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Tag: Foresight

85% believe in a successful industry in Germany: Results of our foresight study on future industry and work in Germany

In the picture: The participants of the Future Lab in the Look21 of the host Südwestmetall.

We are in the midst of a transformation. It’s not just the latest election results that show this: Established and new players are fighting for the favor of society – the assumption that traditional parties will continue to enter government in the future can no longer be taken for granted. We are in a phase of negotiating new values, in which there is a dissonance between renewal and persistence and the most diverse opinions and ideologies coexist. What applies to politics and society also applies to the economy. While deindustrialization dominates media discourse, Themis Foresight takes an open look at the future of the industry: nothing has been decided. As turbulent as these times may seem, they show above all that we are still in the midst of a reorientation. A Themis Foresight survey of over 90 business leaders, analysts and industry representatives shows that only around one sixth of respondents believe that deindustrialization will actually occur.

On June 18, our latest Future Lab took place in Stuttgart with the kind support of our partner company Südwestmetall. This event gave us the opportunity to present the results of our “Future of Industrial Work” study. These are based on 30 in-depth interviews and a comprehensive survey, which provide valuable insights into the future development of industrial work.

Study results: An overview

Carina Stöttner presented the key findings of the survey, which was conducted among more than 90 business leaders, analysts and industry representatives. It became clear that only around one sixth of those surveyed believe that deindustrialization is actually taking place. More than a third of respondents are convinced that Germany will have a significantly more diversified industry in the future and will act as a technological pioneer with deep tech solutions. Just under a third believe that industrial companies will continue to relocate their production abroad, but will implement innovations at home. One fifth are convinced that we will even have more industrial production in Germany in the future.

The most anticipated industrial developments include highly specialized and climate-neutral products, the circular economy, urban mining concepts and optimized current products and processes. Respondents do not see Germany as a producer of commodities; over 40% ranked this option last.

First frameworks for scenarios

With 29 committed participants, we had lively discussions that led to valuable insights. Based on the survey results and the in-depth interviews, initial frameworks for possible future scenarios for industrial work were discussed:

1. deep-tech industry: An innovative global industry that creates new industrial fields and enters into strong partnerships. These include new manufacturing processes, strong biotechnology, advanced computing possibilities and developments in robotics.

2 Made in Germany / Europe: Greater regionalization with reshoring and nearshoring of industrial production in Europe. Both protectionist approaches and open-minded options were discussed, with all their advantages and disadvantages.

3. designed in Germany, made in X: A relocation of production to other countries, which creates new capacities for innovation and lead plants in Germany and creates space for technological supremacy.

Future qualification requirements

Each of the scenarios entails different qualifications and specialist requirements. Most respondents believe that we will primarily need highly qualified specialists. They are closely followed by technically sound new collar workers and dual-trained specialists. Only a fraction believe that all skill levels – including low-skilled workers – will still have a place in the future of industrial work. Education, training and further education are therefore the key to future industrial success and social peace.

Social impact and challenges

The discussions in the Future Lab showed that all scenarios offer scope for both social stability and division. However, it was assumed that social problems could be solved better with greater prosperity.

A high degree of automation could lead to low-skilled workers in particular losing their jobs, while highly skilled workers are confronted with an overload of work. In the “Designed in Germany, made in X” scenario in particular, it is mainly the educated elite who benefit from high-paying jobs – a social divide would be conceivable. In addition to training top talent, such a transformation should also focus on the retraining and socially meaningful integration of former industrial workers.

A compartmentalized economy – in the example of greater regionalization – could lead to politics specifically regulating automation in order to promote an apparently people-friendly society, so that human jobs are secured, for example. However, what appears to be people-centered could mean a loss of innovative strength and productivity and an associated loss of prosperity, which could possibly lead to social unrest.

The “deep tech industry” scenario seems to create a humane balance in society. However, it does not come without challenges: If technological change is not carefully monitored, tech enthusiasts and tech opponents could come up against each other, especially when it comes to ethical questions about genetically modified plants, AI, robotics or research into as yet unknown phenomena.

Perspectives and outlook

In a scenario of a highly networked, global world, Germany could act as a pioneer in the field of deep tech and play a leading role on the global stage. The question arose as to whether developing countries could skip the manual industrial phase and directly establish a highly automated and more climate-friendly industry. This could lead to a more globally balanced and cooperative economy, but also to new competitors.

In a scenario of regionalization and reshoring, it is realistic to assume that this process will take place at European level rather than purely nationally. A protectionist approach could lead to economic stagnation and a loss of prosperity, while an open-minded approach offers scaling opportunities in local-for-local strategies and thus enables global competitiveness and innovative strength.

Next steps

The Future Lab has shown that the future of industrial work still leaves many questions unanswered. The analysis will be finalized in the coming weeks and published on our website. The next Future Lab will take place on October 17, 2024, and interested participants can contact Carina Stöttner(

In the next Future Lab, we will present the final scenarios and derive a desirable picture of the future for the industry. Industry representatives are cordially invited to participate.

We would like to thank all participants for their valuable contributions and the numerous pieces of feedback, which will be incorporated into the further development of the scenarios. Together we are shaping the future of industrial work.

Scenarios for German industry – invitation to the Future Lab

  • Leader in the manufacturing sector: Mechanical engineering drives the economy with a 5.2% share of gross value added.
  • Pension crisis with nationwide protests: contribution rates rise to 28.5%
  • Mega breakthrough: researchers find concrete replacement thanks to quantum computer
  • Robots preferred as colleagues: a new trend in the German working world
  • Innovation Act takes effect: Federal government reports increase in domestic production

This or something similar could be the headlines of a possible scenario in the year 2045.

In this sector, plant and mechanical engineering has long since overtaken the German automotive industry and tops the list of manufacturing industries in Germany. This is largely due to the rapid developments in robotics and profitable circular economy models, which gained enormous momentum in the 2030s.

Increasing geopolitical uncertainties and growing risks in global supply chains led German industry to adopt more re-shoring and near-shoring strategies at the end of the 2020s. The war in Ukraine and Covid left their mark on the population. Ultimately, this and the high pressure exerted by the industry on political decision-makers led to the German government introducing the first measures to strengthen national independence. A key element of these efforts was the Technology and Innovation Promotion Act, which aimed to create incentives for the twin transition.

The decision to relocate production back from countries with lower costs, combined with the EU’s increasingly protectionist stance, temporarily led to international tensions. In the first few years, production costs in key industries rose, which had a negative impact on exports. This situation, combined with demographic change, increased the pressure on companies to increase their efficiency. In 2030, members of the baby boomer generation were rarely seen in factory halls. But despite the shortage of labor, it became clear that by eliminating personnel inefficiencies and using AI and robotics, it was possible to increase productivity and reduce costs enormously. But it was also clear that the automation of the 21st century had little in common with that of the previous century.

Thinking through scenarios

What would these approaches to a scenario mean for the automotive, metal and electrical industries, for the energy industry or for a completely different sector? What consequences would this have for your personnel planning, training and further education? What steps need to be taken today? We will be working on this and other scenarios in the coming months.

As a project partner of this study, you will receive new impulses and ideas that you can use sustainably for the successful orientation of your company. You can still take part in the scenario process until May 31. Find out more about the project partnership here or in a personal, non-binding discussion.

The future of industrial work in Germany – a peek behind the project curtain

Since January, we at Themis Foresight have been working on our new study “The future of industrial work in Germany”. To date, we have conducted over 30 interviews with innovators, industry representatives, scientists, trade unionists, analysts, political and social actors.

The interesting thing is that the experts on our Expert Panel mostly agree that the current status quo is unsatisfactory, and the vast majority of them are in favor of expanding the EU as an industrial location, including Germany. However, there are very different views on how we can achieve a target state in which German industry will still be among the world leaders in 25 years’ time.

Invitation to dialog and co-creation: Future Lab

These differences are important because the competition between concepts shows that different futures are possible. We cordially invite you to take part in our Future Lab on June 18 at our project partner Südwestmetall, where we will cast these ideas into scenarios.

Progress arises from the friction of different ideas. This friction also means that the participants in our Future Labs challenge each other: Are the assumptions on which our current strategies for innovation, product cycles, target markets or combating the shortage of skilled workers are based correct? What does the automation of the 21st century look like? To what extent or should we even consider forecasts for the EU economic area? And if so, with what basic attitude? Do we accept the forecasts as a target or do we want to skip the very low bar? And if so, by how much? Is there actually a shortage of skilled workers or is there a poor distribution of work and far too many pointless jobs that will have disappeared by 2032? Is the artificial separation of manual and manual labor, of industrial and commercial activities a concept that can produce high-tech in the long term and sustainably?

30 people – many perspectives. In addition to our project partners, we also invite external guests to gain an insight into the topic at our exclusive Future Labs. Join us in Stuttgart on June 18 to discuss what the future of industry and industrial work in Germany could look like. Secure your place among the thought leaders.

We organize a series of workstreams and events during the course of our study. Alongside our project partners Deutsche Bahn, Südwestmetall and PrtX, our scientific advisory board is involved in discussing trickier questions, checking their plausibility and formulating critical uncertainties that are important for our scenario work.

At our last Future Lab in Berlin at the beginning of March, 30 representatives from Group Management Boards, strategy and innovation departments met to develop so-called Future Wheels. This simple method enables the consequences of formulated statements about the future to be presented more clearly. What are the first, second, third, etc. What are the first, second, third, etc. degree consequences if, for example, industrial companies in Germany or Europe only have so-called lead plants where innovation takes place, but mass production takes place at many locations in different markets? Or what would a working world look like in which “the industrial worker” no longer exists and the image of work is no longer determined by collar color or educational background?

Our Future Labs also thrive on first-class impulses. We were therefore delighted to be able to take a look at the future guidelines for a European industrial policy with former BDI Managing Director Joachim Lang and discuss his theses. And to listen to Zeit journalist Vanessa Vu’s assessment of what the major levers for the migration of skilled workers to Germany will be.

Lively discussions and exciting insights into the foresight work and numerous in-depth interviews of recent months also await you in the next Future Lab.

What happens next in the project? Invitation to the project partnership

In addition to the ongoing sessions with our project partners and our scientific advisory board, there are four other major milestones to come:

  • The development of scenarios for the future of industry in Germany in June,
  • The development of a desirable future image of industrial work in Germany in September,
  • The development of derivations and recommendations for the strategic personnel planning of industrial companies and
  • The publication of the study at the end of the year.

You still have the chance to participate as a project partner until the end of May. What opportunities and risks do the various scenarios present for different sectors? On request, we will also be happy to test your strategy or business model in the respective scenarios.


Carina Stöttner and Jan Berger

Founder Themis Foresight

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Events and workshops in futures research and foresight

In a rapidly changing world, it is essential for companies not only to rest on their laurels but to actively shape the future. Themis Foresight, a leading think tank in the field of corporate foresight, offers precisely this opportunity. With our specialized events, known as Future Labs, we enable companies to take a deep dive into the possible futures of their industry and tap into new business potential in the long term.

The role of Future Labs in shaping the future

In our Future Labs, we present our research on topics such as the future of industry, future technologies such as AI or quantum computing or our knowledge of studies on future geopolitical developments. One of our experts will present key trends, developments and scenarios, which we will then discuss with participants from various industries. These public Future Labs have been very popular in the past. Participants acquire futures literacy skills by dealing with these topics.

The next dates:

June 18, 2024 – Stuttgart – The future of industry and industrial work

We are also happy to organize a Future Lab specifically for your company, your region, your industry or your strategy. We use practical methods such as future wheels, backcasting and the futures triangle to make complex future scenarios tangible. These methods enable participants to develop innovative visions of the future, scenarios and technology and business model roadmaps.

Our expertise and your benefits

Themis Foresight supports DAX companies and hidden champions in key sectors such as energy, mobility, food, financial services, ICT and logistics in all matters relating to the future. Our experience shows that many managers lack the time to deal with possible futures. This is precisely where our services come in: We not only offer insights into decisive and possible developments in the coming decades, but also identify social, economic and technological drivers that will transform business models and industries. Our in-depth understanding of business models and our experience working with executives will help guide your company into the future.

Science meets practice

Themis Foresight’s futures research is unique in that it combines science-based research with practical futures expertise and entrepreneurial design options. Our strategies are realistic and practicable, geared towards human needs and economic necessities and prepare the ground for economic, political and legal change.

Scenarios for CFOs: Companies in a new world order – Jan Berger at the Handelsblatt CFO Summit

  • Logo Image element Square Themis Foresight

    Themis Foresight
  • June 2023
  • News

Jan Berger at the Handelsblatt CFO Summit. Picture: Handelsblatt CFO Summit.

Themis Foresight CEO Jan Berger was a speaker at the CFO Summit organized by Handelsblatt, which took place on 11. und June 12, 2024 in Düsseldorf. This influential event attracted a large number of CFOs and CFOs who want to tackle the current challenges facing the economy.

Handelsblatt: “It is obvious that everyone is facing new challenges. You, as a CFO, must meet these with creative solutions and keep a cool head at the same time.” The Handelsblatt CFO Summit 2023 offered participants the opportunity to discuss the impact of current developments on their business with thought leaders and experts. The event focused on topics such as dealing with risks, implementing new strategies, the shortage economy, raw material shortages, business interruptions as well as world trade, globalization and localization.

Jan Berger, CEO of Themis Foresight, used his keynote to share his expertise and present the participants with five scenarios for Europe’s economy in a new world order. With in-depth knowledge of the trends and developments in the global economic landscape, he gave CFOs and CFOs insights into the world of corporate foresight.

Our latest study

Five scenarios for European companies in a new world order

Zum Download

In his presentation, Jan Berger explained which risks CFOs and CFOs should anticipate in a changing world order and where new opportunities could arise, depending on the scenario.

If you would like an insight into the scenarios, you can download the study free of charge from our website.

Jan Berger’s presentation provided valuable insights for the participants of the Handelsblatt CFO Summit 2023. They opened up new perspectives and encouraged reflection on the strategic orientation of companies. The CFOs and CFOs were encouraged to see change as an opportunity and to find innovative solutions to lead their companies successfully into the future.

Next event: Future Lab on 18. & October 19 in Berlin

Europe’s economy is in a state of upheaval. What do board members and C-level executives need to anticipate today? What false assumptions do we have about developments in China and Africa? Find out from our experts and discuss the results in a small group with 20 other executives.

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Interview: European businesses will face many challenges in the coming years

  • Profile picture Abicht

    Jan Berger
  • June 2023
  • Interview

Jan Berger speaking at the CFO Forum of KPMG in Greece.

I am happy to reproduce in English an interview that I gave to Greek last week. The original can be found here. Thank you Dimitris Tsoukalas for the interview!

Interview between and Jan Berger – Themis Foresight

Shortly before his participation in
KPMG’s 21st CFO Forum
in Greece, the founder and CEO of the think tank Themis Foresight spoke to about the future of the European economy and the challenges and opportunities it may bring.

What will be the scope of your keynote at the 21st CFO Forum in Greece? What will you try to get across to the attendees?

I will discuss how the global shifts in economic weight and interests, technological innovation, and financial infrastructure may impact on the European economy. I will also look at changes within the EU itself and sketch out five scenarios for the European economy that my company, Themis Foresight, has developed over the last year. I’m looking forward to the discussion!

What are the main changes that you see taking place regarding the European economy in the following years?

The economies of the EU face several challenges in the coming years. Broadly speaking (and of course there are exceptions), in the last three decades, EU corporations have relied on cheap energy from Russia, cheap commodities from China, cheap security from the U.S., cheap credits from central banks, and the export of high-tech to developing countries in the “global South”. All these premises are gone. It used to be that large manufacturers were in a situation where they could make entire nations dependent on their technologies – not only through the actual products, but through service contracts, consulting, etc. This business model of technology dependence is gone because there are plenty of alternatives on the market. Developing nations are aware of this and leverage these changed conditions in their favor.

Furthermore, the fate of the EU is not decided. Under the impact of the Ukraine war the political center of the EU has shifted from Western Europe further to the East. France and Germany are not aligned. Strong anti-EU tendencies have led to BREXIT, and similar exits may be possible. There’s also a fierce competition of different policy outlooks among European leaders. Some favor more centralization in Brussels, others view the EU as a utilitarian bloc. Irredentism, while currently somewhat of a marginal political force, is still very much alive in a number of Eastern EU countries. Currently, the EU seems incapable of formulating a joint strategy that would satisfy all of its member states.

What are the sources and the reasons for these changes and which sectors are going to be affected the most?

European technology, especially, but not only, in the digital space, are increasingly non-competitive with China and the U.S. And we’re only looking at the beginning of this development. The Australian ASPI institute recently published a report in which they compared scientific publications around critical future technologies and came to the conclusion that China is in the lead in 37 out of 44. Formerly developing nations like China or India are making their economic weight felt in the world. G7 GDP (PPP) was surpassed by that of the BRICS states. This gives them leverage in global politics. The African continent will be a major source of economic growth and technological development in the coming decades. This has different implications on different sectors of the economy. Automotive and its suppliers may be hit very hard lest it proves capable of not only mastering the scale-up of electric mobility, but to also develop new mobility concepts. European manufacturing is still very advanced. Yet, other countries are closing the gap or have already surpassed European manufacturers when it comes to new materials.

We also witness a strong regionalization of economic zones. The picture that we’re headed into a global confrontation between China and the U.S. is one-sided and only one scenario. We may also see the development of up to a dozen trade regions that will negotiate new conditions and new rules of trade. This will impact heavily on the logistics sector with new routes, new types of logistics. For example, Europe remains energy-hungry but has foreclosed energy imports from Russia. Last, but not least, energy-intensive industries like chemicals or steel are at a severe competitive disadvantage due to the high energy prices in Europe.

In February Themis Foresight published the document
“At the Cusp of A New Era”
presenting five scenarios for European business in a new world order. Could you present them to us in brief? Which of the five do you think most likely to happen?

The scenarios are deliberately set for the year 2045. And the purpose of the scenarios was not to determine the likelihood of any one scenario to win out, but rather to enable businesses and politics to jointly discuss the merits of each scenario for their own purpose. Four scenarios are politically driven. A fifth scenario is counterfactual and hypothetical if business had its own way without having to worry too much about political interference. Our scenario “History Ends, Again” discusses the impact for the European economy if the “global West” maintained its leadership in the world, still dominated heavily by the U.S. Our scenario “The Great Exit” looked into the question of what would happen if the EU were to fall apart. In some countries of the EU, we observe strong tendencies of focusing on the internal market only, spiced with concepts of degrowth economics. We called it “Global Village Europe”. And the fourth political scenario “A Flourishing Middle-Power” anticipates a Europe that navigates the global tensions to its own advantage and makes itself less dependent on American security policy. Glimpses of such a scenario could be observed during French president Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to China.

Five Scenarios for European Business

New World Order


Are there challenges that European business will have to face in the future that are included in any given scenario?

Yes, every scenario discusses trade-offs. But the challenges are different and not only limited to business. A significant premise for any continued Western leadership in the world is not only an acceleration of innovation cycles in industries, but the ability to rally the majority of the population behind the idea of Western democracy which has started to erode in reaction to Reaganomics in the U.S., Thatcherism in the U.K., and austerity measures in the wake of the world financial crisis of 2008. Will there be sufficient financial resources and inventiveness and social flexibility to achieve this?

The scenarios that anticipate less European involvement in an American-led security doctrine need to anticipate a significant increase in spending on defense. This money is currently allocated in education, social welfare or economic subsidies like agriculture. Either way, it’s not going to be easy to negotiate new priorities.

What would you advise CFOs and business leaders in Greece? Where must they focus in order to cope with the new world landscape and the shifts in the European economy?

With shipping, transportation, and tourism being three strong pillars of the Greek economy, CFO’s should closely watch the development of international financial mechanisms. The dominance of the U.S. dollar is being challenged everywhere in the world – not only in deals that Sino-Saudi oil trade can be handled in Yuan or the trade between Brazil and China in Yuan. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN, BRICS, etc. have encouraged initiatives for trade in local currencies. The Mercosur states discuss the introduction of a joint currency similar to the Euro in Europe. This calls for a diversification of currency portfolios. It may also mean for the banking sector an increase of the cost of capital on top of inflationary tendencies, and thus debt financing through banks may become more difficult. Other financial products may be called for that weigh less on the balance sheets of banks and corporations.

More broadly speaking, we have observed a shift of innovation away from only digital technologies towards technologies that have a positive impact on the environment – be it around climate issues with renewable energies, renewable or climate-neutral materials, circular economies, but also in agriculture with a focus of innovation going in the direction of reversing damages to biodiversity that we have inflicted on nature in the last two centuries. Innovating in this space and being able to scale such new forms of production will be a core component of the economies of the future. As refined petroleum products will gradually be replaced by alternatives such as hydrogen or carbon-neutral ammonia and other fuels, this will have implications not only on end-production but also delivery routes and techniques. Greek business may be well-positioned to innovate in these areas.

Can your strategy stand the stress test?

We apply our scenarios to business models and strategies of our clients. Which developments do you need to anticipate? What risks could emerge? And what new chances are there?

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AI and skills shortage

In our Future Lab last week, Dr. Bettina Volkens, former Lufthansa’s Chief Human Resources Officer stated that HR must be given a higher priority at Executive Board level. One thing is clear: the labor market is facing major changes and the shortage of skilled workers will be with us for some time to come. There will be a shortage of several million workers in the next decade. It is therefore clear that HR must be given greater attention in companies. However, current measures to combat the shortage of skilled workers are only superficially effective. They ignore the real problem: the fish in the pond are getting fewer. Many companies are backing the wrong trend horses instead of freeing up existing manpower through automation and a clearer focus.

In this white paper, you will learn about the consequences of integrating AI into work processes and which aspects your HR department needs to be aware of.

False trend horses

In the next 12 years, 7 million people or 15% will leave the German labor market. If the demand for labor did not change by then, in 2035 companies would be competing against each other for employees in a labor market that is permanently understaffed by 10%. Things will certainly change, but the question is how?

Over the past few months, we have repeatedly looked at what traditional recruitment consultancies recommend to their clients:

  • “Recruiting must adapt to the labor shortage.”
  • “The home office is here to stay.”
  • “You can differentiate yourself from the competition with additional services.”
  • “Employer branding will play a decisive role in retaining and attracting employees.”
  • “New Work”

In our Future Labs, we talk about the wrong trend horses. Spend a day exchanging ideas with executives from other sectors on a focus topic.

This current “wisdom” is not wrong, but it is blind to the real iceberg. Working from home may be here to stay in some areas of activity, but even in the times of Covid lockdowns, it was not a solution for working in production. Machines often do not load and repair themselves. Employer branding is certainly a helpful tool to make your own company shine in the job market. But you won’t be the only ones trying to attract skilled workers by this means. With up to 7 million workers missing, the pond we are fishing in is empty. You may be casting out tasty bait, but where there are no fish, there are no bites.

Even the much-vaunted “New Work” is not a recipe that promises success to companies that are in international competition. For two reasons:

1) When New Work was conceived over 40 years ago, the problem it was trying to solve was quite different. The first Centers for New Work in Detroit in the 1980s attempted to solve the problem of mass unemployment caused by mass redundancies in the car industry, which had been hit by the oil crisis. That is the opposite of the current situation!

2) The medicine administered by Frithjof Bergmann and his fellow campaigners was an economic model of communal self-sufficiency – in a sense a further development of the ideas of the 19th century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who fought industrialization. Such economic models can work and require suitable working models. But the shoe does not fit for industrial giants such as Siemens, Volkswagen or Bayer or the many hidden champions and SMEs in the German economy.

Calls to relax the rules on labor migration are also not wrong in themselves. But in many cases, these are also based on fiction. After all, demographic change is not a German phenomenon. The whole of Europe is ageing. China is ageing faster than Germany. Africa is the only continent that is creating new generations in the long term. You may also have read that the Tesla plant near Berlin is still 5,000 workers short. The majority of these were to come from Poland. But this calculation does not work out.

Automation of manual and manual labor

A more promising approach is the consistent automation of all repetitive activities. There has been massive progress in these areas in recent years! We only have to look at the images of packaging robots in warehouses or fly a drone through the Gigafactory Grünheide to imagine a working world of tomorrow with more robots than people. The fact that this makes a great deal of economic sense is well explained by Christoph Krachten in this article.

The hype surrounding ChatGPT in recent months also clearly demonstrates which activities that until recently were seemingly “forever” in the human domain can now be carried out by algorithms with a high degree of efficiency. The potential to free up manpower, or rather to compensate for a lack of manpower, is enormous. And it is worthwhile for companies to think in precisely this direction. Does it still make sense to assign ten FTEs to create texts or slide sets, or will you soon integrate these activities into your daily work routine in the same way as telephoning, typing or e-mails?

Our offers on AI and work

  • If you are interested in exploring these topics with us and thinking about approaches that go beyond employer branding and new work, then you are welcome to come to our Future Lab on September 20 in Berlin on AI in the world of work.
  • Worth reading is this white paper in which we shed light on the increasing fusion of human and machine activities. How will robotics and artificial intelligence enhance human resources in companies? What other human skills will play a role in the future? What considerations do companies need to make with regard to their workflows when integrating AI?
  • If you are already using AI or are planning to integrate an AI system, our AI masterclass to get all relevant employees on board.
  • Whether compliance, data protection or external auditors. The use of AI in companies requires ethical guidelines. For internal and external audits: Download our AI checklist. What is missing from your AI ethics guidelines?

The use of such technologies requires:

New skills and competencies

If they take the path of consistent automation of their production and office activities, they will not be forced to look for skilled workers in an overfished labor market. Instead, they train your employees today for activities that will be the norm in 2, 5, 10 and 15 years’ time. What these activities look like can already be described today. This is because the challenges and consequences of new technologies can be seen long before they are ready for series production. In our Future Lab on Future Skills and the Future of Work last week, we discussed with executives that knowledge will become less important in the coming decades, but that the right attitude, such as curiosity or an employee’s willingness to learn, will be increasingly in demand.

In a project at the beginning of 2017, in which we also investigated the interaction between humans and artificial intelligence, we stumbled across the problem that AI is full of prejudices and that sooner or later we will be forced to develop AI that respects and complies with corporate values. We didn’t know what this activity would be called in the future and gave it the name “AI Whisperer”. But we were able to anticipate very accurately what methods people will use in this job, what iterations of technology they will use, who they will communicate with, how they will be tied to their company and what their needs will be. In this project, we designed over a dozen future job profiles in white collar and blue collar areas and were very pleased that the required skills and competencies were subsequently rolled out in two training programs for employees of the company.

Some of these findings were incorporated into our book “The Future of AI in Talent Management”. Another excellent book on this topic is “Employability Management 5.0” with a collection of excellent articles on continuous learning.

The future role of HR

If the working world of tomorrow turns out as outlined above, then the role of HR work will also change. Because then it is important to orchestrate the interaction between humans, robots and algorithms. Just recently, a COO told me about a great machine that his company had purchased. Unfortunately, it had the shortcoming that its programming language was so complicated that only very few people were able to learn it. And there are always production downtimes because the few employees who can program the machine are absent from time to time due to illness or vacation. If this machine had been human, would you have hired it?

In the future, HR departments in companies will have a much greater decision-making role when it comes to purchasing machines and algorithms. The problem with the machine mentioned above is easy to solve. Low-code applications that enable people to create programs by rearranging process pictograms, for example, and leaving the actual programming to an engine already exist today. In future, the manufacturer of this great machine will have no choice but to deliver a low-code application with its machine. HR will specify what this low-code application should look like.

The same applies to the selection of algorithms. If your company is committed to diversity, fairness and equal opportunities, then algorithms must be able to live these values. HR will be able to formulate purchasing requirements better than your IT department.

Get rid of the bullshit jobs!

But there is another way to combat the shortage of skilled workers. And that is the consistent abolition of so-called bullshit jobs. In 2018, anthropologist David Graeber wrote a book on this subject that is well worth reading, in which he investigated how many superfluous activities there are in the private sector in particular. Not only would it make a lot of sense from a business point of view to do away with useless activities and free up the pool of well-trained employees for meaningful activities. It would also do away with the immense psychological violence that drives such employees into depression and anxiety. Graeber’s book is strongly influenced by his anarchist world view and should be read with caution in good parts. His recipe for an unconditional basic income comes with more problems than solutions. But that said, take a look around your company after reading this book and consider how many employees are engaged in meaningless activities that offer no economic or social added value.

At the beginning of the year, I read that the Federal Network Agency was looking for a fax service provider to fax 3-4,000 incoming and outgoing pages per month for the next 1-5 years (!!!). I don’t know which is more perverse. That such nonsense is paid for with taxpayers’ money? Or that there are companies that torment people for years by sending and receiving thousands of faxes a month?

Isn’t it time to free human labor from bureaucratic nonsense and unleash the qualities that no machine or algorithm possesses for the innovations we so urgently need? Only humans possess: Creativity, originality, metacognition, imagination, consciousness and self-awareness, sociability, empathy and curiosity.

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