In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on career development within companies. Many organizations are now looking for innovative ways to support the professional growth of their employees, such as through mentoring programs, job rotations, and e-learning platforms. SAP takes it one step further: the goal is to attract employees’ whole selves and create a new level of development culture. Is this approach working for German companies? What Challenges do we have to face by implementing these features in Germany?
Let's start by taking a look at the evolution of German work culture. Where did it come from, and where is it now? Historically, German work culture has been influenced by political and economic factors. In the 19th century, the economy was primarily based on agriculture and small-scale manufacturing. At this time, the work culture was characterized by long hours and strict hierarchies. In the 20th century, the main influence came from the political climate during the Nazi regime. The work culture during this time was still characterized by strict hierarchies and little room for individual initiative. Discipline and efficiency were the main focus. After World War II, the work culture shifted towards a more team-oriented and collaborative approach.
The post-war era was characterized by a strong need for security. A new social welfare system was established, leading to a culture of job security and long-term employment, with many workers remaining in the same job for their entire career. In the 1970s and 1980s, the economy began to slow down, and companies began to focus more on cost-cutting and efficiency. Additionally, the so-called "Baby Boomers" began their careers, leading to a "war of talents." Personal development, benefits, and individualism were not as important to them, as they were still heavily influenced by a strong need for security and a desire for a good and stable employment.
Since then, the economy in Germany can more or less be called stable. Since the 90s the megatrends have been growing and work culture has to change more and more. Flexibility, digitization, individualization are just some trends Companies have to deal with. In the 2020s, it is more significant than ever for companies to focus on people. The “Baby Boomer” will retire soon, and the war for talents has already started. It is getting more and more difficult for companies to find the right talents and fill in vacant positions. Career Development and having an engaging culture can clearly be a good action to be more attractive for employees. At the same time, good and structured succession planning with appropriate development planning can lead to internal talent mobility as well as to a steady staffing of key positions.
Although the market has come up with pretty good tools and innovative ideas to create this engaging culture, adapting and implementing these new concepts and tools can be very challenging. One of the biggest challenges faced is resistance to change. Employees may be hesitant to try new career development tools, either because they are afraid of negative consequences, or they are not ready to adapt to a new culture that fast. Managers also play a big role here. Many managers in Germany have traditional mindsets and may be reluctant to invest in new programs or technologies if they feel that traditional methods have been successful in the past. With resistance to change you will often also face the need for cultural adaptation. Many career development tools are designed for a specific market or industry and may not be immediately applicable to a German context. Companies must be willing to adapt and customize these tools to meet the needs of their employees, and also to align with the company culture. In specific industries or job roles, you should check, do I require this strategy for all of my employees, or do I implement it just for specific departments? For example, let’s take a look on a production company you would not try to bring the change to the assembly line employees but maybe for the ones working in administrative area or product development.
Every big change will come with high investments. You have to buy a new software, engage an implementation partner, hire new staff or use time of your employees for the transformation project. This can be a significant barrier for companies that are facing budget constraints or limited resources. Before you take these investments, you should not only check the potential win of the transformation, but also define how you want to measure the success of the implementation. Innovative career development tools may not have clear metrics for measuring their effectiveness, and it may be difficult to demonstrate their value to stakeholders. This can make it difficult for companies to justify continued investment in these tools. It should be kept in mind that there may be more or other challenges during your HR Transformation, the ones mentioned here are just examples.
After we have dealt with the challenges, we want to see how we can ideally deal with these challenges. The focus here will be on change management. In this context, it is advisable to use people with expertise and knowledge in change management in the form of a change team within the framework of a transformation project, in addition to experts who are familiar with the tool to be introduced.
Before starting the transformation project, a cost-benefit analysis should be performed. Thereby, the necessary investment and the expected return of the project can be analyzed. It can be analyzed how high the share of employees is that would benefit from the new products and whether the investment will be worthwhile.
If the project is worthwhile, you should start by defining who should be part of the transformation project. It is very important to participate the employees of your HR department, they know the processes best and can help your implementation partner by creating the perfect platform. Secondly, you should think of who is able to stop the project and for whom do I need a communication strategy? These are questions your Change Agents can answer during their analysis phase. But make sure not to analyse for the sake of analysis, but always think: What can I do with the results and is this worth it?
By changing the culture to the Wholeself approach one big interest group are your Managers. They should be informed as soon as possible, and you should have a strategy to convince them. A detailed strategy should be defined by the Change Agents but one example can be numbers and statistics. Show them why it is important to be a modern and innovative company (war for talents). Additionally, you can come up with trends like Job Sharing and show them how SAP SuccessFactors can support these trends and how vacancies in their teams can be reduced with modern approaches.
Depending on your internal capabilities and your communication culture you have a variety of opportunities to communicate the change to all employees. The success of this project depends to a large extent on the acceptance of the tools. Therefore, you should guarantee to enable the employees. Unless SAP SuccessFactors is really intuitive you should provide knowledge of the new processes. As an add-on, you can use so-called digital adoption platforms they are providing guidance and knowledge directly in the software.
For your transformation to be successful, communication is key but never forget the importance of technical high-quality implementation. Good functional tools are the basis for your innovative career development planning.
In conclusion, implementing innovative career development tools in German companies can present a number of challenges, such as resistance to change, cultural adaptation, investment, and measuring success. However, by being aware of these challenges and addressing them proactively, companies can successfully implement these tools and support the growth and development of their employees. Companies that start now with the implementation can place them in the front line in the war for talents. Get yourself familiar with Changemanagement and Transformation processes to be one of the most attractive employers in Germany right now. Regarding the trends and development of the Work Culture and the Market it is better to start now than being too late.
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