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Five questions for Monika Franke

Polestar Head of HR Monika Franke on how social media favours democracy and equality.

The more transparency, the better. It favours democracy and equality and counteracts corruption and discrimination within corporations.

How does the reality of your job compare with what people think you do?

When I tell people I work in HR, a lot of them assume that I mainly oversee staffing and recruitment, which is only a fraction of my job. I usually speak in terms of growing the organisation’s performance capabilities. We do this by being completely integrated and constantly up to date with what’s happening in every department within the organisation; assisting and operating where we’re needed. It can be anything. From expanding the company into new markets, applying change and development processes, bringing new people together to work on a project, developing leadership skills, or offering support in times of change. A question that I get at least 20 times a day is “Monika, do you have two minutes?”. That question can lead to a hundred different outcomes and take me into a huge variety of areas. For example, “we want to register this legal entity in Germany – what kind of pension agreement do we need to have there?” or “how quick can we set up an R&D unit in the UK?”. So, the question is very significant because working in HR means you are both the spider in the web and the creator of the web itself, tasked with holding it together!

Tell us about a trend that is shaping your area of work at the moment.

Analytics is a game changer. The more data-insight driven we become as a company, the more our decision making is going to be based on this. In this way, we can develop the business on the firmer foundations that are data analytics. We also see an expanding trend in the use of artificial intelligence in HR processes. It can be extremely helpful when, for example, you want to look into why people choose to leave a company. It gives us substantial analyses, rather than just arbitrary observations. When we use AI for these matters, it also means that we free up qualified expertise that can be used in administrative work, for example. If you don’t have to go through 300 job applications or micro-manage inter-departmental transfers, you’ll have more time to work creatively.

What is your favourite invention (you can’t say electrification)?

Optical lenses! I am practically blind without my glasses. Optical lenses gave us photography, film, a lot of things that I’m thankful for. Without them I would literally have stumbled through life.

What has happened or changed in your area of work over the last 10 years?

Something that’s had a great impact on all businesses is how we use social media. A lot of interaction between people in and outside of the business now happens via social media, whether it’s employer branding, attraction, recruitment, communication or customer interaction. Social media allows for a greater transparency and it has hugely affected HR, in a good way. It gives us access to previously unreachable places where we can find new talent. It also creates a “place” where people can connect and create ideas together as well as allowing us to communicate with a larger, wider audience. Another positive effect is that it puts pressure on companies to be ethical. You can no longer cover things up, as social media almost always takes issues into the public domain. It demands that companies act more responsibly, encourages ethical leadership, and urges us to work sustainably. Before social media it was easier for companies to maintain a certain image without fully committing to it. Now, if you don’t, that’s going to come out and force you to take action. Social media has also allowed for more fluid feedback. We no longer work with yearly processes like we did before, where one manager, at the beginning of the year, sets goals and prospects, and reviews it at the end of the year. Today, we use feedback for development purposes, not only for retrospective evaluation. We receive feedback from a lot of different people, spread throughout the year and the process is more iterative in its form. This allows for a more egalitarian structure and culture. I am a committed advocate for ethical leadership, which is why I appreciate the transparency that social media encourages. The more transparency, the better. All evolution points to this. It favours democracy and equality and counteracts corruption and discrimination within corporations.

What makes you hopeful for the future?

What makes me hopeful for the future is that my six-year-old son is teaching me about recycling and the cleaning of beaches. He has also influenced his grandparents in these matters, and I feel that he’s part of a very powerful generation. Children and young people are so focused on sustainability. When my six-year-old is already this enlightened about environmental responsibility it makes me realise the planet will be in good hands in the future. It’s our duty to protect it for them in the meantime.

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