Digital working world of the future: loss of control - opportunities and risks

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The world of work is changing. Drivers are digital technologies and changing values. The corona crisis only accelerated the big change, it also offers opportunities. An overview.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


Digitization in Germany: suddenly it works!

Digitization, the entry of many companies into what is known as new territory, has long been rather sluggish in Germany with many defense reactions along the lines of "we have always done it this way". Well, due to the Corona crisis, much that had been missing for years had to be made up for very quickly - from eLearning to work organization in the home office, including data protection, to digital video conferences and entire events, all of which have now been moved to online.

The improvisation worked amazingly well in many cases, hats off so much enthusiasm for innovation, especially in the digital industry, especially at the events, some of which were already online in 2 days, that amazed me. It also showed what is possible when you let people do it. However, it must be said fairly that the switch to online worked particularly well for very digitally savvy people.

Employer: fear of losing control?

For many others, the unusual situation revealed what critics have long criticized: Germany is often not really digitized yet. IT security in the home office is particularly important Company facing huge challenges. But the organization of work is also completely different.

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This becomes clear at the latest when you see the funny-looking webinars of some HR departments with which they try to discipline their employees in the home office. There is talk of strict adherence to a dress code. And from not going shopping during working hours. The fear of losing control seems great - probably our book title Dealing with loss of control not for nothing one of the most common downloads.

Work more efficiently: error analysis instead of blaming

All of this could lead to a radical change in traditional forms of work. At best, work could become more self-determined, creative and democratic. In the worst case, workers exploit themselves and become slaves to their electronic devices at all times. Here are some practical examples.

The Japanese automaker Toyota one works according to the Kaizen method: it is never first about the question of who is responsible for an error, but it is always first analyzed how this error occurred and how it can be eliminated quickly and permanently. At Toyota, production is therefore not a subordinate area, but the last and most important instance of quality control. Because a problem in production cannot be solved at the desk three floors higher.

Participation in the production process

If a problem arises, every employee can stop the production process at any time and make a suggestion for improvement. Then employees, production managers and engineers or logisticians sit together and work through a catalog of questions: Why did this happen? Could the problem be repeated in other parts of the production? How do we make sure it doesn't happen again?

The goal is not the huge leap in innovation, but rather a quiet, continuous, small-step improvement that everyone involved - employees, supervisors and customers - is constantly exchanging ideas. Everyone knows that he needs the others for this process: and that sometimes the way to the goal also leads through detours.

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Corona crisis: Sudden change because it has to be

Also the Spanish automaker Seat showed in the middle of the corona crisis, which can suddenly all work in large corporations if it has to. In just a few days, the company switched production to the breathing apparatus that was urgently needed in hospitals and manufactured using windscreen wiper motors. Anyone who knows the bureaucratic structure and the sedate hierarchy in large corporations knows what a great story it is. That seems to have astonished even the production director Christian Vollmer:

“In such a large corporation, everyone looks very closely at their own area. It's suddenly different now: How we formed a company out of this emergency situation from a company that for a few weeks forgets every hack, every resentment and does not think about our own successes, is a really great experience. ”

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New Work & New Pay: Set your own salary and vacation?

There is pure democracy in Hanover and Stuttgart Management consulting Vollmer and Scheffczyk: Here, each employee determines his own salary and also decides when and how long he or she goes on vacation. Always with the option that you can raise or lower your salary at any time. However, they have to be able to justify their decisions in front of their colleagues: everyone can view all books and always knows what the company is doing. Reason: Employees who run after a carrot like bonus payments always only show as much commitment as the carrot can offer.

But VundS wants people who clearly identify with their job and who really care about the well-being of the company and their clients. And that only works if you abolish all incentive systems and rely entirely on intrinsic motivation. The employees really put the company and the client first. Because the topic "money" is out of your head. The wage costs have not increased. There is an internal social network: Anyone who has achieved anything, such as a customer workshop with a decent result, blogs the whole thing. Instead of a bonus struggle, the managers notice more identification with the company and joy in working.

Digital slave labor or beauty contest for every project?

But where there is light, there is also a shadow: Because social change also harbors dangers: IBM recently hit the headlines. In Germany alone, the company plans to cut up to 8000 jobs, but that's not all. Because the plan is obviously part of a fundamental reorganization of work structures.

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According to an internal paper IBM wanted to radically change relationships with its workforce. In the future, the group should only be managed by a small core workforce. IBM, on the other hand, wants to recruit specialists and specialists on a specially founded internet platform. There, freelancers from all over the world should present themselves and be certified according to certain quality features designed by IBM. In other words, the employees have to put a lot of effort into running after the carrot and the company picks the raisins out.

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