Of course, nobody knows exactly what the future holds. But we need to think about what might happen – and how we want to shape potential changes. In today’s blog, I will venture a fictitious glimpse ten years into the future.
In doing so, I will build on an article I wrote in July in which I outlined four theses for a desirable future world of work. This time I will focus on the success factors we ought to consider in shaping the new world of work.
When I imagine a day of work at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in ten years, it looks something like this:
On the morning of a beautiful autumn day in 2027, an R&D employee’s self-driving electric car parks itself in the main parking lot in Darmstadt. She quickly folds up her electronic newspaper (featuring, of course, OLEDs from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany) and then it’s off to her first meeting, a 3D video conference at the Innovation Center. Here she is joined by colleagues from other continents, some of whom are working from home. The purpose of the meeting is to have an interdisciplinary discussion on an issue in the field of gene therapy. Thank goodness the new conference software translates the Chinese colleagues’ Mandarin into fluent German and vice versa – it greatly facilitates communication.
Of course, the employee could also have participated in the video conference from home. The main reason for her coming to the global headquarters in Darmstadt is that she is holding an introductory meeting after the video conference with the new deep data analyst. Despite all the technology, this still works best face-to-face over a cup of coffee.
While this is going on, a production employee attends to a robot that, thanks to predictive analytics, has requested a maintenance interval. Here the employee, who has just completed advanced training to become a robotics engineer, needs the latest-generation 3D printer to print the required spare part. On the way back to his plant he realizes, thanks to a friendly reminder from his co-worker, that he still has to work on the maintenance concept for drones, which can now deliver Life Science products within two hours.
I made these examples up. However, they are not merely a figment of my imagination since many current developments are moving in a direction that make the above scenario at least seem plausible.
And of course they have a direct impact on our world of work. It is therefore all the more important to think about how we get there. To achieve this goal, we should identify and internalize success factors to use when making future strategic decisions.
“My vision for the future of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and for the German chemical industry as a whole is that we overcome the major challenges of the future world of work together. This means employees of all levels of the company, employee representatives and members of the Executive Board pulling together and working as one.”
In my opinion, in creating a desirable future world of work, there are three success factors that we must not lose sight of:
- Openness to progress: We use new technologies to ensure our company’s success. In doing so, we show courage (including in trying new things, which brings with it the risk of failure, but at the same time treat our fellow colleagues, other people and the environment with respect.
- Collaboration: Knowledge around the world is growing so fast that it is no longer possible for people to successfully research, develop, produce or market products on their own. That is why we depend on collaboration. In the future, teams and not individuals will take center stage. And this across cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries (see: “Global work environments in the digital era”).
- Life-long learning: The worlds of science and industry are moving increasingly faster. Knowledge is becoming obsolete. Nobody can expect education to end on completion of high school, vocational training or a university degree. Professions change or even cease to exist. Work remains. That is why we need advanced training, so that we can adapt (see: ”Digitalization: Vocational and advanced training is key”)
Back to the fictitious day of work in 2027: We of course don’t know whether the future will be as I imagined it. However, I am fairly certain that – if we pay heed to the success factors described above – we can set the right course for the future.
My vision for the future of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and for the German chemical industry as a whole is that we overcome the major challenges of the future world of work together. This means employees of all levels of the company, employee representatives and members of the Executive Board pulling together and working as one. If we do this, we will be well-prepared for the future.