Germany’s ambitious telecommunications company knows how to adapt to disruption. Here’s how they embrace the future of work.
“Traditional values — why people pick a company as an employer — are changing,” proclaims Dirk Eckert, a technology leader at Deutsche Telekom. “Traditional values were job security, a good salary and stuff like that, but choice of how, where and with what device you can work is becoming increasingly important, especially for young people.”
Once “a traditional telephone company,” German-based Deutsche Telekom today provides mobile and internet services, offers transformative IT solutions for businesses and pioneers new applications for emerging technologies. “Deutsche Telekom is one of the most technologically advanced telecommunications companies in Europe and around the world,” writes Kate Levchu, a former contributor and futuristic blogger for Forbes.
The company aspires to attract bright minds and to do for employees what they do for customers: empower them with flexibility and agility to do their best work. “It’s very important that we give our employees, also, the opportunity to shape their working environment as they see best fit for themselves,” said Eckert. “How much and how well employees are able to contribute depends a lot on the way that we, as a company, provide them with a working environment that is functional, convenient and secure.”
Eckert backs up his claim by pointing to the service-profit chain, a model that links workplace design with employee satisfaction, retention and productivity. “This is the philosophy that drove us when we created the vision for the flexible enterprise workplace,” he said.
Putting Employees First in a Flexible Enterprise Workplace
“It started with the vision,” Eckert recounts. “We simply wanted to create immediate, seamless, reliable access — for employees and customers — to business functionality.”
To bring this vision to life, Eckert’s team interviewed more than 100 employees and leaders of Deutsche Telekom and their customers. What did employees really want, and why wasn’t it already possible?
His team zeroed in on three common scenarios, applied design thinking and tested technologies to build the foundation of the flexible enterprise workplace solution.
- Immobility: Eckert’s team found that the common knowledge worker wants to work from just about anywhere, without delay. Instead, they lost productivity on the move. “Our solution is—and this is really working—enabling you to start working on your laptop or on your desktop computer, get outside the building and continue working on your tablet,” he explains. “The experience of using business applications is seamless across devices.” The next step: fully integrating mobile technologies and enabling more self-service functions.
- Old Software: His team spoke with many employees still stuck on a Microsoft Windows 7 environment. He Eckert intended to ease any pain of migrating to Windows 10 with this new workplace solution. “We can commit to an interruption of the work process for the employee of a maximum of 10 minutes, which is amazing,” he said with pride. “The only thing the user has to do is, at the specific point of time he or she chooses, is just a reboot.”
- Revolving New Hires: Deutsche Telekom regularly brings on board consultants, advisors, technicians, engineers and other contractors for a limited time. Eckert saw an opportunity to make these ongoing onboarding processes faster and more cost efficient by giving temporary employees access to their environment from personal devices. He didn’t believe bring-your-own-device (BYOD) security was possible until he found the right partner to help build his secure, anywhere workspace platform.
“Partners can bring virtually every device into our environment, and it's even approved by our own Telekom security group, which has very high-security standards in the German market,” he said.
Regarding the business value of putting employees first, Eckert said, “I'm totally convinced. In my own company, we saw productivity over the last 24 months rising by several percentage points.”
Dealing with Side Effects of Change
Digital transformation fundamentally, and often rapidly, disrupts day-to-day business processes. “Sometimes it's not so easy,” admitted Eckert. “You have to embed into the DNA of your company culture that change is part of the journey.”
“You need to make people understand, and then you need to make them want to be part of that change,” he suggested. “Lastly, you need to enable them to cope with the results of what you change.”
New ways of working might also necessitate new ways of leading, in Eckert’s experience. “To allow your people to work in that way requires a huge amount of trust,” he said. “It changes, completely, the relationship between employees and company leaders.”
Preparing for the Future of Work
At Deutsche Telekom, Eckert prepares both customers and employees for what’s ahead by monitoring emerging technologies and business trends. He closely watches three trends, in particular, that could significantly impact employee experiences:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Eckert regards intelligent machines as aides, not replacements, for future workforces. “There’s always this fear that machines are taking over,” he said. “How can machines help us to shape the work of the future so that human beings can tend to less tedious and more important, interactional parts of the value chain?”
Internet of Things (IoT)
“We are still at the beginning and exploring all the possibilities of IoT,” Eckert said. “Use cases like predictive maintenance and predictive analytics are obvious, but the real question is how can we reshape business models with these capabilities?”
Fifth-Generation Wireless (5G)
Real-time work will more literally take place in real time with the rise of 5G technologies. “Enterprises will connect in a completely new kind of way,” Eckert said. “5G technologies could change the future of work in ways that we do not even imagine and see today.”
Staying on the edge is paramount to this employees-first strategy. “We have already seen complete business models vanish from markets,” said Eckert. “We have to acknowledge the way that people want to work and that it changes with these digital transformations.”