The global number of employees on a yearly average was 14,846 in 2021, compared to 13,016 in the previous year. Personnel expenses increased by a total of 22.0% from € 583.7 million to € 712.4 million in 2021. On average, personnel expenses per employee amounted to € 48.0 thousand, compared to € 44.8 thousand in the previous year.
As of December 31, 2021, the number of employees was 16,125, compared to 14,374 in the previous year. This corresponds to an overall increase in the number of employees of 12.2% compared to the previous year. The development in the number of employees per area is as follows:
The global COVID-19 pandemic continued to influence our business operations in 2021, in particular in the various phases that in some cases saw governments worldwide take extensive measures to restrict contact. As mobile working and virtual collaboration were already common practice at PUMA, we were able to respond with maximum flexibility in terms of where and when our employees did their work. To adapt to these new circumstances, we have increased the flexibility of our regular working time models and have developed hybrid concepts for all training courses that were previously classroom-based. We have continued to place particular emphasis on creating a safe working environment and avoiding financial cuts for our employees. Their high level of commitment has meant that we have been able to continue our business operations as smoothly as possible, and we feel well prepared for our further growth path.
To ensure our competitiveness in an increasingly complex environment and to promote growth, it is essential that we have highly qualified and motivated personnel whom we can retain for the long term at our Group companies.
To attract external candidates, in addition to our careers website we use digital platforms and social media for our target-group-specific, individual, and proactive recruiting measures. Having a range of initiatives at universities gives us the opportunity to approach potential employees and identify suitable candidates. Extensive networks of qualified applicants and candidate pools help us to quickly fill vacancies. In the competitive labor market, being an attractive employer and being perceived as such by current and potential employees are of critical importance. PUMA's attractiveness is evidenced by its top rankings as an employer and numerous awards. We are very proud of the fact that in 2021, a total of sixteen PUMA subsidiaries around the world received a coveted Top Employer Award, which honors our outstanding corporate culture and working environment.
In 2021, the focus was again on simplifying, accelerating, and harmonizing business processes worldwide, as well as on further digitalization. Since 2017, we have been using the "Workday" software solution for a variety of human resources processes. This software provides employees and managers with the processes and tools required for daily human resources management. In addition, easy-to-use dashboards provide managers with the information and data-driven insights they need for planning and management. The analysis of our centrally available global data provides a solid basis for strategic decisions and measurable results. Digital signatures and chatbots contributed to the further digitalization and optimization of key processes worldwide.
Our aim is to nurture our employees both on an individual basis and in an international environment while successfully retaining them at PUMA for the long term. Based on the Workday software, a systematic succession plan is created as part of talent management in addition to performance assessment and target-setting. We identify the talent available within the Group as part of annual performance reviews and global talent conferences and foster talent development based on individual development plans. This type of talent management means that we can offer our employees attractive career and development opportunities. In this reporting year, we continued to fill the majority of our key positions through internal promotions or horizontal moves around the world. This strengthens our talent and development strategy.
In order to be successful in the long term, it is essential that our workforce has the necessary skills to ensure continuous growth and market competence, especially in times of extensive change. We guarantee this by means of the ongoing and systematic professional and personal development of our employees. Workday helps us to avoid skills gaps and gain transparency about the skills available in the workforce.
The range of training that we provide includes a number of online and offline training courses and workshops, which are either standardized or tailored to individual needs. In 2021, we expanded this offering. With "LinkedIn Learning" and "Good Habitz," there are now almost 18,000 different training courses available for our employees. A wide range of learning categories are available for self-directed personal and professional development. Furthermore, learning content covering topics such as mental well-being, resilience, mindfulness, and emotional stability in particular helped us as an employer to provide the best possible support to our employees around the world in the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to expand the use of agile working methods even further and therefore offer Digital Agile Coach programs for different target groups.
With a range of apprenticeships and dual-study programs, as well as study-related internships, we offer adequate entry-level and development opportunities for talented individuals at all levels.
We offer our managers numerous training and development opportunities. All managers worldwide complete our internal global leadership training program, consisting of the ILP ("International Leadership Program") and ILP². The program helps participants to develop over a long period of time and includes intensive training and coaching units—including interactive learning, role plays, and best practice learning—as well as joint projects. The digitalization and the changing work environment have posed new challenges for managers in particular. The key topics are therefore coaching, mindful leadership, and agile working methods. In 2021, we also introduced a new training program: the PUMA Leadership Expedition, which aims to empower our managers to lead effectively in the VUCA world (VUCA is an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambivalent). The program is completely virtual, easily accessible, and designed as a self-directed and tailor-made learning format. It includes self-selected virtual training sessions with a trainer, regular communication with other international participants in smaller working groups, and coached sessions, as well as individual learning sprints and check-ins with the trainers.
Our training from employee to manager is intended to prepare employees who are taking on a management position for the first time specifically for their new role. In addition to the training module, the program also offers individual coaching.
Our personnel development programs "Speed Up" and "Speed Up²" target employees at different hierarchal levels. Various groups consisting of top talent receive intensive preparation for the next step in their careers by taking on interdisciplinary projects and tasks, targeted training courses, mentoring and coaching, as well as job rotations. Increased visibility to upper management, the creation of cross-functional collaborations and establishing a strong network are also important components of this program.
Feedback from our employees is very important to us. This is why, in addition to regular pulse checks, we conduct global surveys every two years. In 2021, 12,875 employees participated in our employee survey and took the opportunity to share their opinions about their workplace and professional life. This equates to a participation rate of 86% (2019: 85%). Despite the difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have achieved higher approval levels in all categories. We are particularly proud that our 92% (2019: 91%) employee engagement rate has increased once again, which is a testimony to the high level of our employees' commitment and loyalty to the PUMA brand. These results encourage us to continue and further strengthen the measures that have been implemented. The results of the survey were communicated at global, local, and departmental level and any follow-up measures were defined.
The trust-based and constructive collaboration with the Works Councils is an important part of our corporate culture. In 2021, the European Works Council of PUMA SE represented employees from 13 European countries and had 16 members. The German Works Council of PUMA SE was made up of 15 members and represents the employees of the PUMA Group in Germany. A designated member of the Works Councils in Germany represents the interests of employees with disabilities.
We at PUMA offer our employees a targeted and competitive compensation system, which consists of several components. In addition to a fixed base salary, the PUMA bonus system, profit-sharing programs, and various social benefits form part of an attractive and performance-based compensation system. In addition, we offer our employees comprehensive services in the areas of further development, employee motivation, health management, and wellbeing. We also offer long-term incentive programs for the senior management level that honor the sustainable development and performance of the business. The bonus system is transparent and globally standardized. Incentives are exclusively linked to company goals.