Head of HR Germany: “I fell in love with consulting at first sight”

October 28, 2020

Ilka Cremer in Dubrovnik

Ilka Cremer has been leading our Human Resources department in Germany for one year now. She tells us what makes working at Simon-Kucher exciting and updates us on the challenges to overcome in recent months.

How did you come to Simon-Kucher & Partners?

Ilka Cremer: Having worked in different consultancies I have a pertinent profile for HR management positions and recruiters often contact me. Simon-Kucher did the same via our colleagues from active sourcing. Having had most recently built up the HR Development & People Services department (without recruiting responsibilities) in another consultancy, the next logical step for me was to take on full responsibility within HR.

How was your first year? Very turbulent, no doubt?

Ilka Cremer: I have definitively had an unusual and very exciting start. After just one month (in December 2019) I had the opportunity to share my first impressions of Simon-Kucher with 1,500 employees at the company-wide World Meeting. That was an incredibly helpful way to put HR in focus, to get to know partners and colleagues, and to quickly settle into the company. In the last few months HR has increasingly supported with navigating the crisis and working closely with the German management team and our CEOs.

A lot about working life has changed in the last six months. But what is really “new” and what was already lived at Simon-Kucher (keywords flexibility, home office, trust, and results-orientation)?

Ilka Cremer: Something new is actually the “freedom” to work from home every day. I deliberately put this term in air quotes, since home office of course also comes with many challenges and questions: How should I structure my day to work productively? What are my distractions? How do I make sure I take enough breaks? How should I look after my health? How do I ensure collaboration within the team? How do I lead my team remotely? Here, as an employer, we have provided support in the form of team calls, virtual town hall meetings, as well as virtual coffee breaks and dinners, home-office yoga, tips and tricks for working from home, surveys on new ways of working etc. It now feels completely normal if I participate in meetings with management from my kitchen via video conference due to a lack of working space, or spend an evening drinking wine with my colleagues via video meeting.

Still, I remain a fan of interactive office culture, since this is essential and very valuable for social contact. Also from a learning perspective, working together on site (especially for younger or less experienced colleagues) is important, since there they profit from team knowledge and can observe a lot — an opportunity which is limited with remote working.

Work-life balance and flexible working models are getting more and more important. What do you think about that?

Ilka Cremer: Looking to the future, I believe that personal leave programs will be increasingly accepted. Just looking at paternity leave among male colleagues, the consulting industry has made a lot of progress in the past ten years. Previously, men didn’t always feel comfortable about requesting parental leave, nowadays this is business as usual.

However, in my opinion we shouldn’t only look one-dimensionally at the topic of parental leave. Employees without children have the right to request some time out of the workplace. Whether this is used for travel, caring for elderly parents, further education, or to fulfil an individual dream, should be up to them.

At Simon-Kucher we are very advanced in terms of flexible working models. We treat our employees as individuals and find a way to make things work – and that applies across all hierarchy levels.

What is actually the retention period at Simon-Kucher & Partners?

Ilka Cremer: We have many long-serving colleagues at Simon-Kucher, and here I am talking about over 20 years of employment. Nowadays that is not a given, and speaks volumes for the company. Among other things, our flexible working models make this possible.

We have the advantage that we don’t follow an “up-or-out” policy and therefore employees can stay longer at a career level. This not only means that everyone can progress at their own speed, it also ensures that we keep experienced consultants in the company and profit from their knowledge and expertise – not everyone has to or even wants to become a partner.

Why do you recommend Simon-Kucher as employer?

Ilka Cremer: Even though I am not a consultant myself, I am a child of the consulting industry and feel very at home here. I don’t know any other industry where you can learn so much in such a short time, with so much training. For me, it was love at first sight, and I am thrilled for anyone else who can say the same!

This text is based on an original interview with Ilka published in German language on juniorconsultant.net


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