Green Queen | From frontline worker to BMW's HRD: an unusual HR journey

From frontline worker to BMW's HRD: an unusual HR journey

Deep Dive

When Ilka Horstmeier first joined BMW 28 years ago, the world was quite a different place. Bill Clinton was President of the USA, the Channel Tunnel had just opened and Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black President of South Africa. And, of course, the Series Three BMW 7 Series was introduced.

“I started with BMW a long time ago – 28 years to be exact – and a lot of change and transformation has happened in that time,” Horstmeier shares. “I spent 20 years in production, which, to be honest, is a people function. So it made sense for me to move to HR. That’s why I was so happy when I was approached three years ago to take up a seat on the Board for the HR function.”

It’s not every day that a business as large as BMW (which, according to 2019 figures published by the Group, employs circa 133,000 people worldwide) promotes from the factory floor, as it were, and it’s both a welcome move and a smart one.

I know everything about cars, about engineering, about purchasing. And I think that that is a good prerequisite for an HR professional.

“It’s a very good situation, I've been part of many transformations on the shop floor. So I know the people. I know what is relevant. If you want to take people with you on that [HR] journey, you have to know the business – and I do. I know everything about cars, about engineering, about purchasing. And I think that that is a good prerequisite for an HR professional. If you really want to impact on the business, you have to know a lot about it,” she explains.

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