Julia Görlitz, IG Metall Vorstand Enlarge

© Julia Görlitz

Challenge and mission: proactively shaping tomorrow’s world of work

The use of new technologies has paved the way for a fourth industrial revolution 4.0 in Germany. The old world of work has fundamentally changed – and will continue to change. New technologies are ushering in new opportunities, such as digital business models, relationships and production methods. AI and robotics are in use – working alongside people. Technological change requires faster and more flexible responses in operations; work processes need to be thought through once more, while new, agile forms of working emerge. There is no one-size-fits-all response to the necessary adaptations.

All these changes are now taking place against the backdrop of a unique, ongoing and global pandemic. In 2020, the coronavirus exacerbated and accelerated existing divisions and upheavals in the industrial workplace. The need for digital learning devices and training for all production workers is urgent. At the same time, any remaining doubts about the need for flexible working practices and home working are gradually disappearing from management circles.

The goal of the working group is to become a forward thinker for the modern world of work, to maintain dialogue with interested parties, share experiences, advance knowledge and understanding and to provide food for thought. In doing so, the group has people and their needs at its heart: "You have to see people first, and then technology".

The transition to a networked industry and good, modern working practices can only succeed if all stakeholders are involved in the change process. The working group makes an important contribution to this goal. It brings together members of management teams and works councils, inviting them to share their knowledge, while inspiring and encouraging those interested on the path of digital transformation.

Currently, the working group is focusing on the "Charter for Work and Learning in Industrie 4.0" and the topics "Further Training" and "Agile Working". Three sub-working groups have been formed for this purpose.

Focus 1: Charter for Work and Learning in Industrie 4.0

What values does the working group "Work, Education and Training" actually stand for? To answer this question and to present the group’s philosophy to the outside world, a sub-working group was tasked with drawing up the "Charter for Learning and Working in Industry" in 2020.

The charter consists of four concise statements, based on the three pillars of people, organisation and technology. In an iterative development process, the working group shared drafts of the charter among its network of experts to gather feedback and take as many perspectives as possible into account.

The Charter does not contain any political demands or policy recommendations. Rather, it is intended as a normative, consensus-based foundation for future discussions on the big societal questions arising from the digitalisation of industry.

Focus 2: Further education

What new requirements are currently emerging in further vocational training? How can companies promote a stronger learning culture? How can organisations deliver good quality, effective online training during the pandemic? These questions and more are addressed by the sub-group on further education.

A series of web seminars is being run, to which experts are invited to provide input, advice and best practices on various aspects of further training. Viewers are invited to ask questions, share their experiences and pick up useful tips and tricks. In the first session, training managers from industrial companies Phoenix Contact and Daimler and the training provider Festo Didactic discussed their experiences of the benefits and stumbling blocks of digital training in the first months of the pandemic.

The lively discussion follows the sub-working group’s discussion paper Fit for the future – a company culture of learning. In future web seminars, the key ideas of this impulse paper will be analysed by experts and social partners for the broader public and professional community and presented in a vivid way using practical examples.

Focus 3: Agile working

Agile working puts people at the centre of organisational design. This enables the individual needs of employees to be paid closer attention. Meanwhile, agile working increases the adaptability and delivery capacity of organisations - through self-organisation, interdisciplinary teams, iterative improvement and a more open and respectful feedback culture.

After the sub-working group explained the importance of agility in 2019 within the framework of the discussion paper Agile Working and whetted appetites for agile working, it now wants to show how the approach is actually implemented in Germany. What good practice examples, challenges and different perspectives are there? Drawing on challenges that cannot be solved at the company level alone, the working group also aims to formulate policy recommendations.

The sub-working group draws these insights from its own group of expert participants through a series of "3x3x3 interviews": every three months, three questions are posed to three companies. Three perspectives are obtained in each case – from employee and employer representatives and from one employee who lives and breathes agility at work. To increase public awareness and understanding of agility in 2021, the working group will present these insights in bite-sized chunks through a series of multimedia formats.