Up and down the country, digitalisation is being bandied about as the new panacea in administrative buildings, public authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises. Because they all suffer from the same deficiency disease: too few workers.
Let me first clarify what I mean by digitalisation. After all, the term is often used in the same breath as automation. But digitalisation is not about Industry 4.0 or the automation of production processes. Digitisation means the intelligent use of digital tools to create space for something new. Digitalisation is not a megatrend, according to the Zukunftsinstitut, but has points of contact with all currently observable megatrends.
The crux: digital tools – analogue structures
What I observe in discussions with executives on strategy consulting: there is no lack of digital tools in virtually any company. There is a lack of adaptation of processes and interfaces. Thus, clever digital solutions are simply imposed on the existing analogue processes in companies. The benefits of digitalisation are therefore only partially skimmed off.
What would actually contribute to alleviating the labour shortage? In my opinion, we need two things:
- Decision-makers and managers who are willing to allow and drive far-reaching changes in corporate structures.
- And we need employees who are prepared to perceive these changes not as a threat but as an opportunity to change their own working environment in a positive way.
Starting from the top: the challenge is to the managers
Let’s start with the managers: Here I would like to see fear-free people who can inspire their employees for new forms of working. Living digitalisation goes hand in hand with learning the possibilities and limits of digital tools. In our tightly scheduled working world, this means creating time windows and spaces for such learning and trying things out. And not just when digital tools are introduced, but continuously, because digitisation continues to develop at a rapid pace.
However, digitalisation also means questioning and perhaps dissolving structures and comforts that people have grown fond of (for example, positions in the company). A functioning digitalisation goes hand in hand with fewer hierarchies, fewer departmental “silos”, more personal responsibility, greater freedom of action for each individual and more tolerance for mistakes.
Among employees, drastic changes meet with divided reactions: on the one hand, fears of the new, on the other hand, interest and even enthusiasm, because space is created for more interesting, in the best case more fulfilling activities and changed career paths. You also have to keep this in mind and buffer it.
The success killers: scepticism and compression
I would like to mention two further obstacles at this point: Firstly, the widespread scepticism towards anything new, especially in Germany. Sentences like “We’ve always done it this way”, “It was better the way it was before”, “Why should we change anything, it’s working” are the biggest enemies of successful digitalisation. On the other hand, the habit of immediately filling the free space created by digitalisation with new tasks. This compression and intensification of work slows down the willingness of many employees to engage constructively with digitisation.
If you want to successfully digitalise processes in your company, you are forced to question many familiar things and shake up some structures you have grown fond of because they are comfortable. I would be happy to discuss with you personally which instruments you can use as a top decision-maker. You can find the right setting here.
You are also welcome to attend a webinar that I will be holding on 15 June 2023 at 4.30 pm. You can find more information and the opportunity to register here.
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