New Work is used to describe the structural change in the world of work, which is primarily driven by digitalization, globalization and the shortage of skilled workers. There is no universally valid definition for New Work – how it is actually implemented depends on the company in question.
In the discussion and implementation of New Work, the production area is all too often insufficiently considered. Wrongly so, because this is where enormous potential lies. Modern forms of work can also be integrated into production. In order to identify this potential, ProduktionNRW organized a virtual exchange of experiences for the mechanical and plant engineering sector in North Rhine-Westphalia on January 17, 2023.
The need for New Work also for the mechanical and plant engineering sector
Andrea Veerkamp-Walz, speaker VDMA Business Advisory, first discussed New Work and its importance for the mechanical and plant engineering industry. According to her, topics around New Work are not new, but part of a long-term change in the world of work. The virtual collaboration forced in the pandemic has brought New Work more into focus. This was primarily about leadership, collaboration and the workplace – especially in the office environment. Since then, it has become apparent that the transformation to New Work is not free of tensions; different forces are at work.
Nevertheless, it is important that the mechanical and plant engineering sector – also in the production area – deals with New Work, on the one hand to strengthen its own employer attractiveness and on the other hand to increase its ability to change as well as to innovate. A targeted change process is necessary to ensure that the transformation is successful and tensions can be resolved. Under certain circumstances, not all employees will go along with the change. Asking employees to increase their attractiveness – while clarifying their expectations – is in itself an act of appreciation, and this can be increased if aspects of it are implemented.
In the subsequent discussion, it became clear that many participants see mobile working as a very important component of New Work. However, mobile working in particular can only be partially implemented in production. To increase flexibility in production, either the personnel pool could be expanded or a four-day week could be considered. Any inequalities need to be communicated.
New Work – Is it also possible in production?
Customer consultant Laura Nowak and CEO Frank Hauser, from the Great Place to Work research and consulting institute, then outlined the path and the concrete benefits of an attractive workplace culture: Employee surveys are the starting point, the basis and a constant measuring instrument. They provide qualitative information about areas for action and needs. Mutual respect and trust are the basis for developing a meaningful corporate culture. It is a matter of putting words into action. Companies with a good corporate and workplace culture have a lower fluctuation rate, a lower sickness rate and a higher applicant rate. Corporate culture is therefore also a guarantor of economic success.
Using various best practices from industry, exemplary approaches were presented on how companies can strengthen their own employer brand, for example by introducing a lived culture of error by management or experimenting in recruiting to reach the target group. As different as the companies are, so are the fields of action and approaches to solutions. For this reason, companies from the mechanical and plant engineering sector are encouraged to identify the appropriate fields and approaches for their own company.
Exchange in small groups
After the exchange in small groups, it was emphasized in the final round that the mechanical and plant engineering sector also has to deal with the flexibilization of working hours. There are indications that the issues surrounding mobile working or a four-day week will remain on the agenda and will also have an impact on the industry. Concrete approaches to solutions in this regard must be further developed and adapted. Further exchange on this topic was expressly requested by the participants.
The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is organized by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.