People change jobs:
some do it regularly, some do it hardly once
some do it voluntarily, some are forced to do it.
For me personally, I am in the midst of my first major job change and while I could (and will in the future) talk about how extremely excited and humbly grateful I am for the opportunity to join one of the coolest mobility projects I could think of, this text is a pure retrospective.
Why? Because my current (and soon to be former) ‘employer’ h&z deserves every line of gratitude, appraisal, and laudation. As a part- / free- time organizational researcher, I have studied organizations of various forms, sizes, cultures and industries and I am confident to say that h&z is among the more exciting and special ones.
When I joined the company, as a young little intern about seven years ago, little did I know that I would end up here — but what made these seven years so special? What makes h&z such a remarkable company that deserves a proper farewell letter?
When reflecting on the many projects, retreats, and countless other memories, I found two main reasons why h&z will also have a special place in my heart (or wherever you store friend-like former employers) and indeed is a special organization:
Reason One: Nurturing individuality & characters
Consultants (and the traditional habitus and role description that come with them) tend to fulfil certain stereotypes (the famous Bavarian comedian Harry G hit the head on the nail with his impersonation — unfortunately only available in German) — and unfortunately again much of it is true for the generic consultant type. I guess such characters may exist at h&z too, I just have not found them. Even if thes existed, they are vastly outnumbered by people that have so much more to offer than good grades at a prestigious business school. The diversity of (hidden) talents that you find at h&z is quite remarkable. From painters and talented musicians to part-time paramedics and former football professionals — I met them all amongst my colleagues. This fact per se does not set h&z apart from many other firms that hire skilled people, but their approach to these individual talents does. At h&z, I perceive a deeply rooted culture that individual interests and even edgy characters are not only tolerated for what they are but are actively nurtured and understood as a resource for the firm. A resource for creative solutions, for thinking outside the box, and for paving ways that consulting firms do not usually take. This involves the (sometimes hard to live by) commitment to high degrees of freedom. Looking back, I regularly felt more like an embedded entrepreneur than an employee. I was allowed (or even encouraged) to work on topics, initiatives, and projects that excited me, even if the impact was uncertain. Such an approach, which works with human capital in a holistic way, rather than reducing humans to their primary role and skill set, is something I will take with me to any future position I may have. Finally, such colleagues are an amazing inspiration. I love to be surprised by the way other people think and approach problems — even if it might not be the most efficient way. These “wait! — what…why?”-moments are the daily learning opportunities that a group of people with individuality and character can create — and h&z has nurtured a great cohort of such people.
Reason Two: Centring the human — for real
In line with the previous, I am amazed by how h&z manages to put their employees first (and by doing so creates sustainable value for their customers!). The consulting business can be a hectic and conflict-intensive world that supports a clear focus on output, performance, and hard work. It is even more impressive that I have always felt appreciated as a human, not as a worker. A human with a family, a human with weaknesses, a human with interests and motivations that go well beyond consulting.
This human centricity could be explained with abstract concepts, but four brief tangible anecdotes probably show it much more powerful:
First, when thinking about postponing my paternity leave to be a part of an exciting new project, I was the one who had to convince my colleagues. All of them (including my supervisors) urged me to do the paternity leave rather than the project. For a young ambitious employee (and father!) like me, this was the advice I needed.
Second, during the time of part-time consulting, part-time working in academia towards my PhD, time was extremely scarce, and these years have been a constant balancing act. It required a fair amount of dedication and prioritization skills. However, it would not have been possible without the genuine support of my colleagues and superiors. This ranges from the small “sure I will cover this for you” to the larger “no problem! Take your time off” moments that helped me to fulfil both roles. These moments came with no strings attached, no judgement, and no negative consequences — all based on the firm belief that tomorrow I may be the one stepping up for another colleague, which I happily did whenever required.
Third, during the emotionally challenging (and unfortunately ongoing) times of the Covid19 pandemic, which was accompanied by new forms of uncertainty for many employees, including myself, h&z’s leadership walked the talk. Not only did they repeatedly emphasise that they are just a phone call away for whatever might be on our minds, but they indeed were at the fingertip of all colleagues. Aside from steering the company through this challenge (which must have been an immensely time-consuming and stressful endeavour), they took the time to talk to their colleagues, collect the concerns, and act upon them whenever possible.
Fourth, even when I announced my thoughts to leave h&z for a new offer from an exciting mobility player, there was an honest and genuine interest in me, not in how I could be kept at the firm, not in how leaving h&z would be a mistake, but in what is best for me given my interests, skills and personal preferences. I assume that many companies invest quite a bit into maintaining a good relationship with their employees as long as they stay, but h&z kept this relationship even beyond my announcement of departure.
h&z summarizes much of what I have described above in the simple slogan consulting with head, heart, and hand, which I will carry with me forever — Thank you to all my (former) colleagues and (lasting) friends at h&z for letting me be a part of your journey.