Into the digital world

What is your profession? Chances are around 50:50 that your job won't exist anymore in just a few years. Be prepared for the change with Telekoms's Chief Human Resources officer, Christian P. Illek’s tips.


Questions for...

Christian P. Illek

Question 1 out of 9

  • The digital revolution continues to change our world with increasing force and speed. What will this mean for people?

    Constant change is nothing new in the business world. We have been seeing new developments for decades. Just think about the automation of manufacturing processes in the automotive industry or the introduction of electronic data processing in the 1980s. Although certain jobs became obsolete, new jobs were created - and this will continue to happen. What will happen is that these changes are going to happen faster because of digitization. We at Deutsche Telekom must tackle this challenge head-on. We need to regularly check how we can streamline our standard processes and how we can use technology to come up with new approaches. I see digitization primarily as an opportunity to innovate, not as a risk. And in principle we are going to use digitization to accelerate the transformation that we at Deutsche Telekom have been working toward for years.

  • They say that the way we work will fundamentally change. How exactly? How do you feel about the fact that jobs are becoming increasingly automated and digitized?

    There appear to be three ways in which digitization will affect people's workplace. Firstly, digitization will help us develop new business models that will create new jobs. Secondly, digitization will help us automate repetitive, tedious manual activities, making work more pleasant. Thirdly, digitization will help change the way our employees collaborate. Digital technology makes it possible to work more flexibly, you don't have to be in one place, you can participate in external user groups and interactions and you can get in touch with colleagues much, much faster. And this is going to be necessary in all of the three aspects we just discussed in order to tap our full potential and stay competitive.

  • Being reachable at any time and anywhere, no more set working hours, will it prove to be too much for people?

    In general, this new professional flexibility is a blessing to our employees. They can more effectively and more independently decide how and where they want to work. However, more flexibility comes with more responsibility. Employees will have to decide themselves how and to what extent they are available. I myself am not a fan of stringent requirements or policies. That is why we need to enable our employees to work independently with technology and use it autonomously. And this isn't a decision that you make yourself. Quite often it is a decision that you make together with your project team in terms of how and to what extent everyone needs to interact and be in contact with each other. In the end, though, everyone needs to learn how to independently manage their own working hours.

  • What do you consider the key challenges managers will be facing in the next decade?

    Managers are going to have to learn new skills. A number of activities will be based on traditional working principles in the future as well. There will still be clear rules, clear instructions or clear input and output controls. The further we venture into unchartered territory in the field of innovation, the less we can predict the outcome. This will force managers to use other criteria to assess the likelihood of the success of a certain activity and at what point they will see actual results. In other words, we will have to apply different management techniques in different contexts. I believe that is what managers will have to do in the future. They will have to be able to act confidently in both worlds - the world of traditional efficiency and the world of innovation - and they will also have to apply different leadership and management styles in different situations. Adaptability and flexibility will be crucial in the further development of our company.

  • Will corporate values even be a factor in the digital world?

    Corporate values are a company's compass; they are independent of technological advancement. Our Guiding Principles will remain essential to the future of our company. What we will have to change, however, is our management approach. And how we work. We are going to need to become considerably faster, be willing to take more risk in certain areas, i.e., the leadership culture and patterns need to be dynamic. All of this is entirely independent of our corporate values. There is no doubt that the Guiding Principles will continue to have the same significance at the company as they do today.

  • How do you think digitization will impact society?

    I don't think there is anyone out there who can reliably predict the impact that digitization will have on the economy. This is also reflected in the extremely varied predictions of those who make the attempt. Some say the impact will be favorable in terms of employment while others say it will be negative. To be honest, it's irrelevant. What really matters is the sooner we recognize digitization as an opportunity, the better it will be for the company and the more employees become familiar with the topic, the better equipped they will be for the workplace of the future. That is why I want to appeal to everyone to perceive digitization as an opportunity. Become serious about lifelong learning because the business environment changes so quickly - there is always something new to learn. If you want to be ready for the future, you need to keep up with the latest developments. Those are the most important aspects here. Those of us who most effectively utilize digitization and incorporate it into the DNA of their company will come out on top.

  • Is our education system lagging behind the digitization process? Should we be teaching our children how to program rather than Latin?

    Yes, I think so. Going forward, it will be increasingly important to teach IT at school, just like today's necessity for non-native speakers to learn English. We need to be working on skills such as self-management, creativity, and communication. Those are the things I think we should be focusing on more in schools. Because those are the skills that students are going to need later in their professional lives. Ideally they will have already learned these skills at school and do not have to learn them at the company. I cannot stress it enough: We need more IT in schools, including more work on self-management and communication skills in class. I think that would help us effectively educate future generations so that they are able to use digitization to their advantage.

  • Mr. Illek, South Koreans spend on average 5.3 hours a day on their smartphones. What about you?

    Digitization forces us all to learn how to use technology competently. But what it means to do that will vary from person to person. For me it means always being available, which I don't find at all stressful. What I do find stressful is when my inbox fills up and I don't know what is going on. But there are others who say I need to take time off and incorporate times of day when I cannot be reached and when I'm not online. For me, that decision is a personal one; there is no right or wrong. Being surrounded by digital devices and having constant access is important to me, because otherwise my stress levels go up instead of down.

  • Looking ahead: Which trends do you think will have the largest impact on how we work and on our working environment in the next 10-15 years?

    I wouldn't view it as a matter of sequence planning. But let me touch on the topic of artificial intelligence. I think that the combination of artificial intelligence and human creativity, the interplay between man and machine is going to be essential at the workplace of the future. The other topic is taking collaboration to the next level and expanding it beyond company borders. Making digitization a success has a lot to do with how we share information, e.g., between two companies working on the same project. I think that we as a major corporation are also going to have to continue to look beyond our borders and take a closer look at to what extent and how much information we need to share with other companies in order to generate real added value. And that is also going to mean moving away from the traditional working environment to a more project-oriented one. This does not apply to all company areas. But the real question will be how our focus will shift and I think that project-oriented work will be more important in the future than it is now.

A ccording to a study conducted by two Oxford professors entitled "The Future of Employment", robots will be taking over roughly 47 percent of all occupations in the U.S. in the near future. Economists at one of Europe's largest banks predict that an unbelievable 18 million jobs in Germany could be performed by machines and software. But digitization could also mean a considerable improvement in our quality of life. We will be able to give up annoying, mindless tasks, new professions will be created, we will be able to act more independently in our jobs and team collaboration will improve.

One thing is clear: Digitization is going to turn the professional world and our lives upside down.

One thing is clear: Digitization is going to turn the professional world and our lives upside down. According to Chief Human Resources Officer, Christian P. Illek, Deutsche Telekom has a special responsibility to help shape this transformation as one of the key pioneers of digitization. One of the most important challenges is guiding our 230,000 employees safely into the new world.