“When we talk about work and family, the word ‘family’ sounds like a classic combination of father, mother, and child,” says Dana Lafuente, head of the Staff Development Department at the MDC. Together with MDC staff development officer Gabriele Kollinger, Lafuente has developed an action program for a personnel policy that takes family life and specific life phases into account as part of the center’s fourth “Work and Family” audit. As a research institution, the MDC wants to be even better adapted to the needs of its employees. “We want to support our employees and help them advance with their various life plans and in the different phases of their lives,” explains Lafuente. Someone who is about to retire or has a family member that requires care, for example, has different needs than a single mother with two small children or a single young person.
On June 25 at a ceremony in Berlin, the MDC received its fourth audit berufundfamilie (audit workandfamily) certificate from the German Minister for Family Affairs, Franziska Giffey, and the Managing Director of berufundfamilie Service GmbH, Oliver Schmitz, in recognition of the services it has developed over the past few years and for its new, life-phase-oriented approach. The MDC had previously successfully completed the dialogue process open to all employers who have spent at least nine years pursuing a strategic personnel policy that takes family life into account. Another dialogue day will be held in three years to address the topic of quality assurance. The goal is to maintain high standards in the MDC’s personnel policy and to optimize existing potential in certain selected areas. The MDC has participated in this audit since 2009. “We are delighted about the certificate,” said Professor Heike Graßmann, the MDC’s Administrative Director. “It is both an honor and a commitment.”
Over the next three years, Dana Lafuente and Gabriele Kollinger, together with nine other steering committee members from administration and science, will be focusing on implementing important innovations. “The increasing heterogeneity of individual life plans is a social reality to which we as an organization must adjust,” explains Kollinger. “A personnel policy that takes different life phases into account will have to respond to potential applicants now asking themselves: Who is offering the right thing for me?”
In order to find out what staff at the MDC associate with the topic of “leadership,” 25 members of management met with employees from science and administration in three discussion rounds to exchange thoughts and ideas. Their suggestions have been incorporated into the action program. “Employees want to feel noticed; they want to know that their contribution is important. This is already something we see in many departments, but not yet consistently. We need to establish a consistent and accountable leadership culture throughout the MDC,” explains Lafuente.
Leadership culture and idea management
The onus here is primarily on management-level staff. “The excellent leadership of those heading research groups and departments plays a central role in this strategy,” says Lafuente. “For example, in developing a sensitivity for what individual team members need for their development in order to achieve consistently high results in the respective research group or department.” Standards such as obligatory appraisal interviews and leadership principles, which will be developed within the next few years, can contribute to this, as can the establishment of a leadership program.
Ultimately, these efforts also help make the MDC even more attractive as an employer. Given the current shortage of skilled workers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and recruit highly qualified and committed employees. “The MDC must offer young people more career prospects in all areas,” stresses Kollinger, adding that it is also about making better use of employees’ potential and giving them the feeling that their suggestions are welcome. “Idea management can contribute to this. Any employees with an interest in doing so should be able to share their thoughts – including international guest researchers, who often have different expectations,” says Kollinger.
The process will tie in with the work of the task force established in 2019, which is developing a code of conduct for the MDC that addresses issues such as: What are our core values? How do we want to interact with one other? What behavior will not be tolerated?
Involvement from above
In recent years, the MDC has continued to improve its services for reconciling work and family life. For example, the campus kindergarten and occupational health management services have been expanded, a care service has been set up with a service portal and a care hotline, and the Welcome Office was expanded to become a Welcome/Family Office. “This provides us with a good foundation. But now we want to embed the whole thing strategically – i.e., create a comprehensive framework for all employees at the MDC rather than just for individual target groups,” explains Kollinger. A strategy meeting with the MDC Board of Directors and selected members of management is already planned, and guidelines will be developed based on the outcomes of this meeting. “The most important thing here is for the Board of Directors to get involved,” emphasizes Lafuente. “The development of a leadership culture must come from above, it must be seen as important.”