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  • 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report
2015 Corporate Responsibility Report

Digitization as a key opportunity

Christian P. Illek, Member of the Deutsche Telekom Board of Management for Human Resources since April 2015
Christian P. Illek, Member of the Deutsche Telekom Board of Management for Human Resources since April 2015

Digitization is changing our society and working world. What trends do you see?

The digitized ecosystem will change the way we work. The presence of automation and smart machines in our working and private lives is increasing. As this process continues, we must ensure that people stay at the heart of everything we do. We aren't talking about competition between man and machine – we're talking about collaboration and automation. That will give us extra freedom, freedom that can then be dedicated to innovation. It's worth noting that digital skills are not just a key qualification in the working world but now also a prerequisite for participating in society.

So how can we make sure the digital age doesn't leave people behind?

To an extent, people need entirely different qualifications to survive in this new world. That is why it is so important to be able to use new technologies competently. We need a fresh push in education -- from schools and vocational training all the way to colleges and universities -- to make digitization a central plank of all programs and courses, and to involve not just politicians and academics, but business too. 

Do you think that people have still to realize just how decisive digitization is for the future?

Let me put it this way, we still do not have a full enough understanding of digitization. That is why I think computer science should be made a mandatory subject in our schools. As a subject, computer science has an importance comparable with English these days.

And what can people do as individuals?

People should embrace this change and see digitization as a chance to reshape society. That means being prepared for lifelong learning and further development. Anyone who thinks they can rely on one formal qualification for their entire career is quickly going to run into difficulties.

What does Deutsche Telekom offer its employees to keep them in good shape for the digital age?

We offer a wide range of in-house further training. Our cyber security professional training course is just one successful example of this. And with our Teachtoday initiative we are also working to achieve competent use of digital media in wider society.

In addition to new educational content, does digitization also require new methods of cooperation?

Of course. To put it simply, what matters is results, not whether you turn up. In the future, cooperation in an increasingly digitized working world will require us to work in a more participative, transparent and virtual way: specific work situations will determine the most suitable working environment. Depending on your role, that may mean being on the go or being part of an open-plan office set-up with agile working methods. This will require employees, and in particular managers, to embrace these new working methods. Trust will be the decisive driver behind this cultural change.

In what way is leadership changing because of this development?

Digitization, with its growing complexity and volatility, is forcing us to abandon our tried-and-tested leadership models. New criteria for evaluating leadership skills and style are being introduced as yesterday's "command-and-control" approaches often no longer function. Digital collaboration tools, such as companies' own internal social networks, make knowledge-sharing faster and more transparent, which ultimately leads to decision-making processes becoming more democratic. It is vitally important for managers in Work 4.0 environments to understand and be able to work with such tools. Particular attention must be given to how leadership's responsibility can influence culture. 

Key word culture: But Deutsche Telekom is anything but a young start-up, its a well-established corporation... 

...in the midst of a transformation. That is why management must pay extra attention to managing ambivalent organizational structures. On the one hand, our core business must be continuously optimized while, on the other, innovations and new business ideas must be developed. The struggle to manage efficiency and innovation calls for rigorous, interdisciplinary thinking from leadership and better and more intensive communication.

Many people are worried about increasing digitization, both as it affects their private and professional lives. What would you say to them?

Digitization offers us fascinating possibilities. It can help us make work more humane and improve our lives. Just think of medical technology, for instance. These developments offer many opportunities and we must seize them. At the same time, we must act to shape technological progress in all areas of our responsibility and value system. In the digital age, transparency and sticking to core ethical and moral principles will be indispensable guidelines on the path to a social consensus at work and in life in general.

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