Monika Hablick, Transformation Project Manager at EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, and Leon Jacob, former Senior Manager at hkp/// group and co-author of the study HR drives digital, talk about the challenges faced on the way to becoming a digital champion. The central focus here is the establishment of a corporate culture that is open to digital transformation.

Ms. Hablick, the energy sector is currently undergoing extensive change. Following the Fukushima reactor disaster, there have been fundamental changes in customer behavior, public perception of the industry and in the market environment. How has EnBW managed to remain one of Germany’s leading energy suppliers despite all this?
Monika Hablick: In addition to the German energy transition, the industry’s digitalization was a second major driver of change that EnBW needed to address and which offered a great opportunity for our change process. Fortunately, our management team recognized early what our corporate development, and thus also the digitalization process, requires. This includes, for example, future-proof technologies and new business models. But it doesn't stop there. Without the employees’ ability to change and without the right competencies of your workforce digital transformation will not be successful. That’s why we started an initiative to primarily bring management and digitalization closer together at the start of EnBW’s internal digitalization process.
Leon Jacob: ... and that is why EnBW is one of the digital champions of our HR drives digital study. Taking a holistic approach to internal digitalization combines three drivers that are essential for creating a successful future-orientated structure. This includes digital literacy, the ability and willingness of employees to change and a digital culture; all factors we identified as essential drivers in our latest study. All three are associated with a high degree of digital maturity.

What concrete measures have been taken to collaboratively shape the digital transformation at EnBW?
Monika Hablick: It quickly became evident that leadership has a key role to play. To make modern leadership a stronger focus of the transformation process and to develop the relevant competences throughout the business, we experienced three “revolutions” within the company. The first concerned expanding the classic concept of leadership from heroic leadership to shared leadership with elements such as Leading Business, Leading People, Leading Product, Leading Excellence and especially Leading Myself.
Leon Jacob: EnBW is an example of how a digital culture can only develop fully when managers have the right mindset. The quantitative results of the HR drives digital study showed the same: The more managers act as role models and set an example for digital change, the fewer obstacles are perceived by employees during digitalization.

What happened next on the road to becoming a digital champion Ms. Hablick?
Monika Hablick: After the first pilot workshop with managers to expand the classic concept of leadership, it turned out that although contents and methods were perceived as useful throughout, their application proved difficult. Some managers hit a wall within the existing structures with their new, innovation-friendly attitude.

How did you react to this challenge?
Monika Hablick: We quickly realized that the target group had to be broader. So, the second revolution consisted of aiming the concept of modern leadership at anyone in the company, who takes on responsibility and inspires people i.e. not only defined managers or top management. In workshops and with the help of agile methods, more than 1,000 participants from all hierarchical levels addressed the various aspects of the new leadership concept in a short space of time.
Leon Jacob: Here we have a great example of how it is possible to get all of the different stakeholder groups on board. This is necessary so that a change in culture within a company isn’t just initiated but also becomes established. The higher the company’s level of maturity, the more transparent the processes and decisions become for those involved in the digitalization process. your study HR drives digital demonstrates!
Leon Jacob: Exactly, we also know this from the results of our study. This approach leads to better use of internal resources and gives employees the responsibility of taking part in the change process. Anyone can act as a multiplier; it doesn't have to be restricted to selected managers. This approach is also often well-received by works councils.

Ms. Hablick, you particularly emphasized the importance of employees having the right skills and the ability to change for achieving successful digital transformation. How did you approach this aspect within your initiative?
Monika Hablick: Our third revolution tackled these topics – especially the employees’ ability to change and their competences. In this context, we focused on work and attitude towards Learning and Development. Together with our Digital Office and our in-house Innovation Campus, we above all support employees in their ability to change in a digital environment.

What does this approach look like in practice?
Monika Hablick: Three rings represent a provision's level of learning – knowledge, application and mastering. This approach enables workshops, e-learning and other learning formats to be designed and offered according to requirements, level of knowledge, topics and areas of application alongside the usual, often more costly training courses.

Mr. Jacob, apart from strengthening management practice and facilitating the ability and willingness of employees to change, what else can companies do to promote internal digitalization?
Leon Jacob: Our report on the HR drives digital study is a good start for anyone wanting to obtain an academically sound overview of this topic. For those who want to delve deeper and, above all, obtain information on how their own company is doing compared to other competitors in the field of digitalization, there is the option to complete a questionnaire to determine their company’s specific level of digital maturity and to have this evaluated by our specialists. Using this information, a company-specific roadmap can then be developed to establish how the digitalization process can be successfully approached and mastered.

Ms. Hablick, Mr. Jacob, many thanks for this insightful interview!


Background on the study

The study “HR drives digital” is a joint project of hkp/// group with the Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Lörrach. In an online survey, HR experts and decision-makers from a total of 136 companies of different sizes and sectors from the German-speaking region took part. The evaluations were carried out on the basis of a series of statistical procedures such as analysis of factors and clusters.

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