Future of Work
The work in our research area “Future of Work” led to the foundation of the Dr. Theo and Friedl Schöller Research Laboratory “Future of Work”, which bundles the activities in order to promote top international research on the one hand, but also to ensure the transfer of our research into corporate practice on the other hand.
The following research focal points and projects make up this research area:
Office, home office and hybrid working
As part of the research on the “Future of Work”, the research at the Schöller Endowed Chair deals with the topic of home office or hybrid working. Since the oil crisis in the 1970s, there has been a debate about whether there are advantages for employers and employees if the latter do their work from home. In the 1970s, the debate was mainly about commuting to work and thus saving oil (fuel).
In the last 50 years, this has evolved into a lively discussion: Technological advances (powerful PCs, the Internet, affordable laptops and tablets for mobile working, smartphones) helped create the infrastructure for working from home or another location (e.g., the downtown coffee shop). Information and communication technology is a prerequisite for this distributed working to work. So it’s no surprise that technology companies are often cited as best practices for “new work.” And also through open source software development, the technology world shows how software can be successfully developed and refined in geographically distributed teams, some of which collaborate purely online. So it’s not surprising that home office or hybrid working is increasingly on the agenda for other professional worlds or in other companies, and decision-makers are considering how to get the right mix between office work in a presence and telecommuting in a home office or other location.
The Corona pandemic has brought the issue to the attention of companies, policymakers and the general public. Without teleworking (home office), many of the challenges faced during the pandemic would not have been manageable. During this time, many companies and employees quickly learned or had to learn how collaboration in teams and projects can be successfully designed virtually. However, there were also challenges that had to be overcome.
These challenges are not new. Companies like IBM, Yahoo, Best Buy or Bank of America had started a few years ago to reduce or completely discontinue telecommuting (home office) opportunities in their companies¹. It had been noticed that too much telecommuting has a negative impact on innovation and creativity and other aspects that are important for successful collaboration.
In our research, we contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms of why and how benefits can be realized, what causes negative consequences, and how companies and their employees can find the right mode to successfully implement hybrid working.
Our findings should contribute to a discussion in academia, politics and the general public about the importance that will be attached to the “office” as a place in the future and how the challenges of hybrid working can be well designed. These findings can ultimately be incorporated into the current deliberations on whether there should be a fundamental right to home office for employees in companies. The discussions and the results of the pre-Corona period suggest that the place “office” will continue to be of great importance. However, observations during the ongoing pandemic also show that home office and virtual working do have a positive impact on everyday working life. Depending on the task and industry, however, it depends on the right mix of office and teleworking, so no general recommendation can be made for a particular concept. The characteristics and challenges of the particular context must also be taken into account here. The current research work of the Schöller Endowed Chair is therefore dedicated to precisely these questions in order to be able to make further contributions to this discussion on how hybrid working can become or remain successful as a part of the working reality in companies.
People Analytics: Data Science in HR
Data Science in HR can be defined as the data-driven and goal-oriented method of examining employee processes, challenges, engagement, performance, turnover, as well as ways to derive actions in the HR context. Data Science in HR is sometimes referred to as People Analytics or Workforce Analytics.
Essentially, Data Science in HR leads to better decision making through the application of statistical methods and other data interpretation techniques. Therefore, Data Science in HR can also be defined as an approach to using statistical insights from employee data to make evidence-based HR management decisions. With Data Science in HR, smarter, more strategic, and data-driven employee decisions are more tangible, and this applies to the entire employee lifecycle – from making better hiring decisions to managing performance more effectively to improving employee retention.
In the research work of the chair, procedures for the analysis of HR issues by statistical methods are developed as well as corresponding analysis projects are carried out in cooperation with companies. The focus is also on the question of how Data Science in HR can contribute to a more non-discriminatory work in HR management.
Talent Management & Recruiting
The management of human resources in companies is an essential aspect of management in the digital age. The shift from automated to non-automated task owners and the potentials of digital technologies create new challenges and opportunities for Human Resources Management (HRM).
We deal with business and technical prerequisites, success factors, implementation variants and further implications of digital technologies in HRM for individuals and companies. In various projects with companies, implementation strategies for digital personnel files, electronic HR workflows, artificial intelligence-based approaches, people analytics projects, continuing education concepts, recruitment strategies and campaigns, and for the onboarding of new employees have been researched and realized in projects with corporate practice. These implementation strategies result in the “E-HRM-House” defined by the chair in order to illustrate different concepts of a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) and their application for the manifold tasks in HRM and to describe a framework of action for companies, which digital technologies can be used purposefully in which contexts.
We also research the requirements for the “Digital Workforce” in terms of attitude, skills, knowledge requirements, motivation and behaviors that are necessary to successfully shape digitization in companies. In this way, we contribute to deriving concepts for the qualification of individuals for the digital workforce.
One challenge here is to find new employees. The “war for talent” is one of the major challenges for companies. This is especially true with regard to the lack of IT talent on the labor market and thus for IT talent management in particular. With our research we contribute to a successful recruitment of talents. A key finding is that a single “one fits all” strategy is usually not effective, but rather that a comprehensive portfolio of target group-oriented strategies and measures (e.g. boomerang hires) is necessary to meet the challenges.
In the course of the research, the FISH framework was developed, which comprises a process model for defining a comprehensive portfolio of target group-oriented strategies and measures for recruiting (IT) professionals. The strategies and measures are differentiated in terms of short-term and long-term effectiveness, and the availability of talent on the labor market is taken into account. The search for talent can be interpreted as the activity of a fisherman who either casts a net and can choose from a variety of fish (short-term measures for more readily available target groups) or who fishes with a rod, the right bait and in the right place (short-term measures for scarce target groups). For long-term success, a fisherman would feed fish (long-term measure for more available target groups) or start thinking like a fish (long-term measures for scarce target groups). With this metaphor, which is the basis for the FISH framework, it has been possible in many projects to develop appropriate talent management strategies and define measures to successfully attract and retain talent for a company.
Collaboration and enterprise social media
The design of collaboration processes in digital work systems is the focus of this research area. Digital technologies are used to automate processes and tasks, thus changing the way people collaborate. The focus is no longer solely on collaboration between people. Increasing digitization has also made human-machine collaboration more and more important. For this reason, we are researching how digital technologies are changing different work systems (e.g. software development, financial consulting, recruitment, etc.), how their challenges can be analyzed and structured, and which aspects promote or hinder the acceptance of digital work systems.
Within the scope of this research, the “ECM ABC” was developed based on a large number of projects with companies, which as a process model is able to analyze challenges of digital work systems and collaboration in companies in order to derive corresponding implications for their effective and efficient design.
An essential technology for collaboration is social media. Social media became known through its use in private. For over 20 years, people have been creating profiles on these platforms, networking with their friends and acquaintances, and sharing content. Spurred by the growing impact and capabilities of social media in private, enterprises increasingly began to use social media for their needs. Enterprise social media is the term derived from the umbrella term social media and is defined as a social medium that supports internal communication, knowledge sharing and interaction processes within a company or between organizations. Unlike the external use of social media, which spans many public platforms, most organizations implement an integrated social media platform that includes multiple types of enterprise social media. For example, most internal social media platforms mimic popular social networking sites such as Facebook in appearance, operation and functionality. However, embedded within this platform are often blogs and wikis, as well as types of enterprise social media through which social tagging and document sharing can occur. In our research, we develop usage scenarios for enterprise social media and analyze usage behavior in the platforms to draw conclusions about the influence of social networks on digital work systems.
XR & Metaverse
In our research lab, we also focus on the impact of Extended Reality (XR) and Metaverse on the future of work. Our focus is on exploring how these technologies and concepts can be used to improve the world of work and open up new possibilities for collaboration, learning, and communication.
One focus of our research is on the application of XR technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the workplace, particularly in areas such as training and remote work. In this context, we investigate the possibilities of virtual meetings and collaboration in virtual environments. We also focus on analyzing the impact of these technologies on workplace design and working conditions, particularly with respect to workplace flexibility and remote working opportunities.
We aim to better understand the interplay between XR, Metaverse, and the future of work, and to explore the potential of these technologies and concepts to improve the world of work. Our goal is to contribute to the creation of a sustainable and innovative working world and thus to increase the productivity but most of all the satisfaction of the employees.