In 2019, the new apprentices in the DMK Group started their professional life with a special event. The 95 new trainees were able to get to know each other in person during the Start-Up Days at Alfsee near Osnabrück, work together in an inter-disciplinary way and discover the diversity of the company. The aim of the day: to create a sense of “we”. However, in 2020, the Coronavirus outbreak meant that we had to find a new way to kick-off together. The solution was obvious, yet very complex: the DMK Start-Up Days had to become digital.
This meant organising a live online event with 104 participants from 15 sites.
A new concept was developed quickly thanks to huge support from sites and tremendous employee commitment. Special security precautions in the food sector meant that apprentices from different production locations were not able to come together – so each site had to organise themselves according to a clearly defined framework. As a company with many production sites though, the DMK Group faced an extra challenge: about 85 percent of the trainees work in nutrition and technical professions – so do not have their own PC workstation. Computer workstations were set up at the production sites, allowing them to access new communication tools such as Microsoft Teams too. These measures made it possible to link 15 locations through video chat so that the new trainees could get to know each other virtually. The importance of this point can be seen in the diversity within the company. Not only are there a wide range of apprentice fields – the DMK Group also offers people who have already worked in other professions the opportunity to retrain with an apprenticeship.
In the challenging coronavirus period, cohesion and a sense of belonging can only be achieved through common understanding. We managed such a goal by joining forces. The programme featured presentations by the various DMK business units, as well as information from the youth and apprentice representations, with apprentices from different stages of their training providing important key facts for training. Besides this, the newcomers were given a detailed overview of the journey the milk takes from the cow through the DMK Group plants to the consumer. The kick-off event was concluded with a digital survey through a QR code, which enabled feedback to be collected in real time. The overwhelmingly positive feedback showed that – despite the physical distance – the character of events from previous years remained and the trainees were successfully introduced to the DMK world.
For the trainees, the digital Start-Up event was their first contact with a completely new professional environment: their already exciting introduction to the world of work was coupled with the need to communicate virtually, exchange information digitally and keep their distance in the workplace. Everything we need to remain capable of working during the pandemic, whilst also taking responsibility for our own health and that of our colleagues. The current situation shows that being open to new ways of doing things also provides new opportunities for companies. Studies clearly show that for younger people flexibility, work-life balance, development and appreciation are important factors when choosing a career. In this respect, an event such as the digital Start-up has provided valuable insights into creating linking elements in a flexible working environment across numerous locations. DMK will also continue and develop this in the post-coronavirus period.