Hermann Troger is a renowned HR expert, author and lecturer from South Tyrol. With many years of experience in the top management of internationally active corporate groups and his comprehensive expertise in the field of HR, he now helps companies and HR managers to master a wide variety of challenges in this New Work. Recently, his latest book, "Human Resource Management in a Post COVID-19 World" was published. We talked to Mr. Troger about his book and more!
1. For whom is your book and when does the post-covid future begin?
My book is aimed at everyone, but especially at practitioners who are engaged in human resource management. I was quite early with the book because I finished writing it in December 2020 and all of us thought that the pandemic would be over by the middle of 2021. Nevertheless, all the statements and findings are just as valid even now.
Specifically, it is about the fact that we live in the so-called VUCA world. Today's working world has been characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity for a decade. The Covid 19 pandemic is nothing more than a reinforcement, indeed a potentiation, of this VUCA world.
What used to matter became marginal, and what was once thought impossible now became possible. This is what happened, for example, with home offices, which became commonplace for many of us. All meetings had to and could be held online. This is a destructive moment in the process that defines the VUCA world.
However, it does not mean that companies are suddenly practicing New Work. What happened in 2021 was a reaction to an extreme situation at first. A new "new normal" will settle in later. Many aspects of this Corona period will remain in existence, and many things will be put into perspective again (e.g., home office).
2. What do you mean by "first-person perspective"?
We find ourselves in an increasingly individualized working world. The focus is increasingly on the individual employee, the individual person. Generations X, Y or Z are labels whose significance is becoming increasingly relatable. Basically, it's about the expectations of individuals who, due to shifts in power, are increasingly able to assert their interests in the world of work.
Five years ago, a human resources manager received perhaps 10 applications for a job opening. The standard answer was: "We'll take a look at the other applicants and then get back to you". Today, it's the exact opposite. HR managers are cautiously asking when they can expect applicants to make a decision.
The average length of time employees stay with a company is also decreasing. It used to be 7 - 8 years, but now it's only 2 - 3 years. If they do not receive a salary increase, the employee quickly looks for another employer. We have moved from an employer world to an employee world. The individual has much more weight and can assert themselves more strongly.
3. Generation Z is just taking off in the working world. How can companies become and remain attractive to Gen Z?
Generation Z is looking for security. At first, that sounds like a contradiction, since the generation naturally wants to have a lot of fun, money and free time simultaneously. But all of this is best done on the basis of a permanent employment relationship. Unlike Generation Y, the next generation doesn't want a mix between private and work life, but a clear separation - a classic 9-to-5 job. They also do not need long-term career planning, because they prefer to shape their own careers. So, besides security, Generation Z needs one thing above all: freedom. However, stereotyping is not very helpful here either: In order for companies to become and remain attractive, they should respond as individually as possible to each person, take their needs seriously, find out their interests and promote them.
4. Your book also addresses the fact that New Work cannot and must not be a topic for HR departments alone. How can HR managers ensure that New Work concerns everyone?
First and foremost, the HR department must act as a role model, provide methods and tools, and highlight developments on the labor market. In all phases of the HR management process, from recruitment, staff deployment, salary discussions to further training, HR managers should work closely with employees' supervisors. In my book, I also refer to this interaction between HR and the line managers as the " shoulder-to-shoulder relationship" that is essential for effective HR management.
5. As a consultant, you are in contact with many companies. Specifically, what do you see as the biggest challenges that companies have to overcome in New Work?
The greatest difficulty for managers today is leading from a distance, but also finding the right balance between delegating tasks and giving responsibility. Likewise, coaching employees appropriately is important so they enjoy becoming sparring partners and taking ownership at the same time.
Another challenge is to create homogeneity in a global and diversified working world. Today, diversity is increasingly demanded and encouraged. When employees come from different functional areas, cultures and age groups, this usually means innovation and performance. On the other hand, it is precisely this circumstance that makes it difficult to create homogeneity and develop a common corporate culture. Homogeneity and a sense of belonging are important elements for long-term employee retention. Companies must try to create this homogeneity through shared values.
6. What positive examples of successful HR management can you spontaneously name?
There are many. For example, I know of a company that provided its employees with €1,000 each at the beginning of corona-induced home working to equip their workspace at home individually. Each company has to find out for themselves what they can do to motivate their people. The best approach here is to ask the employees what they like or what changes should be made. For example, a good question would be: What would we have to do in order for you to recommend our company to a friend? In other words, employer branding internally is the key to success.
Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Troger. If you would like to read more about human resources management of the future, you can find the book here.
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