Partner Perspectives: Best Friends, Toughest Opponents

Companies must learn to cooperate as well as compete if they’re to survive in an increasingly digitized world, says the Managing Partner of Amrop Jenewein, Günther Tengel. And companies are advised to work together selectively, especially in the area of human resources.

By MICHAEL KÖTTRITSCH, Die Presse, Management und Karriere, February 17/18, 2018

Point of View

A huge re-learning lies ahead: In the morning, companies cooperate, in the afternoon, they compete.

“The digital revolution demands different ways of working together,” says Günther Tengel, Managing Partner of  Amrop Jenewein and Chairman of Amrop CEE. According to his prognosis, for cost reasons companies will work together on specific task clusters. On other fronts, however, they will continue to be competitors.

By the way: conflict and cooperation are an inseparable pair of concepts. They were brought together (under the term “KOKO”) by Viennese business consultant and trainer Niki Harramach: You can only have conflict with someone you can also cooperate with. Conflicts demand that the parties or opponents involved have something in common.

This development, says Tengel, will impact companies in different ways. Like German futurologist Sven Gabor Jänszky, he differentiates between “caring” and “flexible/fluid companies”.

The former tend to be medium-sized companies located outside cities. For them, recruiting is particularly difficult;  employer branding is as important as cooperating with training and further education centers if they‘re to get a truly good workforce on board. The intention is for these employees to be retained in-house for the long-term, sometimes beyond the current retirement age. That is why these companies are also building a social environment for employees' partners, children and parents, one that includes not only sport, culture and free time, but also work commitments.

Flexible companies, on the other hand, are mostly located in towns. They occupy more than 40 per cent of workers in projects, are putting teams together on an ongoing basis, and show high levels of fluctuation.

Tengel advises that flexible companies join forces in theme-based or sector-specific networks. People, entire teams even, can be passed on and exchanged within these circles, depending on the tasks involved. In addition, further education and development programs can be jointly run. “Small or medium-sized companies cannot play on the development theme in the same way as large corporations can,” says Tengel. “In no area is so much money invested as in talent programs.”

Cooperate in the morning, compete in the afternoon, as it were.

Caring companies will also join forces in industries or regions to attract top people. And to hold on to them. Because for a single company, it would be meaningless to develop talent if there were no top jobs in sight. Within the network, however, vacancies can be coordinated. However: “For tasks at the top level, there will be no such circles for a long time, if at all,” says Tengel.

To address another failure of many companies: onboarding. There is no sense in recruiting professionally, then treating the new employees unprofessionally. So, either leaving them to their own devices, or pushing them into a formal system that doesn’t claim them. Anyone who expects new employees to perform from the first day, is making a mistake.

It’s even more difficult when teams are put together or re-assembled. It’s simply impossible to “impart value, culture, and complex topics during an accelerated process.”

Multi-category staffing

Incidentally, this also applies to the common understanding of performance in a company. Leadership becomes difficult without a unified concept, says Tengel. It would be equally difficult if companies consisted of a multi-category society: with, in addition to a stable core, there are interchangeable marginal staff and additional specialist teams, often employed for an event (such as the completion of a project) and only then, paid.

These constellations will mark the work environment of tomorrow - and completely reconfigure it.