Developing a global leadership culture in an enterprise of entrepreneurs
Freudenberg is a global technology group that strengthens its customers and society long-term through forward-looking innovations. Together with its partners, customers and research institutions, the Freudenberg Group develops leading-edge technologies and excellent products and services for about 40 markets and for thousands of applications: seals, vibration control components, technical textiles, filters, specialty chemicals, medical products and the most modern cleaning products. Strength of innovation, strong customer orientation, diversity, and team spirit are the cornerstones of the Group. The 170-year-old company holds strong to its core values: a commitment to excellence, reliability and pro-active, responsible action. In 2018, the Freudenberg Group employed more than 49,000 people in some 60 countries worldwide and generated sales of more than €9.4 billion.
Freudenberg sees itself as an enterprise of entrepreneurs. Operational business is handled by independent companies who are responsible for managing and leading the business. Each independent company belongs in turn to one of the business groups. In the past, each business group was responsible for their own leadership development. Freudenberg wanted to change this by creating a consistent global leadership culture that would help to create better use of synergies and prepare their leaders for constant change.
Together with HR & L&D professionals from the different groups, Freudenberg set up a leadership framework, describing the desired leadership behaviours and skills at different leadership levels. To implement this new framework and to introduce, practice, and apply the desired behaviours and skills on a broad scale, it was vital for Freudenberg to develop a global leadership programme and roll it out in the group.
Freudenberg was looking for a training partner who could run the training programme worldwide in local languages. It was also important that the trainers were able to adapt the training content to local culture while remaining consistent with the global programme.
Another important factor was the capacity of the training company. They needed to be able to train a high number of participants and respond to new demands within a certain timeframe.
Freudenberg conducted a very thorough multi-stage selection process with potential training vendors. They wanted to be sure that the training company could really live up to their promises by showing how they would train the new behaviours and skills. After sampling a training session attended by senior leaders, Freudenberg decided to work with Krauthammer because they had the best evaluation for their trainers and the best training approach.
Together with many different stakeholders, Freudenberg and Krauthammer designed a global leadership concept consisting of four tailor-made leadership programmes. Each programme was designed specifically for the leadership challenges of the target participants. With these four programmes, Freudenberg will continue to support their leaders and their development, enabling them to successfully go through different leadership transitions and meet their specific needs and challenges.
The programmes consist of three on-site training blocks, lasting three days each. A kick-off session, two web training sessions, and an exchange with a senior leader are included in the programme.
The roll out started with Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST), the largest business group within the Freudenberg group. After very positive feedback, proving that the trainers were delivering the same quality in different countries, the roll out of the programmes began on a larger scale. As of now, training has taken place in China, Europe, USA, and South America. Training languages included so far are German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. Freudenberg plans to spread the programmes to more regions and languages (Turkish, Russian, and Japanese).
The engagement of top management is also contributing to internal success and appreciation of the programme. Senior managers regularly engage in discussions with the leaders who are taking part in a training programme to share personal experiences, successes, and pitfalls from their own careers.
So far, around 1,500 people have been trained.
With the roll out of the leadership development programmes, Freudenberg is enabling their leaders to speak a common language and to use the same leadership tools across different regions. This can already be seen during international meetings when managers from different locations come together. The training programmes have also helped the Freudenberg Group with its roots in Germany, allowing them to grow further in strategically relevant markets such as Asia, India and, South America by adapting to the needs and challenges of each country’s markets.
It has also positively impacted the development of the individual employees who attended the training, which is reflected in annual talent reviews about behaviour and potential. This supports the company’s goal of filling 75% of their leadership positions from within the organisation. It also enables leaders and future leaders to move more easily across the business groups.
Freudenberg has a continuous need for leadership development and the programmes will continue. They also continuously review whether the programmes are addressing the right skills, competencies, and behaviours or if there is a need to shift from one particular behaviour to another with Krauthammer.
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