“We want high productivity, space for interaction and creativity, a high level of employee satisfaction – and to be an exceedingly attractive employer.”
“New Workplaces @ Volkswagen Group” was initiated as a joint project between the central Human Resources Strategy and Business 4.0 Digitalization units. What is special about this is that instead of issuing specifications from above, the project collects and consolidates existing ideas and initiatives from below. “Our aim is to take everyone into account,” said Manuela Lieber, project manager from Business 4.0 Digitalization, underlining the approach. “This is why we brought together 25 experts in spatial and building planning, human resources development, and IT solutions from all areas of the Group and all Group brands.” Through the diverse mix of participants, her team gains a wide variety of insights into working environments, work cultures, and methods. The brands participating in the project are Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Volkswagen Financial Services, Porsche, Audi, Škoda, Seat, Bentley, MAN, and Scania.
One of the first of several pilots at the Wolfsburg location in the mammoth “New Workplaces” project is being developed in the new IT City in the Kästorf-Nord industrial park, several kilometers north of the VW factory premises. Work is continuing apace on the future open-plan office of the K-GX (Group Digitalization) unit. Cables hang from the ceiling, a worker applies a coat of paint to the floor. There is not a lot to see at the moment, but right here is where an open-plan office of the future is being created. JJ will soon be moving in along with his 62-strong digitalization team.
Besides the IT City, many other pilots are already underway in the Group. Scania is also prioritizing the activity-based working concept. Its Procurement department has been restructured according to new principles with the support of Change Management and staff involvement. With the “MAN Future Lab” MAN has created an experimental area covering 300 square meters, which is perfectly tailored to the working world of tomorrow with its innovative floor plan and the latest IT equipment. Individual departments can already conduct tests here. The Lab is in great demand and is booked out well in advance.
With its new H6 building in Ingolstadt, Audi has also created a state-of-the-art modular office environment with areas for interaction, collaboration and quiet areas. Porsche is likewise working on pilot spaces and new office concepts. Škoda’s futuristic DigiLab is working on the mobility of tomorrow. And Seat is planning to restructure its Sales and Marketing division, emphasizing greater interaction and collaboration. As is VW Financial Services: In VWFS’s pilot project there will be a multifunctional central area as well as different room modules for holding meetings, collaborating, and for concentrated work.
This presents a huge challenge for Anika Paul, manager of Business 4.0, and the team headed up by the “New Workplaces @ Volkswagen Group” project managers Manuela Lieber and Thomas Rühl from Human Resources Strategy, because each division, each department, and even individual staff members have different requirements and ideas about what the perfect workplace should look like. As programmers need very different offices to designers, the project team is initially developing a cluster of the different types of employees. From October, a “cookbook” will be developed with “recipes” for the best possible working environment. Maximum flexibility is the key – there will be an optimal working environment for every job. In the process, the divisions and brands will also learn from one another. At the end of the project, Group-wide principles will be defined that will be applied to all new constructions and building conversions.
Falk Bothe, manager of the Digital Transformation Office and project manager of K-GX Offices, took us on a tour of his future workplace in the IT City with pride. The generous interior design provides opportunities for a wide variety of needs in everyday work. Espresso bars are being built that are ideal for personal meetings in the morning. There are lounge areas to which staff can occasionally retreat with their laptops for more relaxed working than at their own desks. These still exist, however. And there are meeting rooms for every taste: from small telephone booths to somewhat larger huddle rooms for spontaneous meetings in small groups to larger conference rooms for team meetings or events.
Between the “islands” with desks and meeting rooms, a wide passageway snakes through the open-plan office like a river flowing through the landscape. “We specifically simulated routes and incorporated impressions from learning journeys and JJ’s experience in Silicon Valley,” Bothe explained. The special requirements are reflected in work zones, project and meeting rooms, and a Sinco Lab – a special room for developing and simulating mobility services.
“JJ and his team of managers are leading by example, forgoing individual offices and anterooms in favor of larger working areas for all employees. This shows the cultural change. Status symbols are no longer that important.”