The use of digital tools has become essential for every trading company the world over. This naturally also applies to us as a steel distributor. Our digitalization strategy aims to eliminate information asymmetries by digitally connecting all market participants in order to increase efficiency for all. To this end, Klöckner & Co founded a digital unit, kloeckner.i, in Berlin in 2014, which now has around 90 employees.
Alongside the obvious commercial opportunities, ongoing digitalization also presents new challenges for our employees. Besides the systematic digitalization of internal and external processes, an essential component of this digital transformation is a profound cultural shift within the Company. Our employees therefore need to incrementally develop their digital mindset, which is crucial to our shared migration to “Industry 4.0”.
To ensure that everyone embraces and sees themselves as part of the changes, we have prepared a broad range of measures offering all employees the opportunity to acquire digital know-how at their own speed. We have provided employees with a “DigiBook” to present the strategic messages of our digitalization strategy in straightforward language with numerous illustrations. Based on the extremely positive feedback to this reference material, a follow-up was produced in the reporting year.
To selectively broaden their digital skills, employees have access to job-specific, in-house training and language courses via our Group-wide “Digital Academy”. This enables them to take part in online training on a voluntary basis during office hours at our premises or from a home office. The “Digital Academy” provides numerous online courses for users, mostly with the aim of enhancing digital skills. The “E-Business License” course devised by our Supervisory Board member Prof. Dr. Tobias Kollmann, which equips participants with the tools they need to successfully navigate the digital economy, particularly stands out for its high user numbers. Users’ feedback and requests are also taken into account in the development of new course topics so that they have a hand in shaping future training packages. In 2018, new courses were created in the areas of digital leadership, coding and enhancing IT skills, which specifically address the needs of our employees.
The goal of our self-developed event series "DigiDays" is for employees to voluntarily familiarize themselves with start-up methods in order to come up with solutions to problems in a creative environment. Due to the large number of participants and positive feedback received, “DigiDays” were already organized for the third time in the reporting year. While the first two events focused on the design thinking method, “DigiDays 3.0” centered on the themes of healthy failure culture and agile working.
With regard to failure culture within the Company, we launched a series of “Failure Sessions” in 2017 of the kind that are typically used in the start-up scene. In a failure session, failed start-up entrepreneurs report on their experiences, were they went wrong and what they learned. Here, too, the focus is on people openly talking about their mistakes and the lessons learned and then going on to discuss them in the round. For Klöckner & Co, the goal is to establish a start-up-style learning and failure culture within our Group in order to become faster and more agile as well as less perfectionist in our work.
Another key driver of our cultural change is in-depth internal communication to highlight for employees the necessity of the digital transformation and to alleviate any concerns. Klöckner & Co makes use of innovative digital tools such as the “DigiDesk”, an interactive intranet based on Microsoft Communication Sites. A major component of our self-made solution is our Yammer in-house social network, which provides staff with a nonhierarchical, transnational platform for contributing and sharing their thoughts and ideas. Furthermore, the CEO invites all employees to engage in open dialog on Yammer and uses the tool – in addition to regular town hall meetings – as an information channel to communicate on the progress of our digitalization strategy. In a direct exchange, constructive suggestions and ideas are developed, which further optimize our processes in terms of speed and quality.
To anchor contemporary, digital ways of working and thinking even more firmly in the company, we have also implemented the “Digital Experience” exchange program within our country organizations. Participants’ digital and individual skills are further enhanced in a several-week stay at our digital unit kloeckner.i in Berlin. In return, kloeckner.i gains first-hand expertise in steel through the exchange with participants who mostly work in the operating business.
To further boost our digital share of sales, we invited 80 operational (management) employees from all over the Klöckner & Co Group in September 2017 to a Digital Sales Accelerator (DSA) seminar at our start-up subsidiary kloeckner.i in Berlin. Working together with the Klöckner & Co Management Board, participating employees focused intensively on the development and acceleration of processes to promote digital sales.