Work 4.0: In the interview, Georg Pepping from T-Systems looks at key capabilities and management.

“Adding more to new employee skills.“

Georg Pepping, Director of Human Resources at T-Systems, about our working world in the age of digitization.
Real and virtual mobility are pushing the traditional boundaries of our working world into entirely new dimensions. Technologies such as 3D printing, voice control, artificial intelligence, M2M and IoT have rewritten the work playbook. Companies and employees sound freer – but is that something they want and can manage?

What will Work 4.0 change at organizations?

Digitization will significantly change our work processes and the way we work. Change is coming; the only question is what will change, and how quickly. First, what we actually do at work will evolve as intelligent systems replace many human activities. Second, we will see the emergence of new forms of collaboration that are more digital, mobile, efficient and connected. Deutsche Telekom and the University of St. Gallen looked at all the advances brought about by Work 4.0 and then projected how they will affect the way we work in the future. Exponential change is a feature of digitization, so organizations have to address trends and harbingers of change as early as possible. Technical change happens at an ever-accelerating pace, but behavioral shifts take much more time. If organizations want to seize the opportunities presented by digital transformation, they have to devote at least as much attention to the employee side of digitization as they do to technology. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can neglect the bigger technological picture or its main technological themes: connectivity, platforms and data security.

What are the key capabilities of a digital organization?

Georg Pepping, Director of Human Resources, T-Systems
Georg Pepping,
Director of Human Resources, T-Systems

I would describe networked collaboration as one, if not the, key capability of a digital organization. “You and me”, our in-house answer to Facebook, plays a major role. But so does flexible, mobile working – which brings us to the Future Work program. Here, the focus is on technology: unified communications, mobile device management and security as a service. These are all good things, but they represent only part of Future Work. We also need supporting office concepts: open plan offices, desk sharing, mobile and activity- based working. Mobile working, after all, is about enabling me to collaborate with different people in different roles wherever and whenever I need. There’s another aspect to Future Work that is at least equally important: the necessary, accompanying change in leadership. In Future Work, flexible work hours and workplace rules will soon be the norm. Trust-based self-management by and for employees will replace conventional top-down, control-based management. So we have several aspects coming together – and that’s what makes it really exciting. I am convinced that organizations that can reconcile all three aspects will succeed in significantly improving employee satisfaction and productivity.

How can human resource departments support this development?

I believe that HR can make three main contributions. First, it can put workforce transformation on the agenda. A business transformation will only succeed if I can qualitatively and quantitatively change the workforce to support transformation. That’s something that has to be developed strategically, just like technology. Second, HR can develop expertise in advising managers on what they do and how they do it. Third, it can strategically improve the leadership and corporate culture and drive necessary systemic changes in employee behavior. You see, Work 4.0 is not an end in itself. It is supposed to make organizations and employees more productive and successful. But I believe that you can only achieve and maintain this balancing act if you build on four equally stable pillars: trust-based management, flexible work environments and secure and highly available co-working.

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