Increasingly rapid digitisation meets an ageing society. What do employees think? Is digitisation a curse or a blessing for them?
You may think the answer is obvious, especially since the media repeatedly confirms our preconceptions. The opinion of the media: younger digital natives meet ageing anti-computer types. While the former shape the future with pleasure, the latter refuse to budge unless forced.
Not true, according to the results of an online survey on the “Perspektivwechsel 3D” (3D perspective shift) commissioned by the Demographie Netzwerk ddn (Demographic Network). The survey was based on a study called “Wertewelten Arbeiten 4.0” (Work values 4.0), which nextpractice GmbH conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) in 2016.
If you consider statements on the future of work from the perspective of individual values, you will get an entirely different picture: people who focus on high performance and self-realisation in their professional lives are relatively self-assertive and tend to see the “new workplace” in a positive light. For this group, digitisation is mostly seen as a desirable form of progress that facilitates tedious processes and will therefore improve their everyday lives. These people feel they are very willing to learn although they have weak digital skills, which shows that they do not see lifelong learning as an externally imposed obligation but rather as an intrinsic desire.
In contrast, people whose focus is less on their own work as a meaningful activity view technical progress sceptically and see potential dangers in the changes that are forecast for the future. The need to improve their digital skills is seen more as a burden.
The decisive factor is: the difference between the two groups is not their age. Instead, the difference lies between a group of young and old people who embrace innovation and one of young and old sceptics. Innovation and security are not characteristics that are automatically connected with age. A warning to employers to be careful with stereotypes and not be too quick to write off the innovative potential of older employees.
This is one of the realisations that are only possible thanks to the several hundred people who have already participated in our survey. You will find more information on our website.
The expectations German employees have of their workplace are as different as the people themselves. Taking individual wishes and expectations into consideration enables employers to keep their employees in the long term and to sustainably increase motivation, not only during the age of a skill shortage. In contrast, a one-size-fits-all mentality threatens the success of planned measures. It is important to develop individual solutions that will best meet the challenges and needs of both companies and employees.
Martina Schmeink is managing director of the ddn e.V. (Demography Network).
After completing her studies in economics in Braunschweig and Tübingen, Schmeink worked in the field of marketing and later in HR development. She could then integrate these experiences in her work in research and transfer projects as the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences. Since 2012, Martina Schmeink has been responsible for the network management of ddn e.V.