Since the lockdown, the boundaries between work and personal life have been blurred. In such a situation, how can a company ensure that employees find the necessary balance?
Detlef Krause: Fittingly, ServiceNow had conducted an employee satisfaction survey prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, in which 2,000 employees were surveyed by German companies. This revealed that 57 percent of employees would give up their current position for a better work-life balance. I wonder: what would the result be now? Can you still differentiate between “work” and “life”? Or does work already have a firm grip on your kitchen, living room or terrace?
Suddenly, companies were in a hurry to provide a solution for working from home – and thus to implement processes, workflows and technologies that often had to be created ad hoc. Anyone who had done their homework here in terms of digitization and smooth workflows in the past years had a clear advantage. I also exchanged ideas with the founder and business coach Alexander Hahn about what measures companies should take, especially in times of crisis, to keep their employees happy.
What does Alexander Hahn suggest?
He sees a number of possibilities. For example, a good structure that enables employees in the home office to work safely and productively; on the other hand, a perspective on how to proceed and everyone can make their contribution to personal and entrepreneurial success. Here, belonging to a team is extremely important – with shared values towards the goal. The regular exchange in the team via videocall should be an integral part of everyday work. I definitely took this to heart and sat down with my team every morning in a virtual coffee call.
Can something like a good working atmosphere be transferred to the virtual world?
I also see it in my own team and working with colleagues – nothing motivates more than an open and appreciative working atmosphere. The result of the study was all the more alarming for me when it came to treating it with respect: only 42 percent of employees feel valued by their company. Not even half?
That literally cries out for change. This is also the view of Philipp Aring, MSc Big Data and Business Analytics candidate at ESCP. He sees the difference between perceived and actual recognition. He feels that gratitude and appreciation often only happens implicitly, so is generally there, but is not actively expressed. As a manager you have to ask yourself again and again: “Do I explicitly pass on what I think?”
The culture of open dialogue was not easy to establish even before Corona. How do you think it looks now?
The fact is: the expression of opinion is the basis for motivation, innovation and ultimately the development of new business models! And these factors are vital for survival, particularly in times of crisis. I hope the pandemic has promoted a more open corporate and error culture. Because our results before the pandemic are very surprising: only 39 percent of the participants say that their opinion counts for the employer.
Katja Pischel, a former colleague who is highly valued by me and an expert in personal branding, also sees the low result as a call for help. She wonders which company can really afford to forego diverse opinions in order to better understand customers, develop better products and services and have motivated employees.
How important is well-functioning technology for employee satisfaction?
Companies have to be very careful: almost every second employee would switch companies for better technology. This result of our study shows what influence digitalization has on our job choice and that seamless digital processes are a must-have. Gitta Spörer, Senior Director Sales & Executive Managing Partner at the allectio consulting group, goes even further. She can only confirm the result of the study, both as an employee and as an employer, and believes that even if the corporate culture is right, there may be more people who could change.
How important are mobile devices?
The spread of mobile and remote work has received an enormous boost from the pandemic. Even before Covid-19, our study showed that 69 percent of employees between the ages of 18 and 24 want to work with smartphones, tablets and the like. Dr. Elke Frank, CHRO & Member of the Executive Board for Legal and IT at Software AG, is an absolute expert in human resources and employee satisfaction. At Software AG, she experiences very disciplined, focused work in the home office. Decisions are made quickly and implemented well. However, it also confirms that there is less space and a sense of innovation and creativity in the home office. On the other hand, the feeling of togetherness in the company has grown, which she finds very cool!
The combination of home office and lockdown has led many to endlessly long working days. How do you deal with that?
The pandemic has shown us the extremes of the world of work, from closing business to short-time work to overwork and accumulation of overtime. Even before the pandemic, the study showed that 72 percent of employees in Germany work overtime. It is important to see clearly that it is not uncommon for overtime to be an indicator of bad and time-consuming processes that keep employees from productivity and meaningful work.
For me, this means very clearly: It is now up to the managers to change this in order to avoid staff shortages and fluctuation. This is also the opinion of Peter Pahlstedt, Manager at dfind.com and an expert in sales, IT and headhunting. He sees a connection between motivation, technology and emotional intelligence. In his opinion, employees should be valued and paid for by performance, not by attendance – and good managers should be able to assess this correctly.
Of course, the new world of work is not the sole responsibility of management. Employee engagement is also required if a new culture of cooperation is to be established in a company. So it’s teamwork! More freedom also means taking on more responsibility and constantly developing. The company that best fits the term “Future of Work” is diverse, innovative, agile, open and digital!