Episodic story: The FOITT talks
With Swisscom as a coaching partner, the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT) is promoting new forms of work.
Text: Urs Binder, images: © Manuel Zingg, 10.07.2017
The FOITT is in the vanguard of federal administration when it comes to flexible working, collaboration platforms and knowledge communities. In addition to reverse mentoring, where young people support older people, uniform knowledge management is also becoming important. We asked five employees how the Work Smart movement is progressing through the Federal Office.
He is among the trainees trained to be Work Smart ambassadors and who make an active contribution to a Work Smart culture at the FOITT: Nicolas Krebs, mediamatics trainee in his third training year, enthusiastically refers to himself as a “smart worker”.
In the first Swisscom workshop, the first discussion topic was what makes an attractive employer and where the added value of new forms of work lies for the company and the employees. “Then came the team work. We noted our views on lots of Post-It notes and added our ideas. The workshop was cool – we got an insight into how other companies do things, and Swisscom is considered a pioneer in Work Smart.”
The second workshop took place at the FOITT itself. “Here we developed stories – specific cases as to how Work Smart can be implemented at the FOITT.” As an example, Nicolas Krebs mentions an employee who took a sunny Thursday off and worked instead on a rainy weekend. “This reflects the “anytime” principle. Stories like this have shown what is possible and what benefits and challenges arise.”
Nicolas Krebs and the other ambassadors will, in future, pass on their Work Smart expertise to the other FOITT employees using the reverse mentoring principle: Young people teach older people about smarter ways to work. The trainees are already living out Work Smart among themselves. “We have a somewhat different approach to our technical aids and always show our colleagues this. A lot of people still use note pads, for example. But then when someone comes along with OneNote, everyone sees how much simpler it is.” Krebs notes that there is no need to direct this process deliberately; it happens wherever there are young people.
As a trainee in his second year, Yannic Doutaz is not yet allowed to work from home. Work Smart is his part of his everyday life, however. “We can use our business mobile phone to view e-mails at home and access the calendar. Or, after a day at vocational school, we can answer an important query quickly without having to go to the office.” This doesn't bother Yannic: “This way, the sender doesn’t need to wait three days for a response. It’s going too far, of course, if you have to check your e-mails on Friday evening. On the whole, however, I see more benefits than disadvantages.”
The trainees Nicolas Krebs (left) and Yannic Doutaz (right).
Jochen Sommer could be described as belonging to the old guard at the FOITT. He has worked in the Federal Office for 11 years, has been able to build up a comprehensive network in this time and knows where to find the information he needs. The same does not apply to many other employees, as he knows from his second position as chairman of the personnel commission: “The employees are currently very concerned with the unbelievable ‘flood of information 2.0’. We have so much information in so many different channels, that it is often no longer possible to know where to get the knowledge you need.”
As a member of the “old guard” at the FOITT, Jochen Sommer knows exactly where to find the information he needs. But that does not apply to everyone.
The employees’ main concerns include combining the various existing platforms and clearing out obsolete or misleading information. The FOITT Management Board has recognised this and has issued an order for a uniform knowledge platform to be put in place.
There is demand for a uniform search function that covers all content – regardless of the system it is stored in. The distinction between the Intranet and the existing SharePoint-based knowledge platform is also slated to go. The new, uniform platform is intended to be accessible via as few entry points as possible, for example via the headings Static Knowledge, Current Information and Personal Area.
Teilzeitarbeit und Home Office seien im BIT an der Tagesordnung, meint Lucia Wagner, Beraterin für interdisziplinäre Projekte. «Das ist nichts Neues. Wichtig ist hingegen, dass wir noch effizienter miteinander arbeiten können. Deshalb setzen wir zuerst bei der Wissensplattform an», bestätigt sie Jochen Sommers Argumente. «Dazu brauchen wir jetzt und in Zukunft unsere Lernenden. Sie sind uns bei den modernen Tools behilflich – nicht nur was die Technik betrifft, sondern auch punkto Arbeitskultur.» Die Mitarbeitenden sollten mit Hilfe der Ambassadoren selbst erkennen, dass es viel praktischer sei, über eine moderne Kollaborationsplattform zu arbeiten – das mache noch unabhängiger von Ort und Zeit und helfe überdies, den Berufsverkehr zu entlasten.
Lucia Wagner, consultant for interdisciplinary projects at the FOITT.
Lucia Wagner sometimes works from home and is otherwise at one of the two FOITT locations in Bern and Zollikofen. “From a time point of view, I work when I can reach my colleagues. Otherwise, I might work at night.” She would also like an open-book policy: “At the moment, I cannot access all the documents I need myself. We often need to send each other links.”
Like Nicolas Krebs, the trainee Sven Piek also took part in the ambassador workshop at Swisscom. “We worked right in the Work Smart team's office. Even the working environment was impressive. The offices were designed by the team itself – even the walls had been spray-painted.” The workshop participants were given the job of rethinking the processes at the FOITT, Piek continues. “We have, until now, done everything via e-mail, and now we are testing Slack.” All ambassadors have already been able to make contributions to their own teams. “At meetings, the participants all write in the same OneNote document, instead of having separate notes on paper.”
Sven Piek, mediamatics trainee and work smart ambassador.
Sven considers his way of working on the go to be “very smart”. He uses the communication and collaboration options on his smartphone a lot, and only makes notes in OneNote. “When exchanging views with others, we do still use e-mail. Not everyone likes it if a document is on SharePoint or a network drive. It would be much easier to use documents jointly than to e-mail them back and forth countless times – for example, in the case of an Excel list to which 150 people need to add something.”
New forms of work result in a cultural change in the organisation. Employees are confronted with workplace and collaboration technologies that change their working day. With the Work Smart coaching, Swisscom is accompanying this change and actively including the company in the process. The focus is not on technology, but rather humans. Since 2014, we have already been able to support 45 customers with our Work Smart coaching.
Companies benefit from the experience and the lessons that we have learnt internally – the principle being “use what you sell”. With the reverse mentoring principle, we are placing our trust in the younger generation: they grew up with digitisation and take changes in their stride, an attitude that they pass on to companies in a friendly way.
The FOITT is an important and valuable customer for us, and we have been accompanying it in its change process for two years. This ranges from the introduction of Skype for Business to consultation for sustainable anchoring and scaling measures. We supported them in such projects as setting up a physical and digital community, worked out a scaling concept with ambassadors and spread insights with regard to community management within organisations.
The virtual workspace “Work Smart Community” arose from the need to offer employees a point of contact during the introduction of new forms of work. With the virtual platform, we have created a place where employees can find out and exchange information and receive further training. The aim of the community was, and still is, that employees not only consume, but also help one another and exchange tips and tricks on the topic of “Work Smart”. This allows us to take pressure off the service desk and anchor the issue within the company.
For me, the smart way of working has many aspects. “9 to 5” no longer applies. I can design my working day in a smart way, for example by avoiding overfilled commuter trains and participating in certain meetings online. Our “Ask the Brain” platform means I can benefit from the knowledge of 20,000 employees. Collaboration within the team has got simpler as we can work together on documents. The slogan “Work anywhere, anytime, on any device” now goes without saying as far as I’m concerned. To me, smart does not mean “always on” – you have to have work-life balance.
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