Attractiveness as an Employer
It is important to us to have motivated employees with relevant qualifications who focus on the needs of their customers as part of their everyday work. As an employer, we want to provide our staff with a home away from home that is professional – in the truest sense of the word. That is why we foster a values-based corporate culture which is flexible enough to meet the varied needs of our workforce. Values like appreciation, performance, responsibility and team spirit guide everything that we do as a company and how we treat each other. Because our employees play an essential role in the company achieving its objectives, we want to retain them over the long term.
Vonovia is committed to pursuing an insourcing strategy. This means that, instead of relying on external service providers, we use our own employees to handle a wide variety of tasks – from caretaker work and garden maintenance through to modernization. By taking this approach, we can offer our tenants a high level of quality, efficiency and reliability. All of these tasks are managed and organized by the Vonovia Technical Service (VTS) and our residential neighborhood organization. One risk involved in this approach is that we always need a lot of staff. This is a particularly pressing issue when it comes to finding people skilled in manual trades, as they are in high demand throughout the housing industry. However, this risk is significantly outweighed by the benefits of taking precisely this approach. However, this issue does make it even more important for the company to be an attractive employee for both potential applicants and its current workforce.
That is why we take a holistic approach to HR planning: targeted recruiting is complemented by ongoing training and education, talent promotion and fair remuneration and extensive social benefits to promote employee loyalty. We are convinced that mutual trust is the best foundation for a long-term partnership. We appreciate and reciprocate the trust that employees place in us. We are also constantly on the lookout for ways in which we can shape the ongoing digitalization of our structures and processes for the benefit of our staff. Vonovia invested in this area in 2021 specifically for the purpose of providing its employees with more flexibility and security. Thanks to this, hybrid working models have been instituted in a number of departments and divisions on the basis of the works agreement on mobile working. We are also implementing harmonization measures to provide structures that are clear and reliable, with the aim of facilitating transparent communication with our employees.
The sustained financial stability of our company throughout the pandemic has strengthened its position as an employer that you can rely on, even in uncertain times. We had more than 1,900 new hires in the 2021 fiscal year, and avoided making any staff redundancies due to the pandemic. The overwhelming majority of our employees – over 90% – have a permanent employment contract. We do not outsource jobs to other countries and only employ workers on a temporary basis in exceptional cases. We also had no need to use the works agreements on company shutdowns and short-time working in 2021.
All of our efforts are built on a solid foundation. We are committed to upholding international working standards and statutory regulations as the minimum standard for our workplace. Our Declaration of Respect for Human Rights, published by the Management Board in 2020, specifically spells out our commitment to meeting global human rights standards. This Declaration also applies to our subsidiaries. Neither we nor any of our partners tolerate forced or child labor under any circumstances (see Respect for and Promotion of Human Rights). We also make sure to comply with all relevant legislation in Germany, Austria and Sweden. We make sure that all changes to the law are reflected in our processes. Our Code of Conduct, provides clear expectations for how the company and its employees are expected to behave. Vonovia is committed to the core labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in all areas, particularly with regard to freedom and rights of association. We aim to ensure that applicable laws (e.g. individual and collective labor laws), are complied with at all our sites. This includes protecting our employees’ right to codetermination. We are committed to fostering a trusting and constructive exchange between management and employees in all of Vonovia’s business units through channels like works councils. Employees are also free to associate themselves with trade unions and to exercise their freedom of association in accordance with the law.
At Vonovia, the CEO is responsible for the company’s human resources work, which has been established centrally as a shared service within the HR department (previously known as the HR Management department). In 2021, the shared services approach was transformed into a HR business partner model, which is further developed on an ongoing basis.
Austria and Sweden have their own HR departments. Austria reports to the HR department in Germany via dotted-line reporting, whereas Sweden is still not firmly established in the reporting line. Here, monitoring and reporting takes place as and when required. The Head of HR discusses developments with the CEO on a regular basis. The objectives and focus of HR work are developed in collaboration with the Management Board and are then cascaded down throughout the organization.
Objectives and Measures
The happiness of our employees is extremely important to us. We would therefore like to empirically record and safeguard this. For this purpose, we regularly conduct employee satisfaction surveys. In 2021, we used an external service provider to conduct a comprehensive survey of employees in Germany, Austria and Sweden. This made it possible to expand the most recent survey (conducted in 2019) to the entire Group. The survey contains questions on five dimensions that are of particular importance for our company: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and team spirit (see project box “Group-wide Employee Survey”).
The results of the employee survey bolster the success of the measures taken in the previous year. The Group-wide response rate increased from 72% in 2019 (excluding Sweden) to 82% in 2021. Changes in the employee satisfaction level – which became a component of the Group’s key non-financial performance indicator (SPI) in 2021 – will offer a regular indication of the degree to which Vonovia is an attractive employer. With this in mind, it is planned to repeat the employee satisfaction survey each year. Another key performance indicator examined by the employee survey is the extent to which employees are satisfied with Vonovia’s management of the pandemic so far. 82% of employees in Germany, Austria and Sweden across the Group stated that they were very satisfied. Vonovia was certified as a “great place to work” in February 2022, reflecting all of the company’s efforts to improve employee satisfaction.
Harmonization & Digitalization
We adapted and/or redefined benefits for our workforce in Germany in 2021 to ensure that our staff are treated as equally as possible. These included the new bicycle leasing program, the employee share program and tax-free employer grants for capital formation purposes. The employee share program was also rolled out for employees in Austria during the fiscal year.
Vonovia made significant progress with its digitalization efforts in 2021 (link to (see Digitalization of Processes). We implemented additional modules of the SAP Success Factors IT application as planned. These modules provide additional functionality in the areas of Performance & Goals, Succession & Development and Learning, while also automating processes and digitalizing content. Employees and managers now have an easy way to initiate processes themselves and access content as and when they need it, such as the training materials provided by the Vonovia Academy. Managers can now use tools to develop themselves or their teams. Our digitalization efforts have also made performance appraisals a more transparent and structured process for our employees.
We have also continued processes which make things easier for employees on a day-to-day basis. The ticketing system which was introduced at the end of 2020 has been expanded. Over 40 processes – such as requesting an employer statement – have now been digitalized. Last year also saw Vonovia implement some digital solutions in the area of document management, such as the ability to link standardized documents with employee data from the HR system. In addition to improving our flexibility as a company, these measures have also had the benefit of making work significantly easier and safer for our employees, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic. We will continue our digitalization strategy – which includes digitalizing the remuneration planning process – in 2022.
In addition to making sure our current workforce is satisfied, we also want to attract highly qualified new talent into the company. We focused especially on addressing the shortage of qualified workers in the manual trades during the reporting year. Vonovia is committed to approaching this issue from multiple angles. We are making a special effort to attract women into the workforce, as they are still underrepresented in the manual trades. Our recruitment efforts in 2021 revolved around our “Hand aufs Werk” campaign. The purpose of this campaign was to encourage more people to join Vonovia in skilled trade occupations (see project box “‘Hand aufs Werk’ Recruiting Campaign”).
We are also standing shoulder to shoulder with other companies and partners in order to develop strategies which will help us all to adapt to changes in work and society. We are a founding member of the Alliance of Opportunities, which wants to play an active role in shaping these changes. The Alliance provides a platform for representatives from the world of politics, civil society and institutions to come together and exchange ideas. The Alliance of Opportunities also runs a number of projects for exchanging and developing skilled workers.
We revised our employer branding concept in Austria, which was one of the objectives we set ourselves in the previous year. Our main goal was to position BUWOG as an attractive employer and increase the public’s awareness of the company. BUWOG’s New Careers Website was launched in May 2021 with employee videos and a brand new layout. We made more use of new communication channels like careers websites and social media, and put out blog posts and videos showcasing BUWOG’s credentials as an employer. We also partnered together with trade journals to publish articles about relevant topics like diversity and what goes into making a company an attractive employer. These efforts certainly seem to have been successful, as BUWOG was recognized with a number of awards during the reporting period. In addition to being acknowledged once again as a family-friendly employer by the Republic of Austria, it was recognized as a Leading Employer in 2021. The Kurier newspaper named it a Popular Employer in 2021, while trend, statista and kununu included it as a Top Employer in 2021.