A vorstandsassistent is a formal role in the management structure of a German corporation. It involves acting as a link between the vorstand, which is the management board of a corporation, and the workforce of the company. A vorstandsassistent is the lowest level position of corporate-level management, and can be a stepping stone to more senior positions.
Under German corporate law, corporations have two types of board instead of the single board of directors in countries such as the United States. The aufsichtsrat, or supervisory board, carries out the roles of representing stockholders and overseeing their interests. The vorstand, or management board, is in charge of the corporations operation, and is roughly equivalent in power and status to the chief executive officer role in the US system.
The members of the vorstand are appointed by the aufsichtsrat. In most corporations, there is a senior member of the vorstand, known as a chairman, but the specific power of this member varies from company to company, both in theory and practice. Although the chairman may have a dominant influence, the vorstand makes decisions on a one member-one vote basis. Members are appointed for up to five years and can only be removed in exceptional circumstances. This is designed to prevent undue influence by the aufsichtsrat, for example in threatening to sack members who vote in a particular way.
Each member of the vorstand has one or more assistants, each known as a vorstandassistent. These people carry out two main roles. The first is to act as a filter between the vorstand member and the employees, for example in explaining board decisions to workers, or passing on employee concerns. The second role is to act as a proxy for the member, which involves representing the member, and in some cases, making decisions on his behalf. This proxy role covers both internal operations and dealings with other companies and the public.
Officially every vorstand member is jointly responsible for all activities of the board. In practice, most members will be assigned a particular area of the business to oversee. It is usual for a vorstandsassistent to form strong working relationships both with her immediate colleagues, and with the assistants of other vorstand members. This effectively makes the vorstandsassistents as a whole into a cross-company network forming the lowest level of corporate management.
A vorstandsassistent will usually be appointed for two or three years. The role is often given to younger staff members who have shown potential as executives. In effect, the role acts as a practical corporate management training program.