a member of Group Elephant

beyond corporate purpose

An interview with Åsa Lautenberg (Part 2)


Christoph Werner
Dr. Markus Röth
November 2, 2021
Agility, self-organization, employee experience, new work and digitization are current trends that are of equal concern to companies and their HR departments. We had the opportunity to talk at length with Åsa Lautenberg about these topics, exchange experiences and also discuss provocative theses.

Åsa Lautenberg, a Swedish citizen, was most recently Chief People Officer (CPO) on the Executive Board of Viessmann Climate Solutions SE. Prior to that, she held various HR management positions at Samson AG, the Lufthansa Group and LSG Sky Chefs.

Christoph Werner, Managing Director, and Dr. Markus Roeth, Senior HCM Consultant, from EPI-USE GmbH spoke with Åsa Lautenberg.

Most managers are still sitting on the management floors, having been socialized for decades by the established control mechanisms, so to speak. Where do we currently stand in the transformation of management culture and how can this best succeed?

Yes, this is the biggest challenge in most companies right now. It is a quantum leap and poses a highly threatening scenario for very, very many executives. In my experience, this can only be achieved if executives are involved and become coparticipants in defining the way forward. My experience, however, is that in almost every company today there is already an understanding among the management team that we can-not continue in the future the way we have acted so far. The urgency is really there and that's why it's incredibly important to take the management team along as such, to show them how serious the situation is, but also to let them have their say in terms of: How do we define our strategy? What do we want to stand for in the future and who are we anyway? That takes a lot of time, but it also brings an incredible amount of cohesion and trust into a management team. From an HR perspective, this is very exciting because it creates a kind of team coaching situation that opens up opportunities. And of course it's hard to go from the highly motivated and dynamic workshops back to everyday life and not fall back into the old habits. But through the trust and cohesion gained, you have colleagues around you with whom you can also share the difficulties and you don't feel alone in the process. I really believe that most companies (even in Germany) are now on the verge of taking this step, or are already one step further and have a common under-standing that things can be done differently and that changes are needed in order to shoulder the future together and to be able to move forward successfully. I believe that somewhere in the back of their minds, executives know this, too. They know that there will no longer be a need for the way they have acted up to now. Tomorrow's leadership tasks will be different. And they also know that if they don't open up to this in some way, they run the risk of becoming superfluous.

Corona has shown that change is also possible in a short time. Do we need crises as a booster for change?

Indeed. A crisis is the best way to jump over one's own shadow. We have experienced this. It was impressive to see how effective ways of working and strong teamwork were put in place. But here, too, there is a danger of falling back into the old ways. And that's where I think the potential lies for targeted HR support on a day-to-day basis. If a manager is strong enough and feels able to talk openly with his employees about the difficulties inherent in change and how difficult it is to lead agilely and without the established control mechanisms, but also about the efficiency potentials and advantages that change brings, then that really is the best motivator and encourager for employees to try it out. And I think you have to take advantage of that.

However, there will always be those who find it difficult to accept new things and changes, or who even close their minds completely. In the future, we will probably be confronted with various staff shortages - even more so than today. How do we deal with this and what happens to those who have no idea what to do with agility, self-organization and further development and do not want to do so?

For me, this type of leadership is nothing new. I've been leading like this for at least ten years, but I've also had teams that had to get used to it slowly. My experience is that about 30 percent are just waiting to be allowed to live out, so to speak, what they have always been able to do but were never allowed to do. Talent shoots up like there's no tomorrow and you see an enormous increase in performance. Then there are the 50 percent or so who can learn it. But they have to have it explained and taught to them and be taken by the hand. You have to reckon with a learning phase of up to a year and close coaching and guidance is necessary. And then there are the remaining 20 percent who simply don't feel comfortable with it. They sleep worse, have stomach aches and panic attacks. For them, life may be complicated enough to keep a marriage happy, raise children, keep the household in reasonable shape, and so on. They at least don't want to be put under extra pressure for the eight hours of work a day, don't want to have to turn their heads on, but be told exactly what to do. The problem is that we will have less and less need for these kinds of workers. That's a fact. This kind of work will be automated and digitalized very quickly and we will just not need these workers anymore. And that's when you have to think. Can we continue to employ them in the same way as before? In the case of managers, I would say let's take a look at it for a year, and if someone doesn't go along, we'll part ways with them in a friendly manner. With employees, perhaps especially in productive areas, this is a bigger and more difficult issue, especially here in Germany, since the change is and will be most severe in logistics or production. HR has a huge job here. And everyone who is open to going along with it should also have the chance to develop further.

With regard to increasing automation and the takeover of many work activities by robots, David Precht has been predicting for some time that billions of jobs will disappear and many will lose their jobs. And two or three years ago, serious players from Silicon Valley made similarly gloomy predictions. With self-organization, agility and the other new-work concepts in HR, aren't we designing a vision only for a very specific target group: the well-educated, urban White Collars who employers can choose anyway and who can't be replaced by robots so quickly?

I don't believe that only White Collars are the target group for New Work concepts, so to speak. I have experienced that many Blue Collars also welcome taking on new tasks if they are given the opportunity and training to do so. Often, the demand for new concepts even comes from the production team itself: "Every day the same thing ... Can't you make more exciting activities possible and offer us the chance to broaden our horizons and learn new things? We also know that our current jobs are on the line in the future." And you simply have to listen and see individually where the opportunities are. If you use that, you can take a lot of people with you. With the rest, you just have to look and then make strategic decisions, but that will only come in a few years. At Viessmann, we have a 10-year Strategic Workforce Planning, Upskilling, Reskilling plan in place. But you have to start now, actually yesterday, because it simply takes time to train the right skills for the future and to change the workforce accordingly. We are still mostly working at full capacity in the old world, but we know that it will soon be different. And that is the challenge, to prepare this smartly, not to lose sight of it on the way and to accompany it constantly.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.


By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Disclaimer for more information.