A guest article by Prof. Dr. Gunther Olesch
Industry 4.0 is not a measurable goal like a company’s budget planning. For example, sales, earnings, costs, investments, personnel, etc. are defined for one year or even several. During this period, the figures can be used to determine whether you are achieving the targets or whether there are any deviations. With Industry 4.0, there are hardly any measurable variables. When employees ask me where we will stand on the topic of Industry 4.0 in 5 years, I answer: I can’t say. I declare that Industry 4.0 is a path we want to take and that I firmly believe it is the right thing to do for our company and our jobs. You can’t measure the future, and you can’t know it. You can shape the future yourself if you have conviction, faith and hope in what you are doing. That is why visions are important. They are not measurable quantities. However, they can give us the courage to break new ground and create success in the future.
Breaking new ground with courage
We Germans in particular should overcome our shyness about new technology. The MP3 player is designed in Germany. It was produced and made successful abroad. Or the maglev, no emission, fast from one place to another, did not come to Germany. She is driving in Shanghai today. We should develop more spirit again to break new ground and embrace the start-up idea more. Christopher Columbus left the Santa Maria to enter America. He did not know the risks and dangers from wild animals, hostile people and dangerous diseases. He did it anyway, driven by the spirit to learn about new worlds. Neil Amstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon in 1969 without knowing all the risks from the outset. “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” We should be more inspired by this spirit and courage.
What changes for the manager?
Significant behavioral changes will be necessary for the manager. Simplified, it was their task to give guidelines to the employees and to monitor that these were successfully fulfilled. The information about data in detail was possessed exclusively by the supervisor. His knowledge of information was his monopoly of power. He was also the “powerful one” who evaluated the employees, which was primarily subjective. Digitization provides employees with the detailed information they need to work successfully via mobile IT systems. Information[nbsp] becomes more transparent and accessible. This increases the autonomy of the employees.
In the future, the digitalization executive will have to see himself as a change leader, with a focus on inspiring and empowering employees for Industry 4.0. It recognizes the needs and motives of its employees and “rewards” them for complying with target agreements, adhering to certain rules of conduct and delivering the expected performance. The modern leader changes the behavior and awareness of employees towards a new, higher level. It makes clear the meaning and importance of the common goals and ideals. Leaders and employees alike are challenged, inspired and motivated to make a meaningful contribution to the success of the organization and thus to the achievement of the shared mission. The new leaders know how to generate enthusiasm and confidence, they can carry others along; they are perceived as role models and convey a sense of pride and appreciation among their employees.
Qualification – the be-all and end-all for future success
Qualification – the be-all and end-all for future success
In the future, a manager will have to pay much more attention to the development of employees. In order to take on the digital challenges, qualification is a primary key to success. Employees need to be up to date with the latest knowledge to be able to shape the coming change and the future.
Furthermore, the manager must create working conditions that facilitate the digital path. The focus here is on working hours and workplace design. Providing the adequate IT infrastructure is an important prerequisite for this. Employees’ personal degrees of freedom are increasing, e.g. through mobile working. Here, the manager must place much more trust and confidence in his or her employees. Coaching means developing different people with different characters into a team. These are challenges that the manager must overcome.
The most important tasks of management in digital transformation
Digitalization is changing our work and our world. This creates insecurity and fear in people. The supervisor’s job is to implement activities that transform employee uncertainty into enthusiasm for the future. So how can managers bring this spirit to the workforce? The three most important measures are: inform, participate and qualify. Especially if you cannot formulate the goal in a measurable way, you have to inform about every step you take towards digitization. If employees are unsure, they do not ask the management but approach the works council. That’s why it’s important to get him on board very early. As Managing Director for Human Resources, I discuss developments in the direction of Industry 4.0 and Working World 4.0 with the works council representatives at our large plants every 2 weeks on average. So they know all the steps we plan to take together next. In doing so, it is extremely important to gain and give trust. This only happens when HR management talks like it acts and acts like it talks. If employees then approach the works council, it can always provide answers and reduce uncertainties [nbsp]or even fears.
Industry 4.0 projects are carried out at Phoenix Contact together with the works council. Such openness generates confidence in the common future. A preamble was defined for employees to give them security for their jobs and the future:
Staff meetings are regularly used by HR management to inform employees about the progress the company is making on the road to digitization. In addition, podcasts are made available to employees in which management also provides regular information.
With all these actions, we were pleased that the employers’ association Metall NRW and the IGM NRW presented Phoenix Contact in a video as a role model for a successful In-dustry 4.0 introduction. (YouTube: Industry 4.0: Seize opportunities [&] limit risks – short version IG Metall + Metall NRW). All of this leads to the fact that we can inspire our employees for the future of Industry 4.0[nbsp] and together we can successfully shape our future. Phoenix Contact has received confirmation of a correct approach through the regular employee survey. In recent years, we have repeatedly been named Germany’s best employer and the best employer for engineers by Top Employer. We receive very good ratings on kununu and Great Place to Work awarded us [nbsp]in 2016 and 2018 as one of the 1% best employers in Europe. These are important prerequisites that lead to our employees being enthusiastic about Phoenix Contact and, as a result, to high performance that has made us the world market leader in our industry.
Prof Dr Gunther Olesch