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Axel Springer SE

Digital certificate creation Quick and compliant to rules

Axel Springer

Axel Springer is a media and technology compa­ny which operates in more than 40 countries. With the information offerings of its wide range of media brands (including BILD, WELT, BUSINESS INSID­ER, POLITICO Europe) and classified advertising portals (StepStone Group and AVIV Group), Axel Springer SE helps people to make free decisions for their lives. Its successful transformation from a traditional publisher of print media to the lead­ing company for digital publishing in Europe is now complete.

Individual certificates through electronic process at Axel Springer SE

The next goal has been set: Axel Spring­er wants to become the world market leader in digital journalism and digital classified advertising through accelerated growth. The company is based in Berlin and employs more than 16,100 people worldwide. In the 2019 financial year, Axel Springer generated 73 percent of its rev­enues with digital activities.

From the logging of the task portfolio through to creating appraisals and signing employment refer­ences – for these processes, the HR departments of the media group use SAP-integrated software from easy software. The entire process is based on standard SAP functionality, and runs as a web solution in the SAP back end and in the Manag­er Self Service of the SAP human resources portal.

In many human resources departments, compiling employment references is a laborious task. At any given time, more urgent matters frequently have to be dealt with, and employees sometimes have to wait a long time for their employment referenc­es. Until recently, things weren‘t any different at Axel Springer SE. To change this, the media group installed a SAP-integrated process from EASY SOFTWARE AG for the creation of employment ref­erences. This process provides effective support to managers and human resources departments with the creation of employment references. It means that the employees promptly receive legally-com­pliant, high-quality employment references.

Axel Springer Medien Accounting Service GmbH (ASMAS), the human resources department of the company, oversees some 5,000 employees in the Axel Springer Group and issues an average of 1,500 reference certificates per year. In the past, this was completed manually using a wide variety of communication media, and therefore took long time. “In introducing the employment reference tool, we can ensure a balance between standard­ization and individualization,” explains Ms. Danijela Böttger, Head of Human Resources at ASMAS. „Ev­ery employee wants to have an individual employ­ment reference. The pcm process2Design from easy software has made the reference process more efficient and quicker.” The HR service com­pletes this task in two ways: an electronic process for initiating and processing the request for an employment reference, and the provision of ready­to-use text modules that can be used repeatedly in different versions.

In introducing the employment reference tool, we can ensure a ba­lance between standardization and individualization. Every employee wants to have an individual employ­ment reference. The Process­2Design from EASY SOFTWARE has made the reference process more efficient and quicker.

Danijela Böttger,
Head of Human Resources at Axel Springer Medien Accounting Service GmbH (ASMAS)




employees (2019)


mil. € turnover (2019)


Despite standardisation, individualisation of certificates is always possible

The technical challenge in this project: the group works with different operating systems. The solution therefore had to be a browser-based application that runs on all operating systems and is SAP-integrated for the export and import of data. It also had to be expandable, as complex organizational structures such as those at the Axel Springer Group make rolling out a standardized application difficult, as Danijela Böttger is well aware. EASY SOFTWARE AG scored points with all these criteria and was therefore chosen.

At first, the system wasn’t used throughout the group. It was initially implemented at the group subsidiaries Media Impact GmbH & Co. KG and Bild Digital GmbH & Co. KG for three months. Over the course of 2013, its benefits were then dis­cussed with the general works council. The employee representatives always keep a watchful eye on technical innovations in the field of human resources management. Are standardized employment references really in the interests of the employees, and how do the employees benefit? The complete preparation and roll-out phase was characterized by a close coordination with the general­and group works councils. The decision was clear: Yes, standardized employment references are of relevance in the age of digitalization. That is why a company agreement has now been reached on this issue, and full use is being made of process2Design.

The formulation of the range of requirements, from the invitation to tender, the product selection and detailed concept through to the final implemen­tation took a whole year. Before it was possible for the first employment reference workflow to start, the HR department first had to create the basis in the form of text modules, which were drafted using easy pcm process2Design and saved in the SAP system: A wide-ranging field with a high customizing workload, in which the Axel Springer Group decided to categorize the data according to eleven areas of assessment and grades of very good through to sufficient. These areas of assessment were the standard ones: specialist knowledge, further training, perception, capacity for reflection and judgement, motivation, etc. In the first step, the human resources department drafted texts for the commercial staff and in the next step, for the editorial staff. Six text modules are available for each area of assessment and grade, with one each for the final- and interim employ­ment references. Some of the task descriptions are already available in the system and can be supplemented and edited and/or freshly created.

All of these texts are now stored in the SAP backend system and are used when creating employment references with pcm process2Design. For managers and the human resources department this means that they no longer have to create new texts each time, but can rely on standardized modules. To prevent the texts from becoming inflexible, the creator can add or extend the standard text modules as required and save the new versions as text templates. Therefore, despite the standardization, an increased individualization of employment references is possible.

With the text modules, nothing stands in the way of creating an employment reference at the touch of a button. In prac­tice, it works like this: Any disciplinary manager can initiate the creation of an interim reference for an employee under his or her supervision in the Manager Self-Service area of the SAP human resources portal. The triggering moment for this is usually the respective request on the part of the employee. HR administrators do this in the same way, although not via the HR portal, but via the Business Work­place of the SAP backend system. Unlike the manager, they are able to initiate processes for all employees and initiate final employment references – which are usually triggered when an employee leaves the company.

In the first step of the workflow, it is necessary to decide whether the employment reference will be in English or German. The master data of the employee is transferred from SAP HCM, depending on the category of employee (temporary employee, salaried employee, editorial employee, etc.). The system then automatically proposes a manager for the recipient of the employment reference according to the Organizational Management System, which completes the assessment and ultimately signs the employ­ment reference.

The initiator writes an formulates the initial text. This con­sists of an introduction of the company and the record of the employee in the organization. Pre-defined text modules are then inserted, although these can still be edited at any time; the manager then saves and/or completes the description of tasks and completes the assessment for the eleven areas of assessment with the appropriate grade, selecting the appropriate module from the six different text modules.

Once this is complete, the manager can generate a preview of the employment reference, before triggering the next pro­cess step by „sending“ it. A technical check is then carried out to see whether the employee is still actively employed at the company. If s/he is no longer there, the process goes directly to the human resources service without the involvement of the employee.

If the employee is still actively employed, they will receive a message via Outlook with a link to the human resources portal, where they can view the employment reference. Through the link, s/he can amend his or her tasks, view his or her assessment and insert requests for changes in the form of comments. These are then returned to the manager.

As soon as the employee confirms his or her employment reference, the process is forwarded to the human resources department for fine-tuning and any necessary changes. The electronic workflow reminds the staff members of delays to the compilation of the reference: If an employ­ment reference has been in processing for more than seven days, the responsible person will receive an automatic reminder. “The easy software means we always have an overview of the employment references that are currently being processed and their status,” explains Danijela Böttger. The HR department reserves the right to revise the layout of the employment references subsequent to the appraisal process by the manager. This way, it ensures the fine tuning of the selected text modules, and also subsequently incorporate older interim references.

After the fine tuning, the HR manager gives the employment reference to the manager and the responsible HR business partner for signing, who acts as an interface between the department and the service areas of the HR department. At this point, the only media break during the whole procedure takes place, as the employment reference has to be signed by hand. Upon being signed, the employment reference workflow is completed and the employee receives their employment reference. Only a PDF of the employment reference which is issued remains in the electronic human resources file.

The digital signature, to eliminate the final media break, is certain to be implemented in the near future. With easy software, the Axel Springer Group has managed to omit the time when employees were required to wait a long time for their employment references.

the right data in the right hands


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