Digital Human Resources and Employee Focusing: 4 Change Tips for Business

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Digitization is changing how we live and work not only today but also in the future. Digital tools, chat bots and Artificial Intelligence are only an early harbinger of what's to come. But man should always be the focus of attention.

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Here writes for you:


Dr. Elke Eller is a member of the Executive Board for the Human Resources department as well as the Labor Director of the TUI Group. In addition, she is a member of the supervisory board of Nord / LB and president of the Federal Association of Personnel Managers.


Digital changes for employees

For many employees in companies, digital developments mean profound changes. I am convinced that the digital transformation of work is only just beginning. We are already seeing digital services for customers and, of course, digital tools are the norm in everyday work.

But this seems to me to be only a first visible manifestation of the digital transformation. In the companies of the future will be worked very differently than we do today. And we should be aware that these profound changes in the world of work will not only be welcomed, but that there will be people who respond with fears and incomprehension.

Progress does not make you unemployed

Work has continued to evolve for centuries. What challenges did people face when steam engines moved into the factory halls and assembly line production moved into production. They led to enormous increases in productivity, especially for relatively low-skilled workers. And some of you may still remember the end of the world scenarios with the introduction of PCs in companies in the 1980s, according to the motto (and SpiegelTitle) “Progress makes you unemployed”.

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And did not these advances in information and communication technology, programmable machines, and automation have advantages for highly skilled workers? The history of the work shows that a fundamental transformation does not have to mean the end of the work.

Man as the center of economic activity

But any fundamental change in the conditions of work will change the demands on its quantity and quality. I am convinced that people will continue to be at the center of economic activity in the future.

And that we will need qualified employees more than ever in the future, especially in the service industry. However, the new world of work will be shaped by new digital tools, new digital processes and new job profiles that depend much more on digital skills than before.

2 Trends of Digital Human Resource

In my opinion, however, attributing the changes in the working world to digital tools or digital business models alone does not go far enough. Of course, the digital transformation is a defining trend for the work of the future. However, I consider two other trends to be just as relevant, without which the work environment of tomorrow cannot be understood.

1. From the employer to the employee market

First of all, human resources managers have to deal with the fact that the social and economic environment has changed fundamentally. Put simply: from the employer to the employee market. Youth unemployment is very low in Germany compared to many other European countries. There is a good mood on the job market. Often, professionals can choose which job to accept.

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It is usually no longer enough to just offer an attractive package to attract good applicants to a company. Culture and communication issues in companies are becoming increasingly important for applicants. Companies should therefore place greater emphasis on "digitality" in employer branding and in addressing future applicants than in the past. And instead of standardized stock images, use photos directly from the company. This enables employers to stand out from the competition in a targeted manner - for a new generation of future employees.

2. Sense and self-actualization

Another trend is the change in the way young people start working. From a sociological perspective, we have five generations of work in most companies today. These include the traditionalists, the baby boomers, the generation X, Y and Z. Even before digitization, different generations worked together in one company. And yet, in view of the importance of work for one's own life satisfaction and the weighting between career and private life, some previously incontrovertible certainties in the companies seem to be questioned as a matter of course.

Instead of the line career, young people are increasingly concerned with meaning and self-realization. Instead of executives, they want coaches as superiors. It is no longer the conductor who leads the way from above with a heavy hand, but the manager who is careful with his working time, with whom he can make direct and equal contact, is the new ideal type. The manager becomes a coach, business areas become a community, and the organization becomes a collaborative and fluid network. For the youngest generation in companies, the differences between their own environment and the world of work are already enormous.

Work organization must change

How we are organized in companies, how we work, how we manage, what digital tools we use - all of this seems to be a cosmos of our own for most of our youngest employees. And it will be the job of HR managers to overcome these different digital worlds of experience between work and personal life.

And the timing could not be better. The need for more self-determination and mobility among employees is undoubtedly present. At the same time, digitization offers companies completely new options for responding to this need with smart solutions and for organizing work in a different and more flexible way. Here is a new dynamic to watch from which employers and employees alike can benefit.

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Opportunities for HR managers

For HR managers, this is an opportunity to support employees on their way to more self-determination and flexibility with individualized and intelligent digital offers. On the one hand, this can be done by consistently digitizing your own offers. For example with “digital classrooms”, which represent an alternative to organizationally complex (and cost-intensive) meetings, make time-consuming arrivals and departures redundant and can also be used from home.

The future tasks of HR will include enabling management and employees to deal with complex issues using the right technology. In my observation, HR departments have been very good at converting complex challenges into processes and managing them. However, as the challenges become more complex, processes must not become more complex too. The aim should be to solve complex problems with lean, simple processes. And I believe that the key to this lean, simpler world lies in digital tools.

Agile organizations

However, anyone who understands digitalization exclusively as more online tools and a few new possibilities for data evaluation is underestimating the profound effects on the world of work. The driver here is: agility. Faster and decentralized decisions, more transparency, more trust, mobile working, changed responsibilities - these are the challenges that every organization faces in digital transformation, but agility must not just be a motto or just a method.

Agile organizations will only exist if we succeed in establishing a new mindset among our employees. Agility needs the appropriate culture and structure in the business to function.

IT as a pioneer

In most companies IT is one of the first to consistently focus on agile ways of working. The increasing digitalization of the business model of a tourist group increases the complexity and the interdependence of processes within a company.

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The IT areas are particularly challenged here. Which is why it is hardly surprising that one goes ahead there. This gives an idea of ​​which dimensions will be the largest field of action of future HR work in agile organizations: attitude and image of people.

4 Structural change tips for companies

The current market developments and the challenge of faster product development cycles continue to generate pressure for change. Companies should address this pressure in the following ways:

  1. Businesses should therefore set the basic values ​​of this new way of working. Among other things, individuals and interactions should be given precedence over processes and tools. And instead of sticking to a plan stoically, it should be called to embark on change.
  2. Introducing an agile way of working does not mean solving “the problem” - but creating an environment in which the challenges of employees and managers can be optimally met in the future. Because that change follows change is the new normal.
  3. In order to support cooperation and to ensure the integration of individual departments, the IT can be transformed into a matrix organization that connects the teams and employees in a cross-functional way.
  4. The aim of companies should also be to break up existing departmental silo thinking, to bring together experts from different areas on an ad-hoc basis and thus to make cooperation more efficient.

Uncertainty in times of change

In the operational implementation, the new structure and the new working method initially led to uncertainty and ambiguity in the roles, responsibilities and tasks of some participants, resulting in increased strain and fluctuation. The new way of working required close support and support from senior executives and HR.

The organizational form is new for executives, employees and employee representatives. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that an agile matrix organization - the New World - has been established in a classically oriented, mature group with a traditional and strong committee structure - the old world. I consider this procedure to be a sign of the new era: Instead of introducing a sophisticated, overly complex construct in an overall organization, we anticipated one area. This approach could also be called: Freedom within a Framework.

Companies have to define guardrails

In all areas, companies should pursue this approach, which is based on centrally defining the guard rails and letting local or regional (or as here in a specific department) decide on the specific implementation. It is correct that the classic and hierarchical structures, communication and reporting structures around this “agile island” remain for the time being.

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In addition, legal framework conditions that were established in the industrial age remain relevant and must be taken into account when designing such experimental rooms in the company. Employees are confronted with their needs for belonging, trusting working relationships and security, which must be completely redefined in an agile matrix organization. Developing trusting relationships takes time and experience and can not be dictated by structural change. Digitization may be revolutionary - the behavior of employees in companies will change only gradually, evolutionarily.

Conclusion: There is no way around digitization

There is no way around digitization. Automatic speech recognition systems now have a similar error rate to humans in recognizing words from a conversation. Google's translation system knows 103 different languages ​​and translates daily over 140 billion words.

Many of the routine activities we employ today will be handled by artificial intelligence systems in the future. And yet I am deeply convinced that employees will continue to make the difference in the future - if they succeed in offering them the right environment for their work in companies.

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  1. Teresa

    I see it like Mr. Wüst. Digitization can not work if it is not properly instructed. It pays to ask questions such as: What does the company stand for as an employer? Which roles and competencies will be needed in the future? What effects does digitization have? How does the company find and bind suitable employees? Which culture and leadership principles form the framework for successful employee and company development? Which data, analyzes, forecasts are needed for this? What degree of automation and digitization is required for HR? (found here: Only through consistent questioning suitable solutions can be found.

    • Simone Janson

      Dear Teresa, thank you for your important and useful contribution! Unfortunately it took a little longer for the holiday to be unlocked.

  2. Christel

    As much as we are written about employee centering, motivation and skills shortage, one would think it was a walk to find a new job. Everything nonsense: Next week I have a good 50 applications finally once a job interview! After 50 Try!

    • Simone Janson

      Dear Christel, we wish you much success. It seems like the effort was worth it.

  3. Melanie

    An issue that is becoming increasingly important in many companies. Here, too, I see how difficult it is to take the employees along in the digital transformation.

    • Simone Janson

      Dear Melanie,
      thanks for the very good comment!

  4. Sigfried Wüst

    One of the most important basic skills of executives is successful leadership. The claim here is an authentic style of leadership. No leadership situation is usually the same as another. To succeed in unfamiliar situations, the leader needs a set of basic skills that she can use in everyday life.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Mr. Wüst, thank you very much for the very nice comment.

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