Work is becoming more digital, flexible and connected. And one of the biggest drivers of this trend is, in my view, the convergence of real and virtual mobility. In no more than ten years, increasingly autonomous cars will allow us to spend less time driving and more time working on the road. By 2035, a steering wheel will probably be as foreign a concept to tomorrow’s children as phone hooks or rotary dials are to today’s youth.
Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things will fundamentally transform how we develop and manufacture all kinds of devices, from cars to machinery to electronics. However, they will also change how we use these things – when, where and how we work with them. For example, our clothing may soon figure prominently in interactive communications, as pioneered by Fashion Fusion, one of our group’s innovation projects. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing and collaborative robots will either change current work models – whether ours or our customers’ – or give rise to entirely new ones. How will organizations and their employees respond to the fast-growing importance of freelancing, co-working and virtual teams?
More and more high performers now support organizations as independent contractors instead of permanent employees. Plus, technology will tilt the playing field even further as it gains the ability to replace more and more human production capability. Organizations will only manage this transition gracefully if they have secure cloud platforms and reliable connectivity. Ideally, they will institute centralized data management with clear interfaces, too. After all, as Klaus Holzhauser, the Managing Director of PAC Germany says in the interview in this issue, users don’t want products or technologies; they want solutions to their challenges. And today, you can only find the right solutions by partnering and being willing to open up. That’s a statement that has many layers.
All these changes are driven by technological innovations that must not be ignored, lest we fall behind in areas that matter to our business: the labor market, productivity, or the intelligence needed to organize our work in newer, more efficient ways. Personally, I am most interested in how this trend affects employees at our organizations. After all, the more closely our physical and cyber worlds are connected by the Internet, big data and high-performance computing, the more “anytime, anyplace” working becomes a viable option. But that’s what it should remain – an option, not a requirement. Giving people greater freedom in where and when they work should transform work in a way that simultaneously satisfies the needs of three different sets of stakeholders: the organization, its fluid, virtual teams and the individual employees. It’s the latter group – the “employee side of digitization”, as it’s called in our top story by Georg Pepping, T-Systems’ Director of Human Resources – that an organization has to consider in everything it does.
Especially since employers expect employees to possess new skills: discipline, personal responsibility and the ability to optimize the use of their energy, talent and creativity. In that sense, trust-based corporate management and responsible self-management by employees also call for a new form of partnership. And partnership is as important to Work 4.0 as technology. One cannot exist without the other.