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"Our goal is to always stay one step ahead of things"

Janina Kugel is one of a handful of women serving on the board of a DAX-listed corporation. As Chief Human Resources Officer and member of the Managing Board of the Siemens Group, she is responsible for around 380,000 employees worldwide. In addition to Human Resources, she is in charge of Diversity, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Corporate Social Responsibility. On CEBIT Monday, she will deliver a keynote on the topic of "Digital Transformation and the Role of Humans".

31 May. 2018
Janina Kugel, CHRO & Member of the Board, Siemens AG

In the following interview, she explains how Siemens is addressing the challenges of digitization and how she manages to achieve a work-life balance, even in an age of digitization.

Ms. Kugel, you've been with Siemens since 2001. Does your job from back then still exist in the same form?

Back then, I worked in the strategy division of the Siemens Telecommunications Group. Siemens divested this business more than 10 years ago. It was not a particularly laudable chapter in the history of our company. Siemens was the world market leader in telecommunications, but we ignored the trend towards Internet telephony. This is a reminder to us to be open to change. We always want to be one step ahead of change, so that we can be part of shaping it and not run over by it.

Siemens itself is more than 170 years old and has around 370,000 employees worldwide. How does a corporation of this size deal with the topics of digital change and digital transformation from an HR point of view?

Digitization is a major driver of the changes surrounding us. On the one hand, it has an impact on the world of work. New digital communication technologies make it possible to work more flexibly and effectively in many sectors of industry, as long as we provide the necessary tools. On the other hand, we need to acquire the requisite qualifications, for example in the areas of data analytics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

The fact is that certain markets and jobs are going to be permanently eliminated as a result of structural change. In other places, however, digitization will also create new jobs. As a result, we need to identify future skill requirements and design our training and HR development programs accordingly.

Incidentally, this is also a very important point of the Pact for the Future that we recently concluded with the group's Central Works Council and the IG Metall union. Siemens already spends around €500 million annually on training and further education. In order to shape structural change, we will provide an additional 100 million euros in a future fund over the next four years

In this context, what do you see as your greatest challenge as the Chief Human Resources Officer?

We are currently experiencing a structural transformation that, in terms of speed and scale, is unparalleled in recent decades. This is leading to a cultural shift, one which is more pronounced in some industries and less so in others. One example: Germany is still very much influenced by the need to be physically present at work. This is increasingly changing due to digitization and new communication technologies. Ultimately, it is of secondary importance when, where and how the job gets done – it's the results that count. But this also means adapting our management style accordingly. That's still hard for a lot of people to accept. The interesting thing is that we are already much further in our private lives. Today we do many things using an app – no matter where we are.

The biggest challenge is that we, all of us – businesses, social partners, politics and society – must be actively involved in shaping this change, otherwise change will shape us. Our prosperity is not set in stone, it is in the process of being redistributed globally. That is why we must not cling to what has made us successful in the past, but need to do whatever it takes to be successful in the future. That is difficult for many people to accept, but it is key that everyone take responsibility for constantly developing themselves and learning new things.

On the one hand, it is my job to give staff members the necessary freedom to do so. On the other hand, it is also a political and social mission, especially when it comes to people who are already in the workforce, because not every employer has the same ability to offer further training opportunities like we can.

In an interview, I read that you regularly go home at 6 p.m. to look after your children and then continue working later. Probably this would have been unthinkable for a board member of a DAX-listed company just a few years ago. What change in corporate culture was necessary to achieve this?

Yes, if I'm not on the road, I can arrange to make this happen. Like everyone else, I naturally want to see my children as much as possible and take care of them. That is good for everyone and much of my work can be done just as easily later in the day. Fortunately, digital communication technologies now make this possible. That's part of the cultural change and I am living it, but I'm not the only one. This way, I want to encourage our employees and managers to break with old ways of thinking and try out new things – i.e. to give them more freedom. Society is changing and we need to adjust to that. Incidentally, a company should always be eager to have super-motivated employees.

How do you approach the topic of recruiting given the shortage of skilled workers and ongoing digitization?

The shortage of skilled workers is omnipresent, especially in the STEM fields. But welders are also desperately needed. According to calculations by the German Economic Institute, there is currently a shortage of almost 315,000 skilled workers. At Siemens, we can still largely meet our demand for skilled workers. In the medium and long run, however, we are headed for a gap. And we are preparing ourselves for this eventuality.

For over 125 years, we've been continuously adapting our dual education system to the needs of the market and the company. Digitization, for example, sometimes requires completely new qualification profiles. But it's also about how we address potential professionals and how we attract them. Here we are breaking new ground – new digital ground.

One example is our #FutureMakers campaign, which has been highly successful in the social media. Here, Siemens employees from all over the world tell their personal stories. This was not a work assignment for our people – those are all voluntary blog and 360-degree video contributions. This gives applicants an authentic insight into the world of Siemens and shows the diversity of the people who work for us.

If you look ahead to the next five or 10 years, what kind of corporate culture will prevail in the large DAX-listed companies?

I wouldn't want to limit this to just the large corporations. I think it would be great if all companies across all hierarchical levels were to live a culture that reflects the respective needs and values of society. I cannot put it more concretely, because society is constantly changing. That is why companies and their culture need to constantly engage in this process of change.

It would be ideal if we could help shape this change ourselves. Siemens is indeed a pioneer in this field. When you compare Siemens' business and way of working today with its business and way of working 10, 20 or even more years ago, scarcely anything is left. Why? Because Siemens has always been open to change and has always executed that change. Only one thing has never changed at Siemens: the will to shape the future.

Hard to believe, but there are still only a handful of women on DAX-listed executive boards. What would you advise a young woman today who has set herself the goal of becoming a member of that group?

I advise everyone to do the same, whether male or female and regardless of cultural background, ethnicity, origin or sexual orientation: Take responsibility, constantly question existing thought patterns and processes, and try out new things – that is the only way we can help to shape change and remain competitive in the future. But it will unfortunately still take a while before we achieve real equality in this world. It also worries me that things we thought had already been achieved and considered “normal” sometimes need to be defended again. There's a long road ahead for all of us.

Speaker profile Siemens at CEBIT

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