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10. 10. 2023

For a better life: On a visit to Henkel

The brands belonging to the Henkel ĆR company portfolio need no introduction: we encounter them in such regularly used products as Clin, Fa, Persil or Schwartzkopf. From hair care to detergents – the Henkel brand motto is to change and improve quality of life, every day. It takes the same approach when caring for its employees in the modern offices at DOCK IN FOUR, where we went to visit and interview Roman Kýr (President of Henkel ĆR and General Manager of Henkel Consumer Brands CZ/SK), and Petr Freiberg (Country Manager of Henkel Consumer Brands Professional CZ/SK). In addition to its administrative background, Henkel operates in DOCK and ASK ACADEMY PRAGUE, which provides training for hairdressers.

You move to DOCK during the direst days of the COVID-19 crisis, which certainly must have caused some complications. What did you have to do deal with and how did you settle it all?

We’d been planning to move to the new headquarters for about a year, as well as to revamp our corporate culture. We wanted to modernize the company, especially in all the current office habit trends, like having a clean desk policy, having shared tables instead of separate desks in the office and the like, and regardless of Covid, we resigned to the fact that not everybody would be receptive. Ultimately, it was Covid itself that aided us – during lockdown, work performed remotely and the subsequent restructuring of the traditional use of company premises became commonplace, and it helped a lot to explain the whole situation to the employees.

On the contrary, we had to figure out how to make the move happen actually physically so that people could take their belongings home while upholding all the current measures, nor could we involve the employees at all in the preparation of the new premises - for example, we wanted them to be able to choose chairs for the new offices. Holding an opening ceremony was of course out of the question, so we ultimately called employees in for their first view of the place in various groups starting in December 2020, and it was summer by the time they had all had their turn.

Due to the circumstances, you will not easily forget that move...

Every cloud has a silver lining. Covid helped us actually in that it was all resolved much faster, and people were more open towards the new internal measures.

Why has DOCK become your home station?

We didn't want to abandon our location completely because a lot of employees had gotten used to it over many long years, and we certainly had a lot of these development projects from which to choose. What really helped us decide to move to DOCK was its status as a sustainable and ecological project, which was in line with our own corporate strategy. And we simply liked it here – even when just looking out the window. At the river... It convinced us to nest here.


Do you present the possibility of working in the DOCK environment, close to nature and water, as a company benefit?

Certainly. We generally looked forward to the move for the company’s modernization and digitalization as such, but DOCK added a completely different dimension to it.

How did you approach the creation of internal spaces?

At the beginning, we created “nests” in the overall layout. Though we’d introduced the philosophy of work-life balance to the new corporate culture, we also identified areas as per type of work of individual teams so that colleagues could cooperate as closely as possible. It turned out ultimately that everyone likes the kitchenette the most. (laughs)

What is your internal communication like, or employee motivation, so they go to the office as happily as possible?

Our internal communication with the Czech or Czech-Slovak community is rather relaxed, we often tackle global issues such as sustainability, diversity, the social context of success – that is, the fact that we also give back to those who need it... We organize various employee events over the year, such as health awareness month, or various sports activities in which everyone can voluntarily participate, but nobody is compelled to do so. But it’s nice to see that lots of people do enjoy it. And we keep our kitchenette freezer stocked with ice cream for anybody who wants some. (laughs)

Speaking of sports, do you notice people utilizing the sports equipment in or around DOCK?

Yes, and sometimes it looks a bit like we’re on vacation rather than at work. (laughs) It saps the work ethic a bit... But in fact, we are happy that this also motivates people to want to go to the office, because for young people for instance, home office has become the norm, and sometimes they feel no need to sit at a table anywhere else than home, where they can easily fulfill their work tasks while not having to physically commute an hour there and an hour back. On the other hand, when they come here, they socialize, exchange information more naturally, and so on.


And do you, as a company, insist that people spend time working in the office at least part of the time?

We find it ideal when they come in to work at least three days a week. Without physical presence in the workplace, there will simply always be some kind of communication barrier. On the other hand, our team is very much branched out into several divisions, with some colleagues also in Slovakia, so we cannot avoid the fact that the whole team will never be in one place at the same time. Lots of employees also work in global teams, and it's pointless for us to insist on them sitting at a desk in Prague when they have colleagues in other countries and function practically only online anyway - this is the case for instance in the Adhesives Department. On the other hand, for instance, the Marketing & Sales team needs to constantly share information in real time, and it makes sense that they sit close to each other and thus speed up the information flow. Similarly, in junior positions, we expect people to be “on the scene” to fully learn the company culture, discuss matters with colleagues, gain experience and always know they’ll get the best possible support right here.

Do employees want to return to the office?

TThis probably depends on the individual. Somebody’s commute might be an hour to work, so naturally they wonder if it makes sense to go in or rather to work from home and have things done faster by saving that hour-long commute. On the other hand, staying home leaves no chance to briefly say what needs saying at the coffee machine. Everything in moderation! Some working from home feel that they're lacking information, others can’t even do home office because the kids are too young, or the apartment is tiny. Most importantly, it must make sense – in order to make home office work faster and easier with greater efficiency.


ASK Academy Prague

ASK ACADEMY PRAGUE, also known as “The Schwarzkopf Academy”, has been in DOCK since 2021. Do the environs here at DOCK meet the demands of such a specialized concept?

Both for the academy itself and in terms of the interconnection of the academy and Henkel, DOCK couldn't meet our needs better. For the most part, our offices had been separated from the academy, because the address and the attractiveness of the location to which they went were important for the academy's visitors and clients. Now, we can offer this here, the hairdressers appreciate how getting here is so easy and can even park here if they need to because training normally takes place over the weekend... It was also true that by moving, we somehow raised the morale of the academy, which had become a bit stale. We also want to function synergistically, and, for example, we rent exceptional space for events that we as Henkel hold. That means we are completely satisfied with this arrangement.

How does the academy actually work?

Our primary customers are professional hairdressers. In this field, continuous learning is a fundamental pillar of success – considering changing trends, technologies... And in order to give them a professional boost, we need a space to offer practical training courses that can take place in a practical form: cutting, combing and brushing, coloring... So, we’re in essence a training center.


The Academy certainly helps you promote the loyalty of hairdressers, who will then form an important part of the Schwarzkopf image...

Certainly. Feedback lets us know that our academy in DOCK is undoubtedly one of the best in the industry.

Are there such academies elsewhere in the world?

Yes, in every country where we operate, their final form depends on the needs of the given country. Schwartzkopf Professional then gives them the same architectural concept together, overseen by an architectural studio in London.

Can hairdressers meet, for instance, a world hairdressing star at one of your training sessions?

Yes, we can invite practically anyone. (laughs) It greatly depends on customer requirements, whom they’d like to see, or by whom they’d like to be inspired.


Thanks for the interview.