The world of work is in a state of upheaval. It changes through digital communication, automation and digitalisation processes or the possibility of working from home – the demands and ambitions of entry-level employees are also new. ‘For example, we are experiencing a higher turnover’, says Thomas Cerny, Head of Human Resource Development (HRD) at STRABAG. ‘Younger employees today change employers more frequently and much more naturally. You could say they are less committed.’
Young employees in particular want more variety in the content of their work, that the work-life balance is more important to them than it is to older generations, and that their willingness to take risks has also decreased – for example, when it comes to embarking on the adventure of a foreign assignment. This also applies to traditional career paths: The classic path to a management position led through the accumulation of knowledge, contacts and practical experience over time, usually acquired for a very clearly defined field of competence. Today, this alone is no longer sufficient – but what will distinguish a leader of tomorrow instead?
New know-how. New leadership styles.
Susanne Simon, Business Unit Manager and HRD Expert Level 1, is looking for answers to this question with her team and an ambitious programme: ‘It is clear that we have to impart completely new competencies. The classic image of the manager relying solely on technical expertise is no longer sustainable. We need new know-how and different leadership styles.’ This development has long since been initiated. Modern leaders no longer act using directives and micro-management, but, according to Susanne Simon: ‘They rather just define the goals – the team decides how to get there.’
The Leadership@STRABAG programme is designed to support managers in the company in applying these new competences. In the run-up to the programme, numerous interviews were conducted with managers. Thomas Cerny was surprised after these interviews how unanimously one topic in particular was perceived as very important for the future: Cross-Functional Leadership. ‘We think and act in separate trades and subdivisions,’ says Cerny. ‘There is little permeability.’
Breaking down silo thinking
It was almost unthinkable, for example, for a manager to switch from Building Construction to Transportation Infrastructures just a few years ago. Breaking down this silo thinking makes work more varied and thus more interesting. Above all, colleagues would no longer have to leave STRABAG, if they wanted to develop professionally: They just have to switch to a different Division. After all, STRABAG is diversified, in terms of content, but also in terms of structures – from start-up to corporate group, everything is there.
According to Susanne Simon, the self-image of future managers must be: ‘Change, that’s me!’ Change only comes about when those responsible do things differently themselves, not by waiting for others to do something. ‘The rules of the game in the group will change in the future, also the culture and the structure. This will create differences. Due to its size, STRABAG will always develop differently in its Divisions and Subdivisions. That’s okay, as long as we don’t lose one thing: Agility!’ Simon is not only thinking of the methodology behind this term, but also of a basic attitude, a new core competence. The awareness of this is apparently already widespread in the Group: The response to the leadership programme has been impressive, reports Susanne Simon: ‘We are experiencing a real run.’
The programme started in February 2021. The focus is on the following core competencies (AGILE & LEAN way of working):
Lead the Change: I understand change processes and can initiate and actively promote them adequately.
Empowering Leadership: I enable clear roles with ownership and empower my team to work in an agile way.
Collaborative Leadership: I promote inclusive decision-making processes and am transparent with information.
Cross-functional Leadership: I promote group-wide development and collaboration and demonstrate this in my own actions.
In total, more than 1,200 managers will have participated internationally in the Leadership@STRABAG programme.