Projects, customers and Shanghai – How CREMER is supporting its next generation
What training opportunities do you offer?
Maren Böden: We train wholesale and export trade sales personnel with a focus on international trade in Hamburg. And, as of this year, we’ve also started running a dual study program. In collaboration with the Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA), high school graduates can study for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with us. The students spend half of their time in the company where they get to know various units such as distribution, controlling and HR. We impart a broad range of business management expertise which will enable them to work in a number of different business functions.
How do you attract young talent?
Maren Böden: We find the face-to-face approach at trade fairs to be very effective. That’s why we attend the “Einstieg” fair and the Hanseatische Lehrstellenbörse (Hanseatic Apprenticeship Exchange) at the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce every year. .
As CREMER is not a well-known brand, we actively approach potential applicants and speak to them directly. This works very well. We are also present in social networks and provide a careers page with extensive information on training and how to apply on our website.
What are you looking for in applicants?
Maren Böden: Naturally, we want applicants who are motivated, ambitious and well organized, i.e. those who can show that they really want the job. But nobody needs to be able to answer every question perfectly in the interview. I like the genuine ones; the ones who have to think about the question before answering or who ask for clarification because they have not fully understood the question.
In many companies, young people only have a chance if they can submit the perfect CV. Hobbies must be relevant to the job and a semester abroad is mandatory. We try to get to know the people behind these paper profiles. Quite simply, if we see potential, we’re interested.
Making coffee and photocopies – that’s the image of training in many companies. What does training at CREMER look like?
Maren Böden: Our apprentices are actively involved from the outset. They should be able to complete tasks independently and take responsibility as soon as possible. We aim to give our apprentices permanent contracts afterwards. That’s why we make sure that they learn everything that they will need later in their job.
Our apprentices manage client accounts and visit trade fairs and factories. They get to know our business from top to bottom. We want them to use their strengths and combine their theoretical with their practical knowledge. This year, apprentices are designing a brochure for future applicants for the first time: They select a topic, do the necessary research and create the layout.
CREMER has a home on every continent. How does your international orientation impact on your training program?
Maren Böden: Our business has a heavy international focus. For example, we correspond with customers and partners from all over the world almost exclusively in English. Our apprentices are given routine tasks in the departments from the very first day.
There is always a chance that they will have to answer a call from India or an email from Singapore. To support them with this, we offer all our staff – and of course our apprentices – free language courses where necessary. Apprentices are given the opportunity to be present when international customers visit or to accompany colleagues on trips to overseas trade fairs. When apprentices demonstrate considerable commitment, they can even earn themselves an internship at one of our companies. For instance, one of our apprentices will soon be working at our site in Shanghai for a few weeks.
What do you look for in your ideal apprentice?
Maren Böden: The whole package has to be right. We like people who are authentic with rough edges. They should always be able to work independently and demonstrate commitment. We look at more than just grades. Many of our applicants have spent time abroad working as an au-pair or mixing work and travel. Others are involved in youth work or sports or have spent gap years in interesting jobs, gaining valuable practical experience. There’s no set formula when it comes to selecting candidates.
What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever experienced in an interview?
Maren Böden: It often gets interesting when you ask questions about gaps in resumes. One thing that sticks in my memory is an applicant who opted to spend a year working on a dialysis ward. I was very impressed by what she told me about the job. To come up close and personal with people experiencing such touching stories on a daily basis at just 18 – I was really impressed with that.
But sometimes we get the odd funny situation, too. For example, once a young applicant was accompanied by his mother who asked if she could come into the interview with him. Our response was: “No. Your son is an adult, he can vote and he’s certainly capable of speaking with us for an hour on his own.”
It is not just the next generation that plays a role at CREMER. You also go to great lengths to retain long-serving staff. How do you do this?
Maren Böden: This depends entirely on the individual – I reckon that’s our secret. We always have an open ear for our employees and work with them to find solutions specific to their situation. In order to give employees promotion opportunities, we do, generally speaking, always check if there are suitable internal candidates first before hiring somebody from outside.
Working together is one thing, having fun together is another. Do communal leisure activities have a role at CREMER?
Maren Böden: We place an emphasis on staff cohesion and that also includes leisure time. Every two years we host a huge summer party, we raise funds for a good cause, or have blood or bone marrow donor drives. Our employees are also heavily involved in sport. Some of them take part in the Hamburger Morgenpost relay and some competed in the Hamburg dragon boat race last year. Staff from our locations also face each other every two years in a sporting competition, the CREMER Cup.
And we launched the Lotto Lunch to help colleagues from different departments get to know one another. Every month, we draw names to select people to spend a lunch break together and CREMER helps cover the costs for the meal. The better employees know and get on with one another, the better they work together.