Initiator, networker and knowledge broker: Not only the organization, but also the role of HR will have to change in the digital age. Professor Dr. Sabine Remdisch encourages a new digital Mindset.
Interview: Annette Neumann, first published in German in “Personalwirtschaft 05/2017”
Personalwirtschaft: Ms Remdisch, where does Germany stand today in terms of digital development? Sabine Remdisch: Unlike in Silicon Valley, where companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. have long been promoting the importance of digitalization, we have been left waiting here in Germany. Recently, however, companies have taken an intense focus on digital transformation. There is an increasing interest in themes related to digital leadership, leadership in virtual teams, digital business models, design thinking and innovation modes, as well as social collaboration, i.e. the networked cooperation of people across cities and countries with the help of digital media.
What role does HR play in digitalization?
HR is needed to shape the digital transformation. They will tackle questions such as: What should our new digital culture be? How can we integrate new digitally networked management models? How can we make workplaces and working hours more flexible? These questions all fundamentally concern those who will be managing digitalization. It will be a major transformation in which HR will need to support and organize change so that employees are ready to accept new paradigms, as digital transformation will require a clear mindset shift and the acquisition of new skills. IT must support technological progression, but the initiative for engaging cultural change should be led by HR.
Why is it so hard for HR to lead the initiative for cultural change?
I often hear from senior executives and experienced personnel that they are not digital natives and that they have difficulty with technical innovations. Sometimes they even doubt whether their leadership skills are still in demand. This thinking is wrong. We need experienced personnel and managers who know how change management works and how to get employees on board, who know how to deal with difficult conflict and change situations, and who can initiate important strategic processes. As an HR manager, you don't have to be a digital native. It is much more important to be open to the new, to put on your shoes quickly, and to move forward courageously in order to initiate the process of change.
There’s a lot coming for HR ...
Yes, and a lot of exciting things: because it's all about designing the workplace of the future. HR has the important task of creating new jobs and job profiles, developing new training formats and content, as well as establishing new digital communication platforms. HR has the opportunity to create the best possible conditions so that employees are able to, and want to, develop their potential. Which processes are important for global cooperation? What approach to networked work does our organization need so that employees can share their knowledge across countries? How does a virtual coffee kitchen work, for example? In order to find answers to these questions, it is worth taking a look at organizational cultures in the New Economy: not only entrepreneurial spirit and innovation define the new culture of cooperation, but also working in communities and in new channels based on equal exchange.
What does cultural change mean for the HR professional?
HR professionals must readjust their job. In the past, it was about demand analyses and developing and managing training courses, but now employees are increasingly organizing their own training. Employees need fast solutions to problems. Why not use experts or colleagues who, for example, are rewarded with like-systems to share their knowledge? Building such knowledge platforms for networking or peer learning will be a central HR task in the future. Human resource professionals then become knowledge brokers who are well connected and know who has what knowledge in the company. In the future, those who regard themselves less as administrators of personnel and training data than as initiators, moderators and facilitators of the learning process will be successful.
The Team of the Leuphana Institute of Performance Management.