Marten Bütow
17. May 2017 0

From assembly line to dynamic workplace

In October 1913, Henry Ford made one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of industrialization. The assembly line revolutionized car manufacturing and cut the prices of the Model T dramatically. Cars became a mass-produced product, affordable to nearly all. Meanwhile, in Rüsselsheim, Germany, Opel only followed ten years later – but were successful nonetheless. That’s nearly unimaginable today, because ten years now feel like a digital eternity.

Groundbreaking developments are always easier to spot in hindsight than in the present, when we are in the middle of it all. But nonetheless, it is clear that we are once again experiencing a massive transformation of the way we work. The technological, demographic and cultural framework conditions are evolving and, at the same time, permanently changing the way we work.  Markets and competitors are changing hand in hand with this evolution of work, which means that many business models will not be able to last as they exist today. In times of scarce specialists and evolving framework conditions, HR departments have to act now to ensure that their companies also remain competitive tomorrow. The “war for talent” is only one aspect of this challenge. Another is temporary collaboration with external experts. Or flexible workforce levels. Or new work models. And so on and so forth…

The new generation of workers – in contrast to Ford’s age, when employees were unquestioningly subordinate to the speed of the assembly line – has different expectations. And a different standing. Ford wanted to “relieve” employees from the “burden” of thinking for themselves. He called it “reduction of the necessity for thought on the part of the worker and the reduction of his movements to a minimum“. This is illustrated magnificently in Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece “Modern Times.”

Flexible people, flexible work

Among modern knowledge workers, exactly the opposite is true. Companies have to give their knowledge workers a good foundation, to provide ideal support to their own thinking processes. They must respond to the needs of their “human capital.” First and foremost, this involves creating the right HR framework. A big part of this – and the reason why I find this subject so interesting – is an IT infrastructure that is as flexible as our new work methods. Reliable support for dynamic collaboration: mobility, home office, temporary projects and so on.

We have written a white paper, “Liquid Work,” on this full set of topics.  It illustrates the major trends in the way we work from a variety of perspectives and emphasizes the role that dynamic delivery models can play for workplaces. You can download this white paper here free of charge.

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