Digital transformation impacts the culture of work and 24/7 is replacing the 9 to 5 mentality. Employees are expected to be available constantly. Developing ideas at unusual places rather than at an office desk can be cool and effective. “Wer liefert was“ (wlw), originally a publisher of Messe Leipzig’s directories, has become one of the leading B2B online markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Rapid change can only be successful, if staff go along with transformation. Peter F. Schmid, CEO and executive partner at wlw outlines five ways of keeping staff motivated and in the company:
1st tip: target vision
Targets are crucial and must be clear and understandable to be convincing. Why is this particular target vision good for both a company and its employees? The target vision should be positive i.e. aiming for the leading market position rather than instilling fear of rivals e.g. in Asia. wlw now aims to become Europe’s biggest B2B market similar to Alibaba in China. Such a target is both ambitious and motivating. The message surrounding this target must be sent in a credible way. Therefore, management culture must be authentic. Executives’ faith in a target must be genuine and come from within. Otherwise, staff will quickly decipher it.
2nd tip: great openness and transparency across the board
People want to know why they should do something. That means showing people both risks and opportunities, which leads to authenticity. Concealing risks is futile as staff will wonder about them and react accordingly. Risks and opportunities must be highlighted repeatedly. That includes admitting that one may not have answers to every single question. A complex era does not allow for fast answers. But you must send a message that “we are working on the answers.” Sharing knowledge and information with staff is an important part of management culture.
3rd tip: frequent exchange with all employees
Sending a newsletter at Christmas is not enough to keep employees on board. Communication must be dense because the framework conditions to which we react change so quickly. How and why we react must be communicated promptly.
4th tip: individual communication
Simply giving a rough outline is not enough. The employer’s expectations on each employee and their own expectations as well as any changes caused by a development must be discussed in person. At wlw, that includes plenty and ranges from job title, dress code, working hours, working space to technology and know-how. Our company is growing and we recently hired new employees. So we have rearranged our offices, torn down walls and built new teams. We are searching for around 40 new employees at present, which will lead to even more changes. And indeed, there is no end in sight. In the past, a new IT system might have been installed and staff would have had to adjust to it. Then everything returned to normal. Today, we have to learn to deal with ongoing changes triggered by the market and we change along with it.
5th tip: showing opportunities
Yes, changes can be exhausting and not knowing what’s coming next can be frightening. Yet changes also lead to opportunities. Entirely new professions and fields of activity can open up and staff can shape them individually. That can even mean rethinking a certain field of work. If an employee points to a problem and I come up with an idea on how to solve it, we can support that member of staff and offer them coaching and training until they have mastered their new field of activity. And incidentally, this employee learns immensely and remains enormously attractive for the labour market thanks to continuous training.
Do these five tips actually work?
Not every employee at wlw would say “yes” and dash off. Of course not. Yet, if we can convey our target vision convincingly, we will be taking most employees on board. And not every division in a company is subject to such agile processes of change. Certain zones are calmer. Yet, many employees welcome a diverse and dynamic work environment.