Globalization and digitization are changing the world of work. Companies are looking for strategies to respond. Can flexibility, creativity and self-fulfillment help companies work better?
David Spaeth is on the way to a customer appointment. The head of Marketing at Hamburg-based software specialist novomind is wearing jeans, comfortable shoes and a hoodie with the inscription "Team novomind." The company is based in Hamburg and currently has over 300 employees.
In an inconspicuous office building in the east of the city, two employees from the Swiss outdoor supplier Transa are waiting for him and when they see him ask: "Do you have the sweaters with you?"
Spaeth smiles. He is here to work with his customers to find a solution for making payments in their travel and outdoor equipment store's online shop faster. And he has the clothing with him.
"Since we started working together, the Swiss have asked us to bring them our T-shirts and hoodies," recalls Spaeth. When the teams work together, it is often impossible to distinguish between the service provider and the customer. "It helps everyone to be creative," says Spaeth.
In general, hierarchies are falling, the boundaries between customers and service providers are disappearing, and customers and colleagues are being addressed by first name. Academics have come up with the term "new work" to describe this phenomenon, which also includes working in less authoritarian environments where they can work without fear of making mistakes or undermining someone's authority.
The specialists for online shops from Hamburg together with the suppliers from the Alps have made the web shop more colorful and effective. The planning of the project was also new: The client didn't pay for days worked, but for project goals that were reached. Teams are put together and changed flexibly. Other freelancers can be added at short notice.
"In the past, customers simply wanted a finished design to be presented. Today they want to be involved in the creative process," summarizes David Spaeth. "They often have the key to the problem."
Together with the Transa team, novomind implemented a content management system in the online shop instead of having both run in parallel. "It was perfect teamwork," says Spaeth. Today things are much more flexible. "Sometimes we are faster and have the result ahead of schedule. And sometimes we need more input from the customer to get the result."
Mechanization, customer loyalty, great competitive pressure — these factors make agile, cross-company work necessary today. "This is particularly true for the fashion industry," explains Spaeth, because trends change faster than in other industries "and we have to react quickly."
Spaeth speaks of "his" web shop when it comes to the Transa site — probably a positive effect of cross-company work, which is a part of new work.
New work has become a catchphrase, sometimes praised as forward-looking, other times criticized as a marketing tool. Experts at least agree on one thing: Digitization and globalization mean that the world of work is undergoing a comprehensive transformation process.
Looking for good IT employees
The changes are also being accelerated by a shortage of skilled workers. On average it takes 132 days before a company can fill a vacancy with an IT specialist, according to an analysis by Germany's Federal Employment Agency (BA). The German industry association Bitkom also warns that its member companies need around five months to successfully recruit a new employee.
Alexander Schlomberg has turned this into a business model. As a co-founder and managing director of the platform for skilled workers Expertlead, he connects IT freelancers to jobs. They work on projects for around six months and are paid a daily rate, of which Expertlead keeps a commission. "This is the working model of the future," claims Schlomberg.
Programmers or machine-learning engineers are no longer willing to move to the province for a job. His experts are spread all over the world and are digitally connected by chats or conference apps such as Slack. Schlomberg is convinced that old working models are outdated.
A study by the American consulting firm Edelman Intelligence came to the conclusion that by 2027 more than half of the workforce in the United States will be freelancers. This won't just apply to the IT industry, but to many other sectors of the economy.