Creating an Environment for Retaining Talent

In this interview Marc shares his thoughts on the topics of New Work, the tasks the HR function should focus on, and provides insights about his concept of “Company ReBuilding”. He states how these topics are all connected to each other and supported by the foundation that “Talents, not assets or technology, make the difference in the digital age.”
Can you give us a brief overview and introduction in your concept of Company ReBuilding that you and your team newly created in 2017? 

Company ReBuilding enables companies to operationalize ambidexterity from an organizational perspective. In this context, ambidexterity means that companies must be able to incrementally improve and exploit their existing business, while at the same time creating structures capable of producing radical innovations that, in case of doubt, fundamentally challenge the existing business. In theory this sounds trivalent, but it is a huge leadership task, as the contradictions that arise must not only be tolerated, but actively promoted by the management team. 

This is where the Company ReBuilding approach comes in. In contrast to approaches in which innovations are more or less “outsourced” and shifted to labs or start-ups, Company ReBuilding starts with the existing resources and capabilities of the already established company. In order to create new business models, very adaptable and innovative units (cells) are formed from the center of the company and thus represent the “exploit part” of ambidexterity. 

These structures are suitable for producing transformational products that make consistent use of network effects and enable exponential growth curves. The nucleus of these units is a so-called High-Performing Team, which is gained from the established company by formulating corresponding business challenges. This nucleus defines a clear organizational blueprint (keyword: New Work Instruments) to enable efficient cooperation with other units. When sizing the cells, we make use of Dunbar’s number, which means that no cell is larger than 150-200 persons, to avoid the build-up of overhead and change from leadership to management. 

Once this point is reached, a new cell will be created that takes on the same organizational blueprint (cell division). Together with external co-creation partners, this creates a network of highly customer-centric units that can respond quickly to market changes. An approach, which we find in similar way with success enterprises like e.g. with Haier and Gore. 

How does this interact with New Work, another topic that you are highly engaged with?

First of all: what do we mean by New Work? New Work provides the answer to the question: what effect does digitalization have on the way we work and how can it be used to optimally design work in the digital age? New Work thus provides the framework for the design of collaboration and communication in Company ReBuilding structures. Thus, a very important task of the Nucleus team is to define a clear organizational blueprint at the beginning. 

This includes the formulation of common values and, in particular, clear rules for cooperation and communication. This is the only way to create value effectively and efficiently. In particular, clear rules provide the basis for an agile cooperation model. Many people accept that agile means chaos and hippie camp.

Only clearly defined and consistently adhered to rules and roles allow the advantages of agile structures to emerge.

However, the opposite is the case. Only clearly defined and consistently adhered to rules and roles allow the advantages of agile structures to emerge. And here we are already in the middle of the New Work theme. Because “agility” is an essential element of New Work. In our book ” New Work: On the way to a new working world “, we have identified the essential dimensions for a successful and holistic New Work implementation together with the HR Impulse Giver Institute and have scientifically deposited the significance. 

In addition to “agility”, these also include the dimensions “individuality”, “flexibility”, “leadership” and the creation of an innovation-promoting work environment. And all this must be taken into account when implementing Company ReBuilding structures. 

This applies both to the cell structures (explore) and to the remaining corporate structures. Therefore, in answer to your question: New Work is an integral part of Company ReBuilding.

Which role does the HR function play in this whole process of change, Company ReBulding, Future of Work etc.?

Talents, not assets or technology, make the difference in the digital age. I think this statement has now received a high level of approval. That’s why the ability to attract talent and, in particular, to create an environment in which talents can be retained over the long term is critical to success. 

This also applies in particular to the establishment of Company ReBuilding structures – here talents are the foundation for the creation of high-performance teams. Ultimately, these can only be created if the corporate culture, organisation and working environment support the shared value creation process and, in particular, the learning process. And this is where, in my view, HR should come in. As the central authority that ensures that an optimal employee experience is created. 

HR of the future will also be responsible for ensuring that only employees with a high level of professional and especially cultural fit are recruited.

An employee experience that is very clearly aligned with the end customer. Another reason why we at Company Rebuilding consistently screen all activities to see whether activities generate a specifically measurable customer or employee benefit and consistently eliminate all other activities. The topic of employee experience also spans the arc to New Work – because an optimal employee experience requires the introduction of New Work structures. But back to HR. In addition to the topic “optimal employee experience”, HR of the future will also be responsible for ensuring that only employees with a high level of professional and especially cultural fit are recruited. 

This is a huge task, because no compromises must be made here in order not to endanger the performance of the overall system afterwards. This is also one reason why, for example, a large proportion of Netflix’s HR activities are recruiting and talent management. In order for HR to focus on employee experience, New Work and talent management, it is also important to automate what is now often the lion’s share of HR activities: classic, operational HR topics such as payroll, performance management processes and contract issues. Unfortunately, often still a long way to go.

In your book “New Work: On the way to a new working world”, you and your co-authors came up with management implications which can guide the way in a new way of working. What are your personal key takeaways from this research?

New Work is one of the buzzwords of the hour that is now arriving in reality in many organizations. Many of the original promises of salvation of keynote speakers have not materialized and we note an increasing number of New Work critics. And original “evangelists” are suddenly beginning to jump on the populist countermove. 

One reason for this is that New Work has very often been seen as a panacea and has been approached in an unstructured way. Suddenly all that had anything to do with change was labeled New Work. From the isolated introduction of mobile work, new office concepts to the legitimization of staff reduction programs or the social discussion of basic income. 

It takes a courageous, visionary leadership team with strong implementation skills to lead.

Therefore, even then, one of the main motivations to write a book on New Work in the corporate context was to provide business leaders, managers and employees with a structural framework for New Work and to provide guidance for implementation. In addition, we wanted to enrich the whole thing with scientific findings. One essential finding is that New Work only works if you follow a holistic approach along the dimensions of People, Places, Technology and Regulations. 

Only then truly sustainable effects can be created. The same applies to the dimensions already described in the preliminary question and the underlying instruments. Another important finding: there is no silver bullet for New Work. Since this is a cultural transformation towards the customer, each company must develop an individually optimal approach. It doesn’t help to copy any “pseudo benchmarks”, as we currently see, with the issue of agility. 

The focus of New Work also depends strongly on the respective situation of the company: crisis, growth or a stable environment make a difference here. Not really surprising, but confirming, we also found the result to be: it depends on the leaders. And here in particular the top management as a consistent rolemodel. Pure grassroots initiatives go up in smoke.

 Ultimately, it takes a courageous, visionary leadership team with strong implementation skills to lead New Work to success and unleash the enormous potential that lies dormant

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