself as a kind of incubator for the working world and education of the future throughout Europe. Imagine if you could have your own idea incubated. What would that be?

The development of a tool to identify a perfect match between an employer and an employee. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any really good tools for this at the moment. But if a tool were to be realized or implemented, I would love to be a part of it! (laughs)


You could build the ideal working world of the future yourself, what would it look like?

The working world of the future that I would like to see is one that is characterized by trust, friendliness, goal orientation and free will. But there are many question marks along the way: What will the office of the future look like? Where, when and in what form will we work in the future? Digitization, for example, is advancing rapidly. This is changing an incredible number of aspects of working life. But what aspects exactly will these be? These are all topics that will pose major challenges for companies now and in the future.


About Marcus Merheim:

Marcus Merheim has been working in the HR world for more than ten years, dealing with a wide variety of HR topics from a marketing perspective. In terms of content, his focus is on recruiting and employer branding, as well as new work and digitalization. 

As the founder of hooman EMPLOYER MARKETING, he focuses on the interface between HR and marketing. He is convinced that employer branding can only unfold its full effect as a powerful tool of strategic corporate management if recruiting & retention, based on a strong employer brand, are conducted professionally and, above all, credibly. In addition, Marcus is Chairman of the “Working World of the Future” department at the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft.


About LearnTechHub (LTH):

The LearnTech Hub is located on the education campus of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation in Heilbronn and was founded by the Campus Founders. The innovative pool sees itself as a unique ecosystem that connects Europe’s most creative minds around the topics of education and work. The initiators of the LearnTech Hub accelerate the development of innovative technologies in the fields of EdTech, HR Tech and New Work by actively promoting the cooperation of startups, companies and educational institutions from all over Europe. In this way, the innovation center creates diverse educational and work opportunities of the future.

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