When houses are being bombed elsewhere, it may not be the time to ponder new buildings. Moreover, after two years of excessive home offices, office buildings look rather démodée. So is it bad timing for Aldi Nord?
No. The new headquarters of the retail group, which opened a few days ago in Essen-Kray, is contemporary in many respects. An iconic A-shaped building and an architectural exclamation mark visible from afar. A statement for transparency and modernity that is probably also meant to stand for a cultural change. This is remarkable, especially when you consider who the client is.
Aldi, as we know, is something of an ancestor of the secretive. It is true that retail is basically a public event to which as many people as possible should have access. At the same time, many merchants traditionally regard their businesses as a purely private matter that is nobody’s business. Such an attitude can perhaps still be afforded as a kiosk operator today, but not as an international corporation with a gross turnover of over 24 billion euros, which serves millions of customers every day and is responsible for 80,000 employees.
So now Aldi’s A, Apple-like called “Campus”. An area the size of 14 football fields, with light-flooded open-plan offices for currently 1200 workplaces, plazas and outdoor terraces designed for meeting and communication, as well as a day-care centre open to the public. Of course, the complex was built from regional and partly recycled building materials, is energy-efficient and the roofs are greened. Today, sustainability is not only reflected in the product range.
It must be assumed that the aim of the new company headquarters was not to create a vain monument to the Albrechts. A major motive was probably to be attractive for employees. Thus, the new building is also a statement in terms of employer branding. Which shows the effort that has to be made today to attract qualified employees and talent. Because they are a rare commodity that many companies are struggling to find.
A big name is an advantage in the ‘war for talents’. But the fact that companies like Adidas have dominated the employer rankings for years does not necessarily mean that working there is more fulfilling.
Retail has always had a bad hand when it comes to recruiting young talent – the working hours, the image, the pay – which hasn’t exactly improved due to the remote work demands that have grown in the pandemic. Despite advancing digitalisation, business in retail is still largely done on the shop floor and not in the home office. From the point of view of graduates and career-oriented talents, the bad news from the sector that was hit particularly hard by Corona does not speak for future viability. And the fact that the clothing business in particular is regarded as a dirty industry has also taken root in people’s minds.
Due to the increasing professionalisation and specialisation in many functions, the companies’ demands on qualifications are rising at the same time. Techies for the ongoing digital transformation are in particular demand. They can no longer be lured by the topic of fashion alone. And management high potentials prefer to go to consultancies or the financial sector or try their hand at start-ups themselves.
A big name is an advantage in the ‘war for talents’. The fact that companies like Adidas have dominated the employer rankings for years does not necessarily mean that working there is more fulfilling. In retail, the brand image is initially shaped by the shops, the website and the marketing communication. But the actual working conditions and the environment also play an essential role, of course.
Just as a customer can tell the condition of a department store by the state of the toilets, the DNA of a company for employees can be seen in the appearance and working conditions in the back office. In this respect, the old 1970s building in Essen’s Eckenbergstrasse was no match for Aldi Nord. It was a monument to stinginess, where there was not even hot water, and had long been at odds with the increasingly high-quality branches and the modern self-portrayal on the web.
In employer branding, too, everything has to fit together. This is true for all companies, and even more so for fashion companies that want to appeal to visually oriented and aesthetically demanding employees. Anyone who knows the Bestseller campus in Brande, the Adidas site in Herzogenaurach, the Zalando headquarters in Berlin or the Hugo Boss properties in Metzingen can feel the wind blowing there.