Inga Dransfeld-Haase: Interview with Mentessa’s Advisory Board

Inga Dransfeld-Haase, President of the Federal Association of Personnel Managers, is one of the prominent members of Mentessa's newly established advisory board. In this interview she shares with us her motivation behind sharing her scarce free time with a startup and learn about the skills of the future

1. Do you have previous experience with startups?

I have been President of the Federal Association of Personnel Managers (BPM) for four years now and, among other things, I am a member of the jury for the HR Start-up Award. Every year we receive a large number of applications for innovative HR products there, which I am very happy about and from which I can learn a lot. So I often come into contact with incredibly good founders and am aware of the importance of the work of these young companies for Germany as a business location and the future viability of the country. Many years ago, I myself had seriously considered working as an HR manager for a young start-up in order to shape HR work right from the start and to be able to set up a flexible organization for the rapid growth. Ultimately, I decided against it, and that was a good thing, because the start-up was quickly taken over and integrated into a group.

2. What made you decide to join our advisory board?

I was convinced by Mentessa’s strong team and the brilliant idea. I would like to invest my limited free time wisely and I find it exciting and enriching to pass on the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the years as a manager in corporations to a young company. We enrich each other and I am grateful to be part of the team and appreciate the exchange of ideas.

3. How can experienced top managers benefit from start-ups and vice versa by exchanging experiences?

Top managers benefit from the fact that start-ups rethink a specific issue and bring innovative solutions and new products to the market without to be integrated into the structures of a large organization. Speed of implementation, efficient work with plenty of freedom to try things out are important advantages of start-ups. They help large organizations to develop further and point out weaknesses and blind spots. In exchange, start-ups benefit from the fact that they can test whether their product or service is actually needed in the form offered and what exactly the requirements of the companies are in order to be able to introduce the offer as easily as possible. The idea of the founders then often encounters legal requirements, data protection, different languages and many interfaces and that brings both sides back to reality. Overall, the exchange promotes better mutual understanding and brings the two different worlds closer together.

4. In addition to the increasing role of informal knowledge exchange, what do you think are other important topics in the transformation of work?

We published the most important HR theses 2023 as BPM at the beginning of the year, in which we – as always after a long discussion process with our members – have formulated what will be decisive for the transformation and the future of work. The topics of ESG and sustainability are particularly important to me, as well as the triad of recruiting, purpose and retention management against the shortage of skilled workers. I think that transformation was just a projection on the distant horizon for a long time, now it’s suddenly on everyone’s lips, palpable and real. Whether energy or mobility transition – the changes that will take place by the end of the decade are unprecedented for the German economy since the days of industrialization. It is becoming increasingly clear to me: Transformation does not come from us. It is made by people. And we in HR design it ourselves. That also means: At the end of the day, transformation is a craft. It’s not about strategic grand visions, but about very tangible tasks such as the professionalization of internal labor markets or systematic strategic personnel planning.

5. How can companies support their employees in developing their potential in the new world of work?

It is important to have a modern corporate culture with managers who focus their actions on employees as people and treat them as equals regardless of their hierarchical level in the company. This applies regardless of the new or conventional working environment. Employees who feel valued and taken seriously, who are listened to and whose suggestions are implemented, perform better and are happier. Freedom and flexibility in the organization of working hours as well as a good work-life balance are also cornerstones of a supportive corporate culture. Managers are responsible for knowing their employees well and deploying, challenging and promoting them according to their strengths. Lifelong learning, curiosity and openness to change are essential to be able to leverage the full potential of employees in the future.

6. What are the key skills you benefit from today that you didn’t have at the beginning of your career and only learned in the world of work?

I learned patience, resilience, humility, adaptability and being a good listener in my professional life and continue to work on it.

7. In your opinion, which skills will become increasingly important in the coming years?

I attribute increasing importance to the skills of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, curiosity and innovative strength. In the interpersonal realm empathy, dialogue and conflict skills are particularly in demand. The speed of transformation will not decrease and therefore resilience as well as digital literacy will go hand in hand.

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