In October 2017 I visited a workshop from the Bundesverband der Personalmanager with a focus on HR strategy. The speaker Dr. Thymian Bussemer gave such an awesome and passionate workshop on the HR strategy at Volkswagen, that I knew right away: I need an interview with him! A couple of weeks later I asked him if he wants to be a part of the “Jedi Masters” interview series and he agreed!
What were your career plans when you were a kid?
Actually, I cannot remember. I had too many different ideas. But as a teenager, I wanted to become a journalist and even did a vocational training as an editor.
What made you decide to work in HR?
It happened by accident. In the mid-2000s I was working with the Social Democratic Party. At this time, Volkswagen was searching for a professional in the field of labor relations, with a focus on the unions. Thus, I started in HR but for the first few years, I was more involved with politics than with HR itself.
And what is your job now?
I am heading Volkswagen’s HR strategy. In addition, I am responsible for the field of social sustainability.
What are the major changes that HR has undergone since the beginning of your career?
The major impact factor for our profession is certainly the digitalization. HR is drifting away from administration and turns more and more into a strategic and analytical function.
Do you think that HR is still a good career to choose? Why?
I would say it’s as good as any other. You need to like your job. That’s all.
What personality traits make a great HR professional?
I do not like to overemphasize that personality thing. HR professionals should like working with people, must be honest and shall have interest in the overall strategic position of their respective companies.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
You will never succeed if you have no allies.
Some people think that almost all HR tasks will be automated in a couple of years. Do you agree or do you think that HR will still be important in the future?
HR has a great future. To the degree to which human resources become more precious, adequate treatment of these resources will be key for success. The only question is if HR professionals will be able to deliver in this field. If not, other business functions will simply take over those tasks.
What do you think is the most overrated HR trend?
Probably it’s the never-ending generation discussion around Millennials, Gen Y and so on. Every three years a new trend emerges. The real changes are not so dramatic.
Who is your personal (HR) role model?
I have been working with so different CHRO’s like Thomas Sattelberger at Deutsche Telekom and Horst Neumann at Volkswagen. They all had an impact on me.
What do you do better than people starting out in HR today? What do they do better than you?
As Willy Brandt, my real role model, once stated: ”Nothing comes by itself. And little is permanent. Therefore, remember your power and the fact that each time wants its own answers and you have to be on top of them if you want to do good.”