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How Strategic HR at Adidas Facilitates Business Transformation

Interview with Christian Kuhna – Director HR Strategy, Think Tank Future Trends and Innovation at Adidas

Adidas, the German pioneer brand in sportswear, decided in 2014 to do a bold move towards a huge turnaround as the brand was threatened to lose its ability to create iconic, desirable products and relevancy among mainly a new generation of young athletes. By putting design, purpose and a new brand narrative “The Creators Brand” into the heart of its product lines and business management, Adidas started its comeback.

Drawing on the success of its new focus Adidas announced in 2015 its business strategy “Creating the New”, a growth plan for the company until 2020 that focuses on three strategic choices: speed, cities and open-source. Speed with regards to time to market through accelerated business processes and digital technologies applied. Cities as that’s where 80% of the global GDP is generated and because future trends that Adidas wants to further anticipate will continue to arise in metropolitan areas. And a focus on open-source in order to turn consumers, athletes, retailers and partners into co-creators of the Adidas brands, hence creating a strong global community of brand advocates.

The turnaround of Adidas started in 2014, the same year in which the “Adidas Group Learning Campus” was opened. One man of the team which had built the Learning Campus then went on to set up an internal “Think Tank Future Trends & Innovation”.

Since the performance of any business depends heavily on its employees as well as on organizational structures that enable continuous and quick adaptations to market changes, I was eager to meet the man at Adidas who not only contributed much to its cultural transformation with the Think Tank and Learning Campus Strategy, but who also gave strategic impulses inside the HR department at Adidas.

This man is Christian Kuhna – Director HR Strategy, Think Tank, Future Trends and Innovation. Striking glasses, mostly wearing a training jacket, 24/7 full of excitement for the future of work and, as he calls himself, a hopeless optimist – that’s how he stands out from the crowd.

He and I met up in Berlin during a workshop session of Adidas’ ForeWork initiative that explores the future of workforces and workspaces in partnership with Jovoto, Vitra, CISCO, Deutsche Telekom, Volkswagen, Haufe-Umantis, and others, in a media partnership with WIRED Germany.

In this interview, Christian shares some insights into his job, how Adidas manages its people strategy in order to navigate digital business transformation, and how for instance collaboration and creativity are nourished in the company culture.

Give it a listen below!

More about Christian Kuhna

In 2009 Christian Kuhna joined Adidas to first set up and manage the Internal Communications for the group, then switched to HR and today serves as Director HR Strategy, Think Tank Future Trends & Innovation. Since his arrival Christian has been heavily involved in transforming Adidas’ organization and its digital talent capacities.
In 2014 together with a team he launched the Adidas Group Learning Campus that fosters a “New Way of Learning” for the generation Y and subsequent generations, focusing on lifelong, self-directed learning and skills needed in digital businesses. He then went on to set up an internal “Think Tank Future Trends & Innovation” at Adidas to provide global trend insights and direction for business, brand and human resources strategies. Prior to Adidas, Christian has been working at Siemens AG and DaimlerChrysler.

This interview is part of the 4th issue of INTERSECTIONS, the newsletter series of #YesBrandPlease on the intersections of brand strategy, business, design, sustainability, innovation and marketing.

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About the author and interviewer

Nadine Bruder is the founder of #YesBrandPlease and curator of its newsletter series INTERSECTIONS. Her vision is to empower and to connect a new international breed of brand creators and business leaders that want to make a sustainable impact in our society.
She is a rewarded brand & marketing strategist as well as business innovator, helping technology and lifestyle companies in Europe, Asia and in Northern America to be ahead of the competition through smart strategies and forward thinking visions.

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