Way Forward: Digital House Product-Centric Organization

Mercedes-Benz AG and Mercedes-Benz.io strengthen their product teams within the “Digital House” initiative – realizing a product-centric organization. 

Customers expect the best digital products and services worldwide. Hence,
Mercedes-Benz aims at strengthening its operational e-commerce environments on an international level. Therefore, they will enhance the collaboration with 
Mercedes-Benz.io by scaling digital deliveries for e-commerce and online sales even further. 

The goal of the “Digital House” (a joint initiative of Mercedes-Benz AG and 
Mercedes-Benz.io) is to optimize the business units behind the company’s digital sales and marketing platforms and channels by restructuring them to the upcoming and growing needs of markets and regions worldwide. Within this context of digital products for Sales & Marketing, Mercedes-Benz AG will continue focusing on business and market enabling, strategic portfolio management and respective phase measurements, while Mercedes-Benz.io will be responsible for the development and operation of digital products even more independently. Within the next two years, Mercedes-Benz.io will strengthen its digital product teams in Lisbon, Portugal. The Lisbon site will become the development core unit and a dedicated product organization that focuses on scalable product organization, vehicle leads, and sales-generating products. More than 100 additional digital product development positions will be established at Mercedes-Benz.io in Lisbon. The core of the alignment is a product-oriented organization with the aim of concentrating digital product responsibilities for online sales according to a clear business strategy.

mastering remote work

I have always loved working at the office and enjoyed the routine of having a place to go to, interacting with my colleagues, collaborating and developing ideas that I continue working with. So, working remotely without a physical location hasn’t been easy for me. I was hit by a challenge for which I felt not prepared at all. What did the result look like? Constant adaption! 

Lockdown presented many different challenges, so productivity often felt like the last thing I wanted to think about. Staying connected with my team and using all communication tools hasn’t been a big challenge, but I wanted to motivate myself to stay productive. Little did I know – the coming months would prove to become a period of innovation and adaption for me, in which I would learn a lot about myself and my ability to work remotely and productively

Recently, my company has taken further measures to support all colleagues working remotely and we are actively adapting our culture and communication to it. Mercedes-Benz.io is continuously providing insights on the topics of mental and physical well-being, podcasts, videos and articles, guides for meditation and we are supported by ergonomic tips and tricks for home office. But at the start of the lockdown, the currently available tools and measures weren’t fully in place. Therefore, I invested some time into research and found out how to work from home more efficiently, which I want to share with you.  

Surprisingly, today remote work no longer scares me. In fact, it has become the exact opposite! I can see a lot of benefits to remote work and I have adapted my lifestyle to it – as well as possible. Along with a personal ‘survival guide’, a few other things helped me making the remote office situation productive and fun. So, before going through my personal recommendations, here is a quick list of the tools that supported me working remotely:

  • Location screens & ergonomic working posture
    One of the most excellent perks of working at Mercedes-Benz.io is that you are well cared for as an employee. We even got our screen delivered to our doorstep! Having access to the best working conditions with e. g. an additional screen has helped me a lot. Sounds easy – it’s the simple things that make the difference.
  • Tribe Space
    Well, Mondays used to be my weekly highlight at Mercedes-Benz.io. Our Tribe Space is designed to bring MB.ioneers from 3 different locations (Stuttgart, Berlin, Lisbon) together and exchange company updates, changes and upcoming goals. The idea of replicating Tribe Space with a fully online and digital only version, at first, seemed a little astonishing to me. Today I have to admit that transforming our Tribe Space from a physical to a solely online event was, indeed, the best thing ever that could have happened! The new Tribe Space format brought all employees even closer together, it became something similar to a TV show that I look forward to participating in. The meeting format has surely been improved tremendously. Now, really everyone can attend the event, even from home and also on the road. Last but not least, we recorded an increase in participation and our meeting format is continuously being developed further by several colleagues.
  • Weekly tacticals
    Weekly meetings with my team members help me to maintain an efficient workflow. Our tactical is held once a week over Microsoft Teams and allows me to gain needed transparency about what the team has accomplished and to plan upcoming tasks and goals. Another tool we are using to organize our circle meetings is Glassfrog. These meetings, the tools and internal alignment help me focus on most important topics and using the available working time and energy wisely.
  • Slack activities
    Slack is a center of the company’s communication. There is something for everyone, with tons of channels for different circles and fun groups dedicated to MB.io dogs, women of MB.io, music, movies, photography etc. At Mercedes-Benz.io there exists tons of slack activities one can get involved with. My personal favorite is #randomcoffee. MB.io Slack connects you with a random teammate you mostly haven’t talked to, and you get to know each other over an online coffee meeting. Isn’t this a fun way to network?
  • Social Media
    I simply love our social media channels! From social activities to fun dog posts, you can find a diversity of creative content online. My all-time favorite is the #remotainment post on our Insta channel, where MB.ioneers have shown up with creative ways to survive the home office situation.

    By the way – beside the Insta channel you find our Facebook channel here, and our LinkedIn channel here. Let’s stay in touch!

    Effective communication and team activities have helped strengthen our tribe spirit, especially during the start of the critical home-office situation. But apart from this, I struggled with productivity, staying motivated and have been particularly anxious about retaining a positive state of mind. My concerns were valid, but after working on each of them with these tools and my ‘survival guide,’ I no longer worry about spending hours in the home office. Nowadays, the longer I spend working remotely, the more I can see the benefits. I even have the feeling that companies will actually get a lot more out of the home-office situation in the near future, in terms of and for their employees.

My personal survival guide for being productive in home-office:

  • Practice planning

    Writing all the tasks down may sound time-consuming, but it saves a lot of time during execution. And with time, creating lists and prioritizing tasks becomes a habit and doesn’t need additional time. One of the techniques that revolve around this is ‘Eat that Frog’where you deal with the most demanding task and then deal with the rest of the tasks.

    That technique made me quicker, led to more efficient results, less fatigue, and a stronger sense of accomplishment than finishing simple tasks. This technique makes prioritizing easier but is also impact-driven. Achieving little tasks energizes and motivates me and helps me gliding through the rest of the day since I am now finishing the most difficult tasks at first.
  • Take strategic breaks
    Meeting deadlines and being productive at the same time has been very challenging for me, especially during the lockdown when you are locked in the same room and have nowhere else to go. Having a feeling that I have endless time to get things done, I sometimes spent precious work hours on distractions. But at some point the necessary duty of care luckily caught up with me after all and I found an efficient way to tackle my never-ending to-do list. 

  • Dive into the Pomodoro Technique
    As tasty as it sounds, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management system and helps people to work with the time they have – rather than against it. This technique works by dividing the workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks.

    And the five-minute intervals are known as Pomodoros. After about four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of about15 to 20 minutes. This technique helps me achieving my tasks within the given deadline by instilling a sense of urgency. Additionally, the breaks cured the burnt-out feeling I had towards the end of the day. Try it out for yourself, it actually works!
  • Decorate your home-office
    I loved working at the Mercedes-Benz.io Berlin office. Large windows, open spaces, sunlight, green plants in the office space always helped me being productive and induced a sense of relief at the same time. During the lockdown, I made sure that I bring the same feeling to my home office. I tried to define a work area. I moved my desk next to the windows as brighter atmospheres help induce analytical and evaluative thinking. Also, decorating my work area with green plants helped me recover from demanding activities and brought aesthetic appreciation and a sense of calmness.  

I’m so looking forward to getting back to the office! But I also view this time working from home, as a learning experience and a challenge. The lockdown, the last year and the recent months were characterized by constant adaptation for us all. We keep on kickstarting new ways of working and transforming Mercedes-Benz with customer-centricity and agility. We keep on translating input from our customers into outputs of digital experiences, such as the Mercedes-Benz worldwide website – currently we do this completely from home.

For me – the global pandemic is nothing less than a constant journey of adaption and innovation. At Mercedes-Benz.io I learned to say: ‘SCREW IT, LET’S DO IT! 

Want to experience new ways of adaption and innovation?
Visit our job portal and …


How I became aware of unconscious biases in recruiting

“I’d love to work with them” I thought to myself when I was looking at the application of a candidate a couple of weeks ago, “maybe we could even become friends!”. I was already excited about filling this role because it was in an HR-related field and I would potentially get to work closely with the person we would ultimately hire. And the resume I was looking at made me even more excited – the applicant was from Hamburg, Germany, the same city that I was born and raised in.

But not only did we share the same hometown, we also both lived abroad in the same country for a while (Canada’s nice, eh?). The fact that she lived in Calgary reminded me of a wonderful snowy vacation in the Rocky Mountains a few years ago. This had to be a sign, it couldn’t only be coincidence! 

With great excitement I looked at the feedback from the hiring manager, who pointed out a few concerns about the application that seemed completely valid. Despite having looked through the application multiple times, I hadn’t noticed any of these. That’s when I paused for a moment and realized I had just experienced something that is called affinity bias, which describes the reason for why I unconsciously favored the applicant because we had things in common and despite a lack of skills. 

Back then, I only knew I had to be especially mindful with this application while I learned more about the cognitive process that could have easily impacted the hiring decision if I hadn’t paid attention. 

Uncovering unconscious biases

When I started my internship in recruiting at Mercedes-Benz.io I only had a bit of practical recruiting experience from my previous job. I had heard about unconscious biases in university, but never considered it that complex or difficult to become aware of in the hiring process – until that day I described previously. Here’s what I learned since then: 

Everyone processes information with a set of unconscious biases. There’s a limit to how many of the millions of pieces of information we’re exposed to our brain can process consciously. We build a set of assumptions which are influenced by our own ideals, perceptions, personal experiences, cultural environments and background to help us process information unconsciously. 

These shortcuts are natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but they pose a huge risk in the recruitment process, because they make the hiring decisions subjective and unfair. They may lead to teams that aren’t diverse, the dismissal of qualified candidates and the recruitment of unqualified candidates, because candidates aren’t objectively evaluated based on their skills and qualifications. 

We’re so alike: the affinity bias

One of those unconscious processes is called Affinity bias and describes the tendency to favour someone who’s like us either on a personal or professional level. Someone who we can relate to, with whom we share the same experiences or commonalities, because it’s much easier and more comfortable to be around people who seem familiar. Take my experience, for example: The simple fact that the candidate lived in some of the same places that I did had such a big influence on me that I would have probably selected her for the next round without screening the profile any further. 

When you’re looking at numerous resumes in a week, it’s crucial to be aware of the shortcuts that your brain may take. If you don’t, you may end up with a team of people that get along very well but isn’t very diverse. It’s especially important to pay attention to the affinity bias in times where culture fit is considered a very important factor in hiring decisions – you can still aim to hire people who are a culture fit of course, as long as you’re not hiring them only because you went to the same school, have common interests or just get along really well. 

There’s a lot more to be aware of

In addition to the affinity bias, there are a lot more unconscious biases to be aware of in the recruiting process. While I won’t cover all of them, these are the few that stood out to me as particularly important: 

  • Confirmation bias: When you choose and prioritize information to meet your prior expectations. For example: you receive a referral from a colleague for “a really great developer and even better leader”, and throughout the interview process you favor information confirming this expectation and neglect information disproving it.
  • Halo effect: When one positive attribute outshines potential red flags and creates a “positive glow” around the candidate. For example: The designer you’re interviewing has won many awards with personal projects, but has only ever stayed with the same company for a maximum of six months. Despite that red flag you recommend to move forward with the candidate because of the awards she has won. 
  • Horn effect: The opposite of the halo effect is when you judge someone too quickly based on only one negative attribute that may not even be related to the job. For example: When you talk about the dog policy in the office, the candidate mentions that she dislikes dogs, not knowing that you’re a huge dog lover yourself. Even though you know this is unrelated, you let it cloud your judgement and impact the hiring decision.
  • Conformity bias: When you’re not the only one interviewing a candidate and change your opinion to conform with the opinions of others. For example: you have good reasons to think that a particular candidate wouldn’t be a good culture fit, but all the other interviewers want to hire her. You end up changing your opinion and hire the candidate.
  • Contrast effect: When you’re comparing candidates to each other instead of judging them objectively based on the needs of the role. For example: You’re trying to find an office coordinator. You immediately reject the first two candidates because of their lack of experience, and end up hiring the third candidate because she at least has some experience despite that being way less than the requirements originally called for. 

Managing biases in the recruiting process

By reading this you’ve already taken the first and most important step towards managing biases in your recruiting process: you’re now aware that those biases exist. To help with your next steps, here are four practical tips you can start applying tomorrow. 

  • Prepare: Being prepared throughout the recruiting process can go a long way towards reducing the impact that biases can have on it. Make sure you know the exact requirements and skills to look for, prepare an interview guideline which you adhere to, and take some time to understand what skills, behavior and criteria you want to see, why you want to see them and what questions you can ask you find out more about them. Think about this before every step of the process, for example when you start screening applicants or before you go into an interview. Being prepared can prevent your thoughts and conversations from derailing because of biases. 
  • Standardize: To give candidates the same chance of standing out, think about ways that can help to standardize the recruiting process. Prepare a list of questions that you can stick to and make sure that every question is answered, avoid too many off-the-cuff questions. Think about concepts like scorecards to help with a standardized way of evaluating candidates. 
  • Reflect: Frequently check in with yourself and take time to reflect. How are you feeling? Is anything on your mind that may affect how you screen candidates or interview? Has anything in the interview influenced how you perceived the candidate? Being under time pressure or having had a bad night’s sleep can have a huge impact on how you perceive someone, so make sure to acknowledge how you feel. Reflect on the candidates on your own before you discuss them with others. 
  • Take notes: Rigorously document the entire interview process, not only the red flags or things that stand out. For example, you may want to document the similarities of candidates with yourself. Reviewing notes may help you to spot biases, and allow you to adjust and clarify why you had certain feelings about a candidate. 

Of course, this isn’t everything you can do to improve how biases affect the recruiting process – unconscious biases are complex, and even if you’re aware of them you might catch yourself being affected by them from time to time. But I hope that by reading about these biases you can start taking steps towards being more aware of them yourself, and reduce how much they affect your recruiting process. 

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