New Work: Challenges in the Digital World of Work

How is the digital transformation affecting the ways we work? And what are the risks and opportunities involved for businesses? These questions were pursued by a group of HR development managers at a networking event hosted by Prisca Brosi, Professor for Human Resource Management at Kühne Logistics University of November 14, 2019.

Businesses across multiple industries are looking for a radical shift in company culture. But how do they complete their mission? In her new workshop, Prisca Brosi presented three basic components to this technological and cultural transformation—implementing technological changes in dialogue with employees being effected by them, testing the effectivity of management concepts currently in place, and, last but not least, returning to the needs of the individual.

Implementing New Technology

New technology like chat systems, cloud and mobile computing, augmented reality, big data, and AI are heading the digital transformation. This collective term symbolizes the fundamental, technology-driven change in business models and processes how individuals and organizations work together. What is more, the digital transformation has gone beyond the scope of new technology into changing company culture. On one hand, this change in culture is necessary for implementing new technological innovations, yet for many of these, getting them off the ground is only possible after the change has occurred.

Testing HR Concepts

Apart from focusing on the digital transformation, the term New Work also incorporates alternative forms and models of work that are being motivated by changes in technology. “This is all about a return to meaningfulness, freedom, and independence,” shared Professor Brosi. The task faced by companies is testing whether old concepts are still applicable in the new work environment. At the same time, new concepts must be tried and tested by businesses in their respective contexts. Brosi added, “as is with many concepts in HR, new working concepts and their effectivity have yet to be systematically evaluated and analyzed.” In this regard, research offers guidance and revision of both current and new concepts. 

Focusing on the Individual

One thing is certain: we need a new work culture in order to cope with the new demands presented by the digital transformation. Maik Stövhase and Kristin Lange from the Hamburg- Othmarschen office of the company Wärtsilä have shared their thoughts on how one example of such a cultural shift does look. Over the last few years, the Finnish global market leader in power station and ship engine construction has transformed itself from traditional manufacturer to modern technology and service provider. This business policy development is accompanied by a comprehensive inner transformation in the sense of an agile organization. This has effected all areas of company organization and communication, from office design to meeting culture and innovation management. All of this has occurred by initiative and in direct collaboration with Wärtsilä employees from across all divisions. Lange, a trained electrical engineer, stated, “Around a year ago several colleagues got together and started collecting ideas for several initiatives. At first, we didn’t have a plan of action, but sooner rather than later, we found our way. Now we’re using our plan to the benefit of all at Wärtsilä.” Today in the new role of Transformation Manager, Lange is supervising the transition process at the company’s office in Hamburg.

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