Interview with Ines Krummacker and Michael Ehlerding

On the subject: New Work

As Chief Human Resources Manager, Ines Krummacker is responsible for the personnel activities of the entire DMK Group. She originally trained with the company, and has played a crucial role in supporting its transformation in the past years.

As Head of Organisational Development, Michael Ehlerding works on the DMK Group's continuous transformation process.


The world has been talking about “New Work” for some years now. What does New Work mean for DMK?

I.K.: First and foremost, the term describes a new understanding of work that is based on more self-determination, collaboration and flexibility. The DMK Group has committed to all these aspects with the “Vision 2030” and launched a fundamental transformation in the company on this basis. We want to be with our consumers in every phase of their lives. And we want to make the same thing possible for our employees. With this in mind, we were already thinking about what form future-proof work would take for us even before 2020.


M.E.: The DMK Group’s transformation process in the last few years had helped us enormously to optimise work processes and make them more efficient. This ongoing process has enabled us to respond faster to the consequences of the Covid pandemic now - fortunately. We already had a basis for a more agile organisation which we were able to build on.

How exactly has the Covid crisis changed work at DMK?

M.E.: We had to act fast when the pandemic broke out. We therefore made a close examination and then launched the projects that were needed immediately and made most sense in the new situation.


I.K.: One of the first steps was of course the switch to teleworking. In March 2020, we sent all administrative staff home more or less from one day to the next. In addition, we equipped them with the technology they needed and brought forward the introduction of Microsoft Teams. That way, the necessary infrastructure was in place so that teleworking could continue.

That must have been a huge adjustment for everyone?

I.K.: Yes, of course. The managers in particular were suddenly faced with completely new challenges. In teleworking, every individual has a much greater chance to control his or her own working time personally. A strong sense of community is needed to make sure the collaboration works. People want clear communication and direction, respect and also integration into a team. When everyone is on site, a manager can address these wants much more easily. When employees are working from home, the manager has to take care that the processes work and that the right collaboration tools are used. He or she has to trust employees and give them a platform.

And how do employees react?

M.E.: After the change, we soon noticed that employees had an excellent acceptance of the new way of working and that they wanted to continue in this way. This shows us that courage to change really pays off. We’re now working on addressing employees’ individual needs in an even more targeted way, so as to enable more flexibility and thereby build the relationship of trust further. This also applies to our employees in production and our apprentices. We're scrutinising this area closely as well, and thinking about how New Work can function here so that everyone benefits from this development.


I.K.: In the end, we actually gained pace as a result of the pandemic. We want to use this momentum now and arm ourselves for the time after Covid in the long run. A first step on this path is a new works agreement signed by the company and the Works Council that provides for four work models. Every employee will be able to choose, in consultation with the manager, which one meets his or her individual needs best.

What are the plans for your apprentices? They're affected by the change as well.

I.K.: Good question! We take our apprentices very seriously and want to send a clear signal of how important the subject of training is to us – despite or maybe even because of the Covid. We’re therefore working full steam ahead on our GROW programme and transforming things entirely. We would like to restructure the training programme so as to support all apprentices personally on their path into working life. The programme is a direction-setting move, because a training structure like this has never before been envisaged at DMK.


M.E.: Because of the Covid crisis, we’ve already been able to gain valuable experience about digital learning and online exams. We definitely want to build on this, so that GROW is a real success and we are equipped for the future. In the end, we will therefore have a training concept in which trainer and trainee will always communicate on level terms.

One last question in conclusion: What was the most important insight you gained in 2020?

I.K.:  My most important insight in the crisis was that with courage and faith in each other we can do anything.


M.E.: The community spirit within DMK was definitely an important insight. It shows us that we can master and drive forward the transformation together.