undconsorten LLP

Performance management as a growth driver for employees and companies
Philip Schetter, Managing Director of Aurora Europe, and Sarah Husinec, Director Human Resources Europe, explain in our interview how they set up their performance management system to meet the requirements of a fast-growing start-up and what they expect from it for the future of the company.


Originating as a start-up, you are currently experiencing a period of strong growth. What are your biggest challenges at this point?

Sarah Husinec & Philip Schetter
Aurora Europe


Philip Schetter: Since medical cannabis is a new market, regulatory factors play a major role – and these vary from country to country. We are currently expanding into several new countries and building our organization there, which means that we have a portfolio of organizations with very different maturity levels. In addition, we are working continuously to implement structures and processes in a well-measured way. In this sense, we want to create more efficiency without losing entrepreneurship. All of this means that we are constantly being presented with new and ever-changing challenges – which is fun, but also a great challenge.

Sarah Husinec: The organizational changes have been accompanied by the recruitment of many new employees. We want to onboard these new employees well and retain them for the long term, while maintaining our special culture at the same time. In doing so, we also have to take care to introduce HR processes that are scalable and can meet the requirements of different countries and our parent company.

Sarah Husinec & Philip Schetter
Aurora Europe


One of the issues you just addressed is the implementation of a new performance management system. What was the goal you wanted to achieve?

Philip Schetter: For this you have to understand Aurora’s history. As a small start-up, we initially had rather informal feedback channels. But we realized that this was no longer enough at a certain size. That’s why it was important for us to establish professional structures for the exchange of performance and development information in addition to informal feedback.

Employee development is particularly important for us. In the course of the transition from a start-up to a medium-sized company and then hopefully to an even larger company, we would like to develop as many employees as possible into the newly emerging management positions so that they can shape the company together with us. It is very important to us that our growth is not shaped solely by external attitudes. We do this by talking to our employees about their development much more frequently and in a more goal-oriented way.

Your new performance management system relies heavily on the personal responsibility of your employees. Why did you choose this approach?

Philip Schetter: Especially in a strong growth phase, employees should be motivated to identify and seize opportunities for themselves. That is why we let them define their own development goals and the next steps in their development. I’m curious to see how people want to develop and what potential lies there – we hear this much better when we ask them ourselves.

“I think it makes sense for employees to be given more responsibility for advancing their own careers – they should become entrepreneurs for themselves.“

Sarah Husinec: We are aware that this is a very new task for some employees. We are still at the beginning of the implementation process, but what we have seen so far shows that everyone has been accepting and implementing this challenge. We have seen that there are people who are less interested in developing themselves in the sense of a career upwards, but rather in terms of content. In order to be able to have a direct conversation about this, it’s not always necessary to indicate short-term development goals, but employees can also indicate their medium-term career aspirations. In this way, we want to support each individual according to their individual needs.

Aurora Europe GmbH and its subsidiary Aurora Deutschland GmbH is the largest importer, exporter and distributor of medical cannabis in the European Union. They supply medical cannabis products to patients in Europe. In April 2019, Aurora Germany was awarded the maximum number of licenses in a public tender to cultivate medical cannabis by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). Since 2017, Aurora Europe has been a subsidiary of the Canadian licensed producer (LP) of medical cannabis, Aurora Cannabis Inc.

Your new system is based on a semi-annual rhythm with an in-depth review meeting at the end of the financial year and a development meeting after half a year. How did you determine this rhythm?

Aurora Europe GmbH and its subsidiary Aurora Deutschland GmbH is the largest importer, exporter and distributor of medical cannabis in the European Union. They supply medical cannabis products to patients in Europe. In April 2019, Aurora Germany was awarded the maximum number of licenses in a public tender to cultivate medical cannabis by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). Since 2017, Aurora Europe has been a subsidiary of the Canadian licensed producer (LP) of medical cannabis, Aurora Cannabis Inc.

Sarah Husinec: Especially in our business, where as much happens in one year as in others in seven, a typical annual rhythm would be too long. It is crucial to catch the employees in the middle of the year and give them opportunities to take other measures or simply to say: “You’re on the right track.“

You decided to incorporate fixed elements of upward and peer feedback – for all executives in the company including the managing directors. What are you looking to achieve?

Philip Schetter: Upward feedback helps us as a management team to measure the pulse of the organization at an early stage and, if necessary, to take countermeasures or strengthen things that are perceived as positive. This is a promise we have made to our employees. In August we will do this for the first time for ourselves as managing directors and we will then work to handle it well and implement the results clearly. This is a great endeavor for all of us, especially in such hectic times.

“Particularly in a period of strong growth, it is crucial that managers receive feedback in order to develop in a targeted manner.“

Sarah Husinec: We combine upward feedback with peer feedback from between managers. In this way, we ensure that there continues to be a good deal of exchange between managers and that a leadership team is formed that thrives together.

How have employees and managers reacted to the introduction of upward and peer feedback?

Sarah Husinec: Quite positively. We deliberately decided not to combine this with a rating system, but to use open questions. In this way, we were able to gain an insight into what actually moves people.

As part of the introduction of the new performance management system, you’ve invested in feedback training – for managers, but also for all employees. What was your motivation for this?

Sarah Husinec: Transparency was our top priority – we wanted our employees to know what was coming their way and what the goals were. And we also wanted to give space for questions and concerns, especially for those who haven’t had any experience with ratings or formal review interviews before.

Philip Schetter: In addition to explaining the system, the training sessions also focused on the topic of feedback. We encourage everyone to give each other feedback. For this we have provided all the necessary tools, like how one can perhaps address even the most delicate of topics. This is invaluable for all kinds of feedback – upward or downward, formal or informal.

We at undconsorten supported you both in the design of the system and in the conception and implementation of the trainings. In your opinion, what was this collaboration’s greatest value-add?

Philip Schetter: When we decided to work with undconsorten, your integrated consulting approach was decisive for us. We didn’t want anyone developing something without us or simply handing us a standard solution. Instead, we needed a consultant to help us develop a system that would meet our specific needs. We also knew that this would require more than just the development of a concept. That’s why we deliberately chose someone who offers content consulting in conjunction with training and coaching.

Sarah Husinec: We also shouldn’t forget that the development and implementation of the new system happened in the course of our day-to-day business operations. So, an external partner with whom we could work pragmatically and quickly arrive at an end product was important to us.

You are in the middle of implementing the first cycle of the new performance management. What’s the next step?

Philip Schetter: . For us it was about quickly getting to a well-rounded and working system that is scalable. Then we can make adjustments over the next few years if necessary, while already benefiting from the effects.

“We’re going for a clear 80/20 approach – in a dynamic environment like ours there won’t be a perfect solution.“

Do you want to learn more about Aurora’s performance management system?
Get in touch with us!

Dr. Corinna Regnery
Associate Principal