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Digital or rather analogue working environment?

18/03/2021 2021/03

Everything digital ? What else?

For the past year, digitalisation has once again taken on a whole new significance. What would we do without video conferencing? Digital collaboration tools protect us from the 85th email with the current editing status for the slides for the company presentation. But what really helps us, how do we want to work in the future and how do we already prepare for it?

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In particular, the last year has shown us what the working world outside the office can look like. What flexible working, home office and trust-based working time really mean. Even if this has not been entirely voluntary in many places, the way back to "we've always done it that way" is becoming the exception rather than the rule.

What does this mean for the business world?

Just a few years ago, the use of Excel lists was an innovation and data was transferred from paper to a digital system that could hardly be imagined. Nowadays, hardly anyone still speaks of successful digitisation when it comes to the use of Microsoft Office packages. But this fact clearly shows the successful change and the acceptance of new solutions in companies. Many things are already taken for granted in today's world of work, not to mention the possibilities that have already found their way into private life.

Banks and insurance companies in particular have undergone radical transformation in recent years. So-called Fintechs have been putting traditional business models to the test for some time now. In addition, today's bank customers expect a level of comfort that goes beyond consulting services. Online banking has long been a thing of the past, however, and it is more a question of contact possibilities outside business hours via chat or video.

Transport and logistics companies are scoring points with networked vehicles that tell the deliverer and thus the customer directly when the goods are moving and exactly where they are going. and the industry is also continuing to make progress. It is catching up with topics such as automation, a partial aspect of digitization, is launching it into a new era and is now focusing on the Internet of Things with Industry 4.0 projects.

With the sheer endless variety of solutions on the market, it is still difficult for companies to make the right decision. At the same time, the demand on the customer experience is increasing, which is not only generated by the simplified ordering or complaint process, but should also be individual, focused and competent in the case of a real consulting situation. On the one hand, it is therefore highly digital, in order to then convince in direct, individual exchange, which no technical solution has been able to replace so far. Analogue should therefore not only be understood in the sense of notes and pencils, but rather as a supplement to the existing possibilities.

ARTS began digitizing individual processes 5 years ago. The initially maintained Excel lists were slowly but surely replaced by an open source system. This primarily affected the HR area and the application management system it contained. The plan was characterized by the transfer of existing processes to the new system. The software should adapt to what has always worked well so far. In addition to the time required for this conversion, the employees in particular, despite similar processes, perceived this adaptation as a major change, because in the end nothing was the way it used to be.

Today we know many things better and approach new projects differently in our ERP system. If there are new topics, we take the opportunity to take a closer look at the process from all sides. This makes it possible to involve employees in the project who would otherwise only have marginal contact with it. For the process, however, they provide a different perspective that is valuable both in terms of user orientation for the company's own employees and in terms of customer orientation.

Excursus: What does our information processing centre actually say about this change?

Evolution has often subjected humans to pressure to adapt. In many ways, we have managed to adapt well. At the same time, from a neuroscientific point of view, there are changes in us to which we can only adapt slowly. We are in a variety of video conferences every day. Meanwhile, there is already a name for the sensation that accompanies us. The phenomenon is called zoom fatigue. Our body is actually used to releasing oxytocin when we start face-to-face meetings with a handshake. In the current mode of use, our brain is mainly stressed, which means that the stress hormones noradrenalin and adrenalin are released and we are in a permanent state of tension. In addition, our concentration is severely challenged by the fact that we process content-related and visual stimuli, but are not really good at assessing what the mood is like. Here, we are missing various non-verbal signals that we cannot perceive appropriately via small tiles or the screen between us and the conversation partner.

This stress level is an additional challenge for us and our health in the long run. Therefore, stress management skills are indispensable for our future, highly digitalised work in order to stay healthy and productive.

How do I take the employees with me on the digitisation journey?

Not only the studies show that employees are an important aspect for the success of digitization efforts, but also our own experiences teach us. Microsoft, for example, shows in a study that the importance of technology change is a decisive competitive factor for employees, but one in two fears change or even job loss. The proclamation of the paperless office can call into question the long-awaited order of the paper chaos for one person and the order of the other, and raise doubts about the way things have worked so far. This uncertainty often arises when employees feel that they are not up to it, because in most transformation processes only the technical but not the cultural challenges are given room.

To be successful it is necessary to take all employees equally with you, to point out the goal and the future perspectives. The fears of the employees can only be countered with trust, i.e. the direct exchange of concerns, so that more than just the average of 11 percent of the employees feel involved. The joint process allows managers in particular to pave the way for the continuous professional development of their employees. The development of IT competence in all areas of the company also supports the sustainable development process of digitization and prevents individual, detached digitization projects from remaining, but the company from finding itself in a holistic digital structure. It will not be possible for the companies to find an employee on the current job market who already has a fully developed skillset which seems important for the still unclear future. Therefore it will be all the more important to support the existing employees in their development in order to be able to master the resulting tasks. In addition, current developments show that jointly managed whiteboards or sticky note walls are being reactivated. Experience shows that exchange across departmental boundaries still works best on a flipchart or a metaplan board, so ideas can be easily painted without technical hurdles. Pair programming also derives from IT development, although this involves the joint programming of two developers at a desk or transferred to other areas, the IT specialist can still receive input from the accounting department for the new software. This dialogue is taking place more and more directly. In comparison, LEGO® Serious Play® represents a moderated process that combines the advantages of playing and modelling with Lego bricks with the concerns of the business world. The combination of the digital and analog worlds represents a strategy for dealing with change.

And now? Digilogue working as a solution to the dilemma

The question arises, what do we really still need in the working world in the analogue sense?
In recent years, in view of the change resulting from digitalisation, different levels of maturity have crystallised in companies. This gap is increasingly widening in the current situation. KfW's latest report on digitalisation examined the effect of Corona on digitalisation activities in SMEs. In the process, the promotional bank found that the differences in SMEs are becoming more and more divergent. While some focused mainly on remaining employable at all with activities that could be implemented quickly. The larger players went a step further. At the bottom end are the 33% of SMEs that did not implement any digitisation measures even during Corona. In short, digitisation is not a foregone conclusion, even in times of a global pandemic. At the same time, the ostensible goal for all is to connect machines and people through technological tools. As in many areas of business, it is the mix of methods that creates sustainable success.

Because the crisis also shows that no digital solution can replace social contact or the personal conversation vis-á-vis at the coffee machine. We will increasingly learn to complement digital ways of working with analogue elements. Perhaps you know the satisfying feeling of actually crossing off an item on a list with a pen or actually throwing the paper note into the bin. No digital tool can replace this feeling yet. We need exactly these things in the future for ourselves, for our well-being and for our satisfaction. 
Let's shape the work of tomorrow together and combine the best of both worlds into something new. What other challenges do you face in digital work? Get in touch with us and let's exchange experiences.

Sources: Industrie: digitalisierungsindex.de | Gesamtbereich: digitalisierungsindex.de | microsoft.com

About the Author
Nadia Döhler | Organisational & HR Consulting
Nadia Döhler
Transformation Consultant

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