Using ESN for cultural change – case study of Siemens at IntraTeam Event

How may an ESN help you change the company culture and build a bridge from traditional business targets to new ways of collaboration? Sabine Kluge from Siemens knows an answer for this question and will share her experience at the upcoming IntraTeam Event 2017 in Copenhagen (Feb 28th- March 2nd).

Before that I asked Sabine about the ESN’s role in the process of changing Siemens’s culture and her tips for organizations planning to implement this internal communication tool to improve their ways of collaboration. Read why classical change programs will not work.

Sabine Kluge, Global Program Manager Learning and Development at Siemens

Sabine Kluge works as Global Program Manager Learning and Development in the corporate’s HR department at Siemens HQ in Berlin. She is responsible for a set of different trainings in the field of sales including the Global Siemens Senior Sales Program. All product and program managers in her department are responsible for maintenance, broadening and spreading of the corporate knowledge and care for the appropriate measures to bring this knowledge across the organization which employs 351,000 people in more than 200 countries.

Building the bridge from traditional business targets to new ways of collaboration
– the cultural change at Siemens

Maja Biernacka: Polish companies complain they have more and more problems with employee engagement. How big is this problem in Germany?
Sabine Kluge: Not only the Gallup survey but also the classical engagement surveys in the companies reflect that a lot of people are only physically doing their job – best case. Worst case is even a destructive attitude and according to the statistics up to 20% of employees show this kind of attitude.

MB: What are the biggest challenges concerning employee engagement you are facing at your work now?
SK: Well, traditional companies did a lot of restructuring throughout the last years. Human beings have been substituted by processes and the load has been put on the remaining employees. A lot of them have the feeling, that they have been hired for a task or a responsibility that has step by step removed. That is the lack of control: the finding themselves in a role they are not sure if their task still has something to do with their talents, interests, competencies or if it is still fun and fulfilment at all. Young people would probably change and find something more fulfilling, but especially the baby boomers are now in an age where they have probably a number of commitments – a rate for a house, children still in school – limited flexibility or mobility to move. So they feel trapped and without the perspective to use their competence, expertise. And the lack in control is mostly at the same time a lack in participation – because there is no room for leaving an own footprint in the crazy administrational daily life – also one of the downsides of Taylorism.

Additionally, they feel a lack in transparency: after a few years when the company changes, strategies change, they speed up, competition gets tighter, one restructuring program is followed by the other, change programs come and go, so do the consultants and evangelists, colleagues are laid off, parts of the company are sold, others acquired, all quiet fast, all quite people experience that the management is so far away that they lose touch in explaining why the company is doing what it is doing the way it is doing it.
So lack of control, lack of participation and lack of transparency can be considered being strong roots why people being unsatisfied with their work life.

MB: One of the problem-solving tool at Siemens was an ESN called Siemens Social Network (SSN). How did it start?
SK: The SSN thing was an interesting story. Siemens introduced an internal Social Network in 2013. And moreover, the management published a new strategy called ‘ownership culture’. The two things at that time had no direct link and two things in common: no one in the workforce really understood neither the one nor the other. And there was a lot of mistrust against both. Then two interesting things happened.

Number one: The early adopters started to establish groups and discussions in the SSN. First only as a platform to exchange links. Then more and more people dared to start discussions, became more open, talked about failure and asked for advice into the group that became their ‘tribe’, their respective expert-group. A real exchange of knowledge was established over the time. And a lot of the communication that has been taking place in clumsy 1:1 email traffic has been transferred to the network. The principle of the ‘second dancer’ is known… more and more people were encouraged to participate – and experienced, that it is good, it helps, they meet people with the same challenges and they get answers.
So hundreds of experts and interest groups have found themselves together in the network – closed or open, and even the reshape of whole organization was also supported by the options an ESN offers with open communication, knowledge sharing and self-organized social learning. Some of these examples I will share on the event to encourage other companies and employees to start their own journey to become an agile organization.

Number two: Those movements have been strongly empowered and supported by the idea of ‘ownership culture’ implemented by the management as mentioned above. People feel increasingly encouraged to act like owners, with full responsibility, but also with their whole creativity and ideas to shape the company. The consequence is simply: more fun and fulfilment – and more effectiveness for the company. This shows, that the ESN actually facilitates and supports ownership culture. And the later one drives better results of a happier workforce.

MB: Your SSN is not only a communication tool, but also a collaboration platform. How do Siemens’s employees use the SSN to cooperate?
SK: I will introduce a number of real life groups in my contribution on the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen – so, stay curious… But there is one thing I have learned: install it, promote it, then wait and support. It will take its time. Younger colleagues are easier, older will sometimes take more time to trust and also to understand the benefits of sharing – it is not exactly a German habit to talk about your work in such an open way… and: forget classical change programs. They won’t help. The only way to succeed is a multiplier concept like Bosch, Continental and now Daimler have introduced.

MB: How has your SSN changed your corporate culture?
SK: The combination of the SSN with the ‘allowance’ to take ownership by the employees has empowered a growing network of people in different functions and countries who suddenly experience that they share the same passion, interest, talent – and they can take all this to the workplace. So hundreds of groups have been formed throughout the last years where people learn together, discuss together, make progress, get a deeper understanding on the multinationality and the diversity of our company – and create exactly what you find in the networking literature as ‘serendipity’: the coincidence that it takes to bring people’s knowledge together as the foundation for innovation and avoidance mistakes due to using the experience of the experts. Once a network starts to do its job bringing people and their knowledge together (rather than being just another way for the management to send out messages, like in the early stage of ESNs), serendipity happens a thousand times a day, creates ideas and value for the company and helps the workforce to avoid failure.

MB: What tips would you like to share with internal communication professionals who consider improving the collaboration in their companies by implementing ESNs?
SK: Question number one: is the management truly willing and prepared to give a part of the power and control back to the workforce? If not: don’t waste money and time.
Question number two: is the management truly willing to get into the dialogue with the workforce and skip existing hierarchies – and act as a role model in using the ESN by authentically blogging and participating in the discussions of the workforce? If not: don’t waste money and time.
Question number three: is the management truly willing to invest time and money to change people’s habits and attitudes – which will take probably at least three years. No? Better save the money for something else. So as a tip for the communication professionals: start with finding out, how serious the management is on the plans – and how far it is willing and able to go.

MB: You will present this case study in details at IntraTeam 2017 Event in Copenhagen on March 2nd. Who should be interested in your session?
SK: Management staff who needs to be encouraged by a success story, implementers who are looking for ways to get the network going and flowing – specially in big companies, where processes and rules are a heavy weight on new collaboration models.
And surely people from corporations who want to see what is possible ‘out of the middle’ of the company, when you have no big support or competence on networks by the management – but are courageous and curious enough to – as John Stepper of ‘Working Out Loud’ (WOL) uses to say – ‘Put their cape on…’. See John’s blog and his post ‘Put your cape on’.

Source: Internet

MB: Participants of IntraTeam Event may also take part in your workshop titled ‘Working Out Loud’. What will it be about?
SK: It is a method to train people working in networks. A self-organised toolset that helps changing people’s networking and communication attitudes and habits. It was developed by John Stepper, a former employee from Deutsche Bank, who had own strong experiences and a broad knowledge on the tools and methods he accomplished in his book 'Working Out Loud' and did a lot of practice on WOL in his former company. Nowadays especially German corporations like Bosch, Daimler, Continental and of course Siemens integrate Working-Out-Loud both in their Leadership programs and/or train and encourage their employees to do their own circles and develop the skills. And people love the methods and toolset and the ‘circles’ as they see that they make measurable progress and explore new fields and relationships.

MB: Sabine, thank you for your time and sharing your experience.  

Would you like to know more about the new ways of collaboration at Siemens and the Working Out Loud idea? Check Sabine’s sessions at IntraTeam Event.


This post was prepared in the cooperation with IntraTeam.

Graphics: IntraTeam or sources below the graphics