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The changing working environment demands new approaches.

Aktualisiert: 4. Mai 2019

As we all know and experience the world is changing around us constantly and in a hasty manner: every 6 month technology gently "pushes" people and organisations, creates more demands, different processes, enhancements, new ways of doing things at the same time it creates insecurity and confusion. Therefore, it's only natural that the working environment, the way we work, the jobs that are required and the talent that is needed is changing as well. Not to forget the way we hire changed or shall I say should change to ensure that skill gaps will not become a crisis.

I am sure some of you encounter a certain helplessness as well in your own company or when you get approached like I did and still do. I for example get questions asked like: "What is open source?" ,"What does an Alliance Manager do?" and "How to set up a Customer Success Team?" which I am delighted to answer.

In conversations over the past few years (companies, HR departments and recruiting firms) I observed a noticeable lack of understanding on what's required these days (skills and approach) and what jobs are available - from knowledge shortcomings about "new" jobs all the way to misalignment with regard to technology, innovation and digitalization.

Amazing for me is the "unkapputbar" desire for some - not all - to maintain the status quo and operate in known territory which can ultimately lead to not being able to recruit the right talent. Fair point: it's not uncommon for humans to stick to what we know. But if we want to be able to lead, innovate and manage, being open to learn and change is a must. Not everything should change, of course, but if we don't understand the "situation" how can we make sound decisions? And yes, not everybody had the chance to enhance their knowledge and understanding through jobs and the company they work(ed) for.

A lot of people talk about AI and the impact of the job market. This topic is real and needs to be addressed, needs "to be made" understood and most of all, it needs to be worked with. Scaring people is not helping. But there are other factors that deserve to be mentioned that are already having an impact and will progressively do so.

There are other aspects that have impact on our work environment. Just to name a few:

  • Aging population: Russia for example lost 1million workforce in 2017 due to aging population which highly likely will change current retirement age: women 55 and men 60.

Germany has to combine innovation and tradition to cope with the aging society.

  • Market shift: Near shoring versus offshoring: India for example will face a massive challenge, because of AI and the fact that near shoring is becoming more and more attractive for companies and the country hasn't developed alternative scenarios to deal with that fact yet.

  • Educational System: A few more facts* on education in Germany: - 700.000 people with special technological knowledge will be needed in Germany for the next five years. - 3.8 million people need to get trained to acquire knowledge digitally (Digital Learning) - 2.8 million people need to deepen their digital knowledge (Digital Literacy)

  • Students require different curricula and when they leave university they are seeking companies that have the same level of understanding and "playing" field to be able to do a good job. And if the company offers this, the leaders should be able to understand what's going on these days. Actual status: - 80% of universities have continuing education programs in the program, most of them certification courses. But there are also continuing education courses but overall the number of participants is still low. - 65% of companies place focus on their continuing education programs on future skills. Within the next 5 years an increase to 75% is to be expected.

To provide a more rounded view I am happy that Asta Baumöller (owner of MELT.MEDIA BERLIN) agreed to a short interview. Asta is specialized in filling professional and managerial positions and in people & culture consultancy for media-, communication- & digital environments, and she teaches "Leadership in cultural and creative industries" at the bbw University of applied sciences and joins advisory boards as well as award judging panels as a member.


Nowadays many people discuss a lot about a noticeable shift in the working world. What is your position?

"Yes, there is certainly a transition going on in the working world; I suppose, that many enterprises have recognized the effects of this ongoing change from an industrial society, to a knowledge society and I am convinced, that today's requirements and challenges differ strongly from what was important in our parents working world."

What is required going forward?

"Not the "muscle-power" of reproduction and mass production of an industrial society - but the "brain-power" of theoretical knowledge - creativity, agility and learning ability - become the main drivers of our economy.

Consequently, we need to change our working environments and our way of leading people. Science has proven, that - if one aims for ideal "brain-power results"- it is crucial to fill positions with people who are not only experienced, but intrinsically motivated to do what they do and that it is possible to foster their abilities by setting up working environments that are based on autonomy, mastery and purpose.

It seems to me, that this switch "from muscle to brain" is one of the largest current demands for leaders / managers who - for instance - are used to counterproductive habits and settings like top down communication, micromanagement, inflexible structures and hierarchies, fixed working hours and environments etc. From my perspective, first of all business leaders are the ones who have to understand this ongoing change and adapt themselves and their businesses, to be successful, future-proof and to create attractive employer brands."

Algorithms, AI etc keep on crawling into many many areas. Will machines take over Human Resources or recruitment in the future?

"Yes an no; since some time, analytics, HR-bots, social recruiting and online assessments etc. are standards in the human resources daily business, because HR has always been working with a lot of data - so it's in the nature of things, that any technical support to search, select, evaluate and structure can be a huge organizational relief here. I do assume that some jobs in HR will die - but other, new jobs will arise, just like in any other industry facing radical changes. Last but not least, i am quite sure that the final decision, if a person actually gets hired or not, will stay "people business" and - also in the future -  remain in human hands." 

What kind of talent do German companies need today, to be successful?

"Behind the situation mentioned above, I think that companies all over the world need to look for people who love what they do, because these people do it best, and they are eager to learn more in their field; learning ability and intrinsic motivation will contribute best to the economic success of the company in these fast-moving times.

I often get the impression, that in Germany we have a mentality of "rather playing it safe" - which leads to a rigid and "paper based" hiring policy. From my perspective this is a false strategy, because we may exclude people with medium CV's but appropriate attitude. So I would like to take this occasion to proclaim: more openness, more interviews!

Soft skills currently needed in Germany:

- Contemporary Leadership (not Management)

- Learning ability & affinity/openness to technology (tools etc.)

- Collaboration & empathy

- Communication & feedback

- Time Management

Hard skills currently needed in Germany:

- User experience

- Business intelligence

- Data science

- HR operations & new work expertise

- Sales & business development

- Mobile development

- Software development

- Cloud computing

- SEO/SEM Marketing

What's your advice- for businesses?

"Check your culture and your management team - and change whatever hinders the evolvement of your "company brain-power", if you aim to be successful in the future.

- and for applicants?

Know your intrinsic motivation and your USP. Ask, stay active & interested, keep on learning."

Thanks for the interview.

"You are welcome, it was a pleasure."

Interesting topics with a lot of movement. If you want to talk about new approaches, digital interactions, new collaboration models (teamwork across disciplines, cultures and national borders) or about moderation between tech experts and non-professionals, feel free to reach out to me. Or if you need to master difficult management challenges in transformation situations, don't hesitate to contact me. I am happy to discuss, excited to support and eager to help grow your business.

*Data source: Die Bildungsinitiative - Des Stifterverbandes


About the author:

Birgit Baier is a Strategic Realizer - making complexity simple. She is international and digital at heart, a passionate Business Transformer with over twenty five years experience in leading digital and integrated marketing, innovation, brand development companies and managed strategic technology alliances/partnerships. Creating meaningful solutions, products, services and brand experiences and delivering strategic innovation is what drives her.

More details can be found here:

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