The crisis changes everything: especially work processes in German companies. Many are busy adjusting production and supply chains, ensuring sales and communicating more flexibly with customers. Perhaps the most serious change, however, affects the company’s own staff: work has been rethought and reorganized across the board since employees have been working from home and thus more independently. What does this mean for decision-making processes?
Above all, a lot of speed, a study shows: Thanks to the corona pandemic, companies in Germany are making decisions surprisingly quickly and implementing processes that have been delayed. This is shown by Joachim Riedl and Stefan Wengler from the European Management Institute at the Hof University of Applied Sciences (emi eV) in their study “Corona consequences in personnel management”. In in-depth interviews, they questioned over 50 companies from various industries from all over Germany.
Three quarters of the companies surveyed held on to the majority of their employees despite the crisis. The study shows that only 30 percent of companies quit employees with fixed-term contracts. “Personnel managers saw more disadvantages than advantages in a short-term back and forth in the workforce,” said Wengler and Riedl. “They also hoped that the pandemic would be over in the foreseeable future.”
75 percent of companies rate home office services as good or very good
“Many managers see the pandemic as a real accelerator of decision-making processes,” says Stefan Wengler. Although uncertain business prospects are a problem, the bottom line is that companies are experiencing a course for more efficient and better cooperation: work processes change fundamentally and sustainably. That was the result of a survey by Riedl and Wengler. “The HR managers we spoke to are heavily burdened with organizational tasks,” says Wengler. “Now they are experiencing that concepts for more flexible work that had long been in the drawer were no longer refused and that home office is a reality.”
Before Corona, many of the companies tried in vain to introduce more flexible work for everyone. “For a long time, this was mainly reserved for managers,” says Stefan Wengler. Now HR managers have seen empowered employees who like to work more flexibly. Not only HR managers are happy, employees too. “You work more focused and self-determined,” says Wengler.
“In the future, some employees only want to work four days instead of five”
It is a challenge to organize the work. “But some companies sent 2,000 people to the home office overnight.” Buying ad hoc hardware and making the right decisions, “that only works if everyone pulls together,” says Wengler. According to their study, 75 percent of HR managers assess the performance of employees in the home office as very good or good. “Now companies can no longer turn this development back,” says the researcher. “The colleagues like that too much. The home office will therefore remain with us. “
This is accompanied by a more flexible working time and place of work. “The companies experience that their employees get by despite the homeschooling of the children and that the new flexibility enables efficient work as soon as employees have organized themselves at home. Introducing trust-based working hours went faster than expected. In rural regions, people saved themselves up to three hours of work-related commuting per day, says Wengler.
“We heard from some companies that employees now enjoy the home office and reduced working hours so much that in future they will only want to work four instead of five days. The inevitable waiver of up to 20 percent of their salary does not seem to bother people much, ”says the researcher.
The crisis as a point in time for change: It also moves customer communication and dealings with customers. “In the survey, we found that the internal sales force and the field sales force are moving closer together in terms of their working methods,” says Wengler. The back office and sales are areas where digital work was normal. “Up until now, the sales force lived from personal contact with customers.”
That changed rapidly. “The willingness to use digital tools has risen sharply on the company and customer side.” Work tools such as MS Teams have often been neglected for many years. “All of a sudden, employees were relieved that these tools were available.” Social media is also suddenly an issue in companies. “That is important to many now,” says Wengler.
Repurposing office buildings now? “The wrong way”
The last area in which, according to the researchers’ survey, there is rapid change is internal communication in companies. “While employees used to exchange a lot of informal facts between the door and the hinge, these things are now lost and become digital,” says Stefan Wengler. “The decisive factor now is the corporate culture, which is now better than ever in many companies. After all, we stick together in times of crisis. Here in Upper Franconia we call it “hold together!”
This is confirmed by Marie Kanellopulos, managing director of the management consultancy DONE! Berlin. Changes forced from the outside world can only be overcome by a strong team spirit, is her experience. “The ‘we’ can help a doomed company to flourish, because motivated employees create the impossible.”
The researchers Wengler and Riedl believe that converting office buildings in rows now because companies want to save the costs of their offices is the wrong way to go. Even in times of new work, shared rooms are needed. “Because of the more irregular meetings, a new corporate culture is required, which in the future will have to be based on mutual trust even more, because my employees can only meet twice a week.”
Freedom, security, solidarity, trust: now important in companies
Due to the corona pandemic and home office, many companies are only now noticing whether their corporate culture is functioning and being supported by everyone, confirms Marie Kanellopulos. Until March 2020, it was not absolutely necessary for many companies to think about a supporting corporate culture. “Now we urgently need to rethink.”
According to the consultant, the topic is more current than ever. “Founders and HR managers are increasingly concerned with their company culture, provided they don’t drown in administration.” Now it is crucial to build trust. To do this, the vision and mission of a company must be adapted in an emergency. “Conveying trust is an absolute managerial task. Employees can only trust in their employer if they keep them informed of all the steps, even in difficult times, and involve them as much as possible in key decisions. “
Your advice has doubled cultural projects from the third quarter of 2020, that’s how big the need in companies is, says Kanellopulos. “We have established hybrid working models at many companies. At the same time, we have developed projects for internal communication and corporate culture. ”Values such as security, freedom and solidarity now have a new meaning for many employees. “As a team, you should grow from this exceptional situation.” For example, through clear structures and agreements.