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New Work & Digitales Working: Waking Up German Manager!

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Accenture, Google and Microsoft have been showing how a "limitless workplace" can work for years. In Germany, however, managers have already had problems with the virtual workplace, let alone with global networks. It is above all the managers, who remain attached to old patterns of thinking and organization, how work is determined and organized.

Virtual workplace

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Roswitha van der marketRoswitha A. van der Markt is a company consultant and executive coach for HP, Siemens and SAP.


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Optimistic workers in terms of digitization

57 percent of workers in Europe expect improvements in their working conditions through digitization. This is the result of a large-scale survey of Accenture 2015's corporate consultancy: "Being digital: Embrace the future of your work and your people will embrace it with you". For the study, 2 500 employees and 500 executives were interviewed in the European Union.

Digitalization is on everyone's lips, but many employees fear that the managers in their Company While discussing a lot about technical upheavals without actually tackling them. While employees benefit from digitization for the innovativeness (71 percent), agility (69 percent) and Productivity (68 percent) of their company, only one in four managers wants fundamental changes. And only one in five calls his company digital. All the others are on a barely defined station on the "digital journey".

Timid managers jeopardize Germany as a business location

Almost every third company does not even consider adapting the business strategy of digitization. German companies are just ready to automate or adapt the existing processes. This may have been a fairly acceptable recipe in the past, but it is not enough today.

"Made in Germany" on the one hand through VW, in an ethical slant, on the other hand with the head and mind under the blanket: 70 percent of the interviewed German managers admitted that they do not take a pioneering role in digital transformation, but later want to adopt mature digital models. You can only say: Quo vadis - DAX, innovation and quality?

Fear of surveillance

The survey also takes into account the concerns and fears of employees. While only 8 per cent fear a worsening of their work environment, they are not yet sure whether there will be a loss of team spirit when the colleague is only working online and is no longer in the office.

According to the Accenture study, three out of four German workers are concerned or very worried that their employer will use technologies to monitor them at every step. Compared to other economies where the survey was also conducted, only the French are still more afraid of the boss's supervision.

Mistrust in German management floors

The virtual workspace as a sign of Weisure, the merging of work / work and leisure / leisure creates mistrust in German management floors. For he shakes the foundations of the German performance culture and "properly structured" work organization:

  • How can I trust my co-worker to work really hard - in his home office or even on the beach?
  • How can I manage my employees efficiently if I can not see them, ie can intervene and control them?

Also in the peer group, it is feared that other team members might rather sit in the sun. Most managers are unfortunately still convinced of the good, old presence culture.

Daniel Cable, Professor of Organizational Management at the London Business School, has determined in research that home office work for employees can become a career killer. Employees who are present daily in the office and are perceived by the manager are significantly more promoted. Managers believe the homeworkers are less diligent and reliable. Visibility thus suggests an alleged value of the results.

Our work organization dominates centuries-old patterns of thought

Patterns that have been firmly anchored in our minds for decades, even centuries: "Only" hard "work deserves the necessary recognition and reward. The promise: More performance, usually understood as measurable more good and hard work, brings more success, more security and more growth.

One of the lightest measurement criteria for performance in the industrial society has been working time. Who was present and under the control of the supervisor, also worked hard, was often paid purely after hours. This presence culture becomes a "justification culture", if one is not available for the superior, is not available in the workplace. Not only from Nine2Five, but nowadays the best 24 / 7.

In the "brains" are firmly anchored sayings such as "Stings under", only "Morgenstund has gold in the mouth" or joked jokes like "Take a half a day holiday," if someone already leaves the office at 18 clock. All signs of a culture of mistrust, a lack of acceptance of diversity, ie different life and work models. But also signs of fear, because the previous performance structure gave us security, a clear timeline, clear measurement criteria for service delivery, a clear career path from below "up to management", - and a clear separation of work and leisure, the latter, above all, a freedom from the intervention of the superior in the private life.

Compromise prevents progress

In many companies, a "compromise solution" is strived for: one or two days of home office with normal core time, ie presence on the computer from 9 to 17 clock, five-day week. Work-life balance on weekends. This really leaves everything in the old, both in thinking and in doing.

Surely this can be a relief. One saves on a few days the way to the company, the time in the suburban train or the stress in the car. But in reality one does not even use one third of the advantages of a virtual workplace.

Employees can organize themselves best

In a trust culture, it is assumed that both the colleague and the employee as a knowledge worker know best when, how and where he works best, by the way "for the benefit of the team as well as of the company".

A late riser divides his day differently from an early bird, a mother other than a single with specific hobbies. This creates a greater sense of satisfaction with life. As a responsible team member, everyone knows when and in what quality he has to contribute his / her results, when teammeetings take place online, for whom he should be available, especially at different time zones. Self-management coupled with project and team management lead to a qualitatively convincing result.

Flexibility brings greater work satisfaction

The advantage of a virtual workplace lies precisely in this flexibility. Everyone can interrupt their work, go shopping, go for a walk, go for a walk with the dog, play with the children in the park, and work at night, even at night. This flexibility reduces stress.

Breaks increase productivity. It is not a matter of temporal attendance at the workplace - be it in the company building or at home, which is to be monitored, but the result orientation, the faith and the confidence in the willingness to perform and the performance of the individual, even without visibility.

Monitoring culture kills motivation

Why is there such distrust in performance? Why do most German employees seem to work without passion? According to Gallup, the commitment index in Germany has been at a very modest level since 2001 until 2014. In all these years, the percentages of employees with a high level of commitment to the company are not 16 percent, fluctuating between 61 and 70 percent with a low bond, and even showing a frightening picture of employees without any binding in 16 to 24 percent. And this with an almost continuous presence culture.

Is the skepticism of the managers justified in giving their employees so little confidence or is it rather a wrong approach to motivating employees? In the Gallup study 2015, employees give their German managers bad grades, especially with regard to communication and exchange, precisely those skills that are so necessary in a networked project culture. 21 percent speak only once a month with their team, another 21 percent even less. Thus, almost 50 percent of employees are without regular team agreements.

Silo and competitive thinking instead of agile, cross-linked cooperation

As a rule, the old traditional viewpoints, methods and processes dominate the minds. In his current study, the HR service provider Hays shows that 72 percent of the decision-makers in IT, finance, research and development surveyed see the island and competition of the specialist departments as a barrier on the way to the digital organization. HR departments and even modern HR software often still cement the old norms and rules.

There are still workplace descriptions with defined competencies, responsibilities, skills, abilities, and goals that no longer meet current fluid and networked requirements. Since collusion, decisions can be made only within the departments according to the hierarchy levels, - and even collegial communication beyond "range limits" is eyed suspicious.

The area boundary marked the power and influence, the success of the individual manager and thus also his bonus system. An open use of virtual workstations is usually not "regulated". The simple fact that employees can work freely from place and time, and also networked in a spirit of partnership, does not occur in this way of thinking. Thus, many superiors fall back into the Command & Control thinking of the last millennium.

Stuck in old performance thinking

Success in our economy has so far been equal with a relevant management position. In the transport system, carriers are still lured with the rise to the career ladder, the promise of gaining more income, power and status. The "pure professional career" as an expert has existed for a long time, but the managerial career is still the "Crème de la Crème", especially when it is created in the boss days of the DAX companies.

Headhunters prove that the career as a manager is still measured in terms of leadership and depth of leadership, that is, the number of hierarchically subordinate employees and hierarchy levels. What was no longer sensible even with structures that are becoming ever flatter is absolutely superfluous in globally networked project and process structures. Forgotten were the "new" evaluation structures of young generations, for whom power, influence and leadership no longer constitute motivation.

A manager has been "even more powerful," the greater his budgetary responsibility. Ultimately, the company's successes in sales and profit are the only ones. Whether he achieves this with a leadership-motivating team spirit is insignificant. Whether he has taken values ​​and ethics into account, just as little. This becomes relevant only when a scandal like VW reveals the weakness of such a performance system and even damages the shareholder value of the company.

Old success criteria are becoming less important

In a management event on industry 4.0 this September, the present managers reacted just as wait-and-see. The discussions centered around technology and processes. A very small box considered HR. As in previous decades, it is emphasized that "employees" should be trained enough, this time in "digital skills" that the structural change should be accompanied by a change management program and the change readiness should be determined beforehand.

The digitization of HR administration, eLearning, recruiting and talent management is considered to be meaningful and partly implemented. A little turning on this or that technical set-point and ignoring the fact that this is the development of a new performance and leadership culture, which is characterized not so much by management, but by clients and employees. Less through announcements, prescriptions, pronouncements, but through listening, understanding, trust and appreciation.

Old success criteria lose their meaning: not hierarchical power position, but expertise and ability to collaborate are decisive in a fluid, digital and globally networked work. Perhaps that is why managers are reluctant to digitize because they suspect that they are losing the certainty of their success, the security of their power and position - and they do not yet know for themselves how to shape the future for themselves.

New thinking required for success, performance and management

With this rigid silo, competition and dominance knowledge thinking, we are facing bad times in leadership in digital change in Germany. If we do not finally change the mindset, the thought structures that have been imprinted over decades, even centuries, and develop new standards for success, performance and management.

Because virtual work is more productive, as evidenced by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University. He sent employees of a call center to the home office for nine months and evaluated their work results. Compared to their office hours, they showed a productivity increase of 13 percent. They were also less sick and much happier at work.

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