4 things we learnt from the major German HR conference

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The DGFP is the biggest association of HR professionals within Germany. Once a year they bring together people development managers from across all industries to discuss the trends and challenges of human resources, recruiting, leadership and new work. This year, PEAK was part of the summit again: Our founder Ole Tillmann hosted the event. We put together our key learnings for you.

In today’s business world, we’re facing a lot of challenges that come with digitization, robotics, automation and several other technologies in addition to changing expectations and needs both from employers and employees, plus a fundamental demographic change leading to an enormous lack of specialists. According to a study of the Federal Ministry of Labour, in 2025, there will be 1.3 Million jobs less than we have today and 2.5 Million more in totally different fields. And all of this against the backdrop of an emerging recession, not to mention Brexit, the trade war between the USA and China and climate change. What does that mean for existing organizations and their HR departments? What are the latest strategies to meet these challenges?
These were the questions that DAX-30 management board members, thought leaders of science and politics, HR professionals and new work pioneers answered during the conference. 

Germany’s Federal Minister of Labour Hubertus Heil about the national strategy to cope with the upcoming economic challenges

Insight #1: Diversity should come naturally
In a global corporation with 380,000 employees in more than 200 regions and countries, you’d assume diversity comes naturally. Not necessarily. Janina Kugel, CHRO of Siemens, shows photos of the HR employees at their global internal conference 2010 and now. What becomes obvious right away: the group of people comes from different backgrounds, the group is more female, more colourful?—?also just in terms of clothing.Janina Kugel says: “We need to build an environment where everyone can just be him?—?or herself. So that everyone can bring in their very individual perspective.” That might lead to a discussion which is naturally more exhausting, but the results become better as well?—?simply because then more people can take a stance and share their very individual experience to the discussion.

Insight #2: Learning should be lifelong?—?and highly individualized
Cycles in which technologies are outdated get shorter and shorter. At the same time markets change, new players might disrupt them and you need to stay competitive. The same happens to our knowledge: more than ever before it’s exposed to the risk of being outdated. One answer to it is lifelong learning, but this is only one part of it. It should not only happen throughout a lifetime, but it should also happen constantly and be highly individualized.Our careers are as diverse as we humans are, there is no longer a singular track that gets you to a specific point in your work life. That means we all have a highly individual skillset and a highly individual background. That’s why Ariane Reinhart, CHRO of Continental, refuses to one size fits all training: “Individualization is especially necessary for further training. Qualification needs to be closely tied to the individual and to the needs of the corporation. We know the offer of different trainings, where you basically choose from one fixed set of communication or computer training, but they really don’t do the job.”

Insight #3: The only continuity we face is change
“We have nothing more to fear than the fear itself” once said by Franklin D. Roosevelt and today cited by Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour. On stage, he refers to the economic situation of Germany - and the world - and connects it to the overall challenges coming with technology, demographic change and uncertainties within a society.We cannot foresee the future of labour within a timeframe of the next 30 years, not even of the next 10 years. Though there is something he’s sure of: We won’t have too little work. The transformation will lead to a demand for different jobs. In 2025, he says there will be 1.3 Million jobs less than we have today and 2.5 Million more in totally different fields. For him, the answer is not only more training but retraining where necessary.

Insight #4: New work is not a trend but an answer to economic challenges
We are currently facing an economic decrease and an upcoming recession. This obviously influences our budgeting and planning. Meaning spaces and initiatives like innovation hubs, creating new work environments or tools of collaboration might be higher on the list for cutting costs. This would be the exact wrong reaction Ariane Reinhart, CHRO of Continental AG says: “In times of crisis, we should focus even more on new models. We need to be brave to move further in that way. I know it’s hard. But moving away from all the great achievements is simply the wrong answer and would lead to an environment that represses progress.” Progress which might be needed more than ever in times of financial instability.

As an innovation company, it was impressive to see how thinkers and doers of industry, science and politics shared their individual take on the rapidly changing environment, new technologies and economic challenges. Their answers will provide guidance for our organizations on how to move forward - in an innovative, proactive and positive way.

This year’s edition of the DGFP conference took place in Westhafen Event Center in Berlin?—?all images by Dominik Tryba

Ariane Reinhart, CHRO of Continental, and Ole Tillmann in a discussion with members of the DGFP