The pace of digital transformation captivates many people, but also unsettles them at the same time. Exciting new opportunities are emerging, accompanied by concern about an uncertain future. The surrounding political debate is often shaped by populism. But the figures say something else: Open and inclusive societies improve prosperity and keep the working population at a record level – despite, or even because of, digitalization. Achieving this primarily requires a modern communications infrastructure, which forms the backbone for the digital transformation of society and the economy, and fair access to this infrastructure. Deutsche Telekom aims to help shape the digital transformation: by expanding our networks and developing innovative solutions. With our company’s slogan “Life is for sharing,” our focus is on people, on both customers and employees. A crucial aspect in dealing with change successfully is optimism about the future. That is why we show our employees the opportunities offered by the digital workplace and create an environment that provides easier access to new ways of working. We want to promote an innovative culture of cooperation that is allowed to question the status quo. It should create space for testing and experiments, where failure is understood as a way to improve performance and quality. We support this development on both a staff and organizational level with new ways of working and innovative learning methods.
We laid the foundation for dealing with the digital transformation of the working world in 2017 with our position paper (external link). In it, we set forth our stance on shaping the digital world of work. One thing is clear: We do not have a patent recipe, but must try out new things, fail and learn. One of our first steps on this path are new work models, open work environments, digital work tools, and social networks to enable flexible, interdisciplinary working.
We are also trying out innovative approaches to foster dialog across disciplines and hierarchies. One example of this is our “Kitchen Talks” – informal sessions where topical issues are discussed. The members of the Board of Management also hold regular open discussions, such as the town hall meeting about our Corporate Social Responsibility in September 2018. “You and Me” (YAM), the social network for our employees, has helped us foster a lively culture of dialogue for years and offers employees the chance to engage directly with board members and managers. In 2017 we launched the blog “We like Working in the Digital Age” where we share our knowledge and experience on the subject of working in the digital world with our employees and interested persons outside our Group.
What will our working world look like in 2028? How are digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) impacting our work and life? What will managing people be like in ten years’ time? How will companies have changed? We have examined these and other questions together with our consulting firm Detecon and Henley Business School. 50 influential business leaders from a wide variety of industries and sectors in various countries were surveyed for the study. The results were published in 2018 in the extensive study “Work 2028: Trends, dilemmas and opportunities.”
Those surveyed concurred that AI and man-machine interaction will be a natural part of our everyday professional and private life in 2028. They also believe that technological developments will be the basis for radical transparency in working life: Decisions will be democratized in the future, while leadership will rotate and be multi-directional. However, the participants interpret the effects of this development in a variety of different ways, the optimists expressing a belief in a better, more secure future that will provide more space for creativity and new, exciting fields of work. Against them, the skeptics fear that existing work roles, even quite complex ones, will begin disappearing, and that only very few new job profiles will be created to replace them.
We have summarized the results from the interviews into 16 trends – for the world of work as such, for organizations, and for managers. Our aim here is to provide fresh impetus, encourage a discourse, and create awareness of the upcoming changes. We urge anyone interested to get in touch directly with the study’s team or strike up a dialog with us on social networks. You can find more information on the study “Work 2028” here.
Culture of presence, closed office doors, and managers who want full control of the work their employees do: That was what the world of work used to be like – and still is at many companies. That will change radically in most sectors in the wake of digitalization. Of course, this also applies to the telecom industry. At Deutsche Telekom, we aim to actively shape these changes at our company. We laid the foundation for this in 2014 when we launched the Future Work concept, which is based on an integrated transformation of the workplace, organizational culture and understanding of leadership. Since then, we have introduced open office environments, desk sharing and modern IT tools at our Group headquarters in Bonn and other locations, such as Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Berlin. In keeping with the motto “Changing from a presence-oriented to a results-oriented culture”, we have implemented rules for working from home, which apply for almost 40,000 employees provided their role allows it. We support our employees in this transition to a new world of work and provide them with helpful information and tips on modern work models – for example, in the digital Future Work Guide.
Since 2018, we have continued Future Work under the heading #Neues Arbeiten (New Way of Working). This also emphasizes that we have expanded the focus of our measures: from modernization of the infrastructure to a new organizational and work culture shaped by innovativeness, trust, digital collaboration, and agility.
Three major events were held in 2018 as part of #Neues Arbeiten (New Way of Working) in Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. They gave our employees the chance to grapple with all issues relating to new ways of working, share experiences, and network better with each other. 3,500 of them took part in the events. Further events are planned for 2019.
Since 2018, we have published a #Neues Arbeiten (New Way of Working) newsletter in order to also reach our employees at smaller locations. It contains experience reports, tips, and suggestions, also in digital form. Short videos give an entertaining and inspiring introduction to topics such as a culture of innovation and agility or working in open office environments.
As a matter of principle, we refrain from mandatory measures as part of #Neues Arbeiten (New Way of Working). Instead, employees decide independently which content and issues are relevant to them. As an employer we help them learn more about these issues and put the various aspects of #Neues Arbeiten (New Way of Working) into practice.
We face the challenge of taking the Group’s more than 217,000 employees in 50 countries on the journey to the new world of work with us. One of our tools is therefore digital learning formats, which enable us to reach a large number of participants and can be used anytime, anywhere. The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) format is especially suited for that. We have so far staged three Magenta MOOCs since 2014. The motto in 2018 was “Tap into Design Thinking”. Design Thinking can help us become more customer-oriented and hence more successful. Our objective is therefore to familiarize as many Deutsche Telekom employees as possible with this concept. More than 100 sets of learning content, such as videos, podcasts and presentations, offering information on design thinking were available in the MOOC. In a short video Chairman of the Board of Management Tim Höttges urged our employees to take part. Around 4,500 employees from 32 countries followed that call. Half of them came from our national companies outside Germany.
Agility is an effective concept when it comes to focusing more strongly on customers and their needs, becoming faster, and seizing new opportunities for the company. That is why it is not only applied in IT at Deutsche Telekom, but also in other Group units.
The “Agile Blueprint” project provides initial help for all units wishing to adopt agile working. Its key element is the Agile Compass. It describes a total of six dimensions the teams have to address in order to become more agile. The Compass formulates a potential target status for each of these dimensions and provides detailed step-by-step instructions to show how those objectives can be achieved. Interested units can also conduct an Agility Check to take stock of their current situation: Where do we stand and with which of the six dimensions should we start our journey toward greater agility? Various support offerings are available to everyone involved. They help them understand the concept, try things out, and solve challenges. These offers also include the 80/20 model: Since 2017, we have been using the 80/20 model to give our employees the opportunity to spend up to 20 percent of their working time on projects outside of their usual remit. This allows them to work with teams from other departments. In this way, we break up departmental silos and can make better use of the company’s broad spectrum of talent.
All the components of the “Agile Blueprint” project are developed together with Group units. We thus ensure that they can be applied and integrated in practice. For instance, we have designed and implemented the format “Agile Workshop” together with T-Systems. In this whole-day format participants learn more about the advantages of agile working, try out working independently, and share their ideas on the subject with each other.
HR plays a special role in implementing agility, acting as a partner and enabler. We therefore offer HR employees additional, more in-depth training tailored to their specific needs. They also include consultation hours, Deep Dive sessions, and sharing with experts.
Agile working at T-Systems
We also promote agile collaboration at T-Systems. The use of agile methods in day-to-day work is a basic requirement for that. Yet the organization must also be flexible enough to support constant change and shape interaction expediently. Crucial to this are managers who think in an agile manner and motivate and enable their employees to adopt this mindset. As a result, they lay the foundation for moving away from an introspective way of working (silo mentality) and toward a customer-oriented approach (client centricity). The Agile Hub plays an important part in that. It comprises HR and Business colleagues with many years of experience in an agile environment. The Agile Hub’s objective is to boost the transparency of agile initiatives and projects at the Group, enhance dialog within T-Systems and with the Group, and promote agile working by means of pinpointed expertise and advice.
In 2017, T-Systems became a partner of the diGAP (Good Agile Project Work in the Digitalized World) research project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The three-year project is examining agile working in order to derive recommended actions for designing the working environment of agile teams and how they work together. T-Systems is implementing the “Development and practical test for scaling of good agile project work” project as part of this. Various workshops and interviews were held in 2018. The results will be incorporated in the research project in 2019.
There are 5,500 different job descriptions at Deutsche Telekom in Germany alone. Many of them have literally become outdated in the wake of digitalization: They no longer match today’s tasks and required skills and will therefore also not meet our future requirements.
The skillsUP! project we launched in 2018 aims to cut the number of job profiles to less than 1,000 and adapt them so that they last the next three to five years. That will also ensure the basic profiles can be supplemented in the future to reflect the business units’ latest requirements at little cost and effort. However, skillsUP! involves more than just modernizing job profiles: The new, up-to-date job descriptions are linked to the Group’s skills management so as to ensure holistic, integrated HR planning. It is easier for managers and employees to identify possible gaps in the skills, initiate training measures, or advertise new jobs. Importantly, all phases of HR planning are linked together by means of special software, giving employees and managers simple access to the system at any time. Deutsche Telekom is the first large German company to have such a mechanism. skillsUP! is the Group-wide implementation of several pilot projects that have been conducted since 2016.
Managers today need different skills and have to be able to apply new methods than was the case just a few years ago. That is why we launched levelUP!, a ten-month training program for successful leadership in the digital world, for our executive staff in 2017. For the levelUP! program, we are cooperating with the internationally renowned business school Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE) in Durham, North Carolina (USA). The program not only helps to expand and improve leadership skills, but also conveys new perspectives and ways of thinking through dialog with leading innovators and management experts. levelUP! comprises modules that can be combined flexibly: Interactive learning formats are mainly available in digital form, although some are also offered as classroom courses. Managers can select their personal learning content, making the learning process perfectly tailored to individual requirements. More than 1,400 managers from Deutsche Telekom took part in levelUP! in 2017 and 2018.
The application mynet.go is a mobile portal for all employee-related applications and will continue to undergo development with new features. The employees have access to information, news, and features which facilitate collaboration inside and outside the office. The application aims to assist in the creation of a better working day that is more flexible, allowing access to information, simple and instant completion of tasks using a mobile device, and from any location. The OTE Group has the vision of becoming an example of digital transformation in order to provide customers and partners with a holistic digital experience. Mynet.go represents a significant step in this direction.