Daimler announces mobile working revolution

Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, has recently announced to start a revolution of the company’s corporate culture. His plan includes much more flexibility of working space and time for employees besides a radical review of corporate hierarchies and culture as well as performance assessment structures.

Daimler employees will be able to work wherever they like to – no matter if this is their home, the office, their favourite place at a lake or inside a café. This headline story has recently been published by the German magazine, ‘Stern’. In an exclusive interview, Daimler’s CHRO, Wilfried Porth, explained that the respective agreement is probably going to be passed sometime over the next few weeks. The ‘Stern’ described the project as a fundamental and unique revolution.

However, at a closer look, the plans are rather a far-reaching transformation than a true revolution as the changes were planned for a longer period of time and were pursued step by step. The overall process was initiated back in 2013 – or even before – by the company itself, the trade union in charge, IG Metall, and the general works council and was planned to enrol in four stages: First, the company invited 82,500 Daimler employees to participate in an online survey. More than 33,000 individuals participated in the course of a few weeks. The results demonstrated that 80% of the surveyed employees asked for greater autonomy in regards to the work time and space or location. As a second phase, Daimler conducted at least one half-day workshop at every company location to discuss the results directly with the employees. Following this participatory process, all relevant stakeholders worked together to develop a strategy and recommendations for mobile working at Daimler. A collective agreement is currently being implemented. The fourth and final step will be the implementation of this agreement in all areas, and with scientific support to this project.

With the help of these radical reforms, Daimler reacts to a need that is still widely ignored by many large companies. A survey conducted by the University of Bamberg has recently shown that HR officials say it is crucial to enhance the possibility for flexible working arrangements for future business success. This is no surprise with regard to the empirical evidence that shows that employees wish ever more flexibility within their jobs. A recent study of DIW Berlin, e.g., demonstrated that there are many people who would like to have the possibility of working in home office. Therefore, a large number of companies has already introduced different levels of flexibility, which is – due to the nature of different jobs – mainly or exclusively available for office staff. Even Daimler is doubted to move parts of their production or development activities to people’s homes or to parks or cafés.