An enterprise in Berlin, Germany has been attracting attention recently. HelloFresh operates a service that delivers food along with recipes. The ingredients are tailored to the specific recipe, with the service delivering only the needed amount of seasonings. It is gaining popularity largely among those who don’t have the time to go shopping or think about a menu.
The company’s staff is growing at an annual rate of 100 percent globally. The 60 employees in Berlin as of May 2015 has grown to 250; 2,000 people now work around the world, and the number is expanding rapidly. As a company continues to grow with this kind of momentum, things that you might not have minded earlier can become problems. HelloFresh’s biggest challenge was to recruit new and highly skilled staff quick enough.
Julian Luerken joined the company as global head of human resources in 2015. “To strengthen three main points, I am currently setting up a personnel strategy,” he says. “These are the acquisition and recruitment of staff; general affairs aspects such as attendance management and salary issues, and the engagement of employees. We currently have operations in nine countries, and while we do our recruiting locally for each market, particularly important positions are also supported at the head office.”
Freya Ellen Steffen, who supports Mr. Luerken in Human Resources, continues. “Currently there are people representing more than 40 nationalities – in order for all of us to work together at HelloFresh, it’s important to fit in our culture. It’s about treasuring others, and focusing on teamwork. We always talk about the idea of not having an ego.”
HelloFresh has a unique effort summed up in a “cherish your culture” expression. For example, new employees are greeted warmly by all other employees from their very first day. When they come to work, there will be a small gift box on their desk containing a HelloFresh apron. “From the first day, they’ll wear that apron,” Mr. Luerken says. “That lets other people know that he or she is a new employee, making it easier to engage with colleagues around them.”
Every other week there is an event called Hungry Friday, where the company shares the latest information, introduces new employees and gets together to eat lunch. When new joiners introduce themselves, they have to provide “One Fun Fact,” this way they share interesting and memorable stories about themselves.
Exterior view of HelloFresh
Employees: approx. 1500
Julian Luerkan, responsible for the Human Resources department (right), with Freya Ellen Steffen, also of HR.
There are other events intended to disseminate the culture. Such as organized trips to the company’s photo studio, learning about logistics by visiting the distribution center, studying promotion by observing direct sales activities and other ways to experience things that are not part of the employee’s daily work. These efforts are all aimed at promoting communication between employees who otherwise do not have direct contact. Ms. Steffen’s other projects include yoga and German language classes. “Because many employees are coming in from abroad, the German language classroom is especially popular,” Mr. Luerken says. One unusual effort is the Blind Date – when randomly chosen employees have lunch together – another effort to promote communications.
In addition to these culture-related activities, the company makes considerable efforts in more concrete things, such as arranging visas for foreign employees and setting up residence for them. Everything is organized so that applicants can come to Berlin without worries.
“An event called Explore Berlin brings new employees into the city on weekends,” Mr. Luerken says. “Of course it is important for people to know the HelloFresh culture, but we also want them to know about the city of Berlin, the place they will be working in from now on.”
What is so attractive about Berlin, the HelloFresh base where employees from around the world gather? “Berlin has unique restaurants and markets, with a very dynamic food and beverage industry,” Mr. Luerken says. “Also, prices are more affordable than in other large cities. Berlin is full of inspiration, shown in things such as Tech Open Air, held in the summer of 2016. It is a suitable place for tech-related startups. It is also a socially stable part of Europe, another reason why it could be that talent from overseas gathers here.”
“There were eight people in the HelloFresh software development team a year ago, but today there are 80,” Mr. Luerken says. “When there were eight people it was easy for all the teams to gather and discuss things, but with 80 people that’s no longer the case..So our CTO consulted with the CTO of Zalando, a very successful fashion and e-commerce start-up. They had already been in the same situation as we were at this point, and were happy to share their experience and learning with us. Knowledge transfer is a common thing in the German start-up scene. Now, that we are one of the biggest start-ups in Germany, the situation changed: today we get calls from fellow start-up managers and are more than happy to share our knowledge and some tips with them.”
This way of thinking is also shown in the office selection. The current office is the fifth location since the company was founded. World-famous mobile game company Wooga is also in the same building, along with many other tech companies. Initially, the company rented a corner of one floor; today HelloFresh has expanded to cover the entire floor.
The building was previously a bread factory, something that can be seen in the height of the ceiling. “There’s a great atmosphere in here,” Mr. Luerken says. “Although we can’t say that we’ve completed the office the way it was planned, we emphasize not being perfect. Because we’re growing at a tremendous speed, teams are changing frequently. It is more important to be able to change the layout flexibly at any time.”
It also seems to be important to keep the atmosphere that’s not too serious. “We’re aiming at creating an organic and cozy space,” Mr. Luerken says. “Because of this, it’s important for us to use natural materials, play in the space and create an open and friendly atmosphere.”
In the future, in all countries where its business is developing, HelloFresh is working on being able to respond to the varied needs of individuals. “Berlin is its global base station,” Mr. Luerken says, ”We want to establish our position as a brand that works with fresh ingredients.”
Consultancy for work style: in-house
Interior Design: in-house
Announcement of a new employee introduction event. This demonstrates the sense of welcoming for new employees.
In one corner of the office, a number of recipes developed in the past are displayed.