Otto Group

Five Theories on the future of work by Petra Scharner-Wolff, Chief Financial Officer of the Otto Group


The world is changing radically. What does that mean for each of us? And how can companies prepare themselves for the future of work? These topics were under discussion by a wide-ranging circle of experts, founders, authors, and academics at the Work Awesome Conference in Berlin in November 2017. It is a get-together of the international tech elite that engages in high-level discussions on digital and social trends. Among them: Petra Scharner-Wolff who is also responsible for the area of human resources at the Otto Group. She offers insights into the Group’s everyday work life that were the subject of lively debate not just on the conference stage but also online. Below, her five most important statements.


1. More responsibility, less hierarchy

What has certainly dramatically increased is the speed at which you are required to change. In order to be able to handle this as a company, you need new ways of working: a less rigid hierarchy and more responsibility at employee level make quick decisions and agile reactions possible. And it’s not just start-ups that can do this - so can large companies like the Otto Group.



2. A question of attitude 

In a digital world, we need a new mentality and a new culture to be successful. To be open across all company and hierarchy levels, to seek innovations, to see colleagues as a source of inspiration, and to work together across departments and companies to find solutions – that’s the basis for successful digital transformation in companies.


3. Communication instead of commands

The new world of work needs a new understanding of leadership. The aim is not to control employees but to treat them as equals and empower them. Employees need support and breathing space so that they can recognise innovations, weigh up opportunities and risks, and make their own decisions. That’s the only way to test new ideas quickly and implement them. Even mistakes help us move forward.



4. Understanding the customer 

Changing oneself is fundamentally important. But the most important thing to remember is that the customer should be at the centre of all your corporate actions. Their wishes change incredibly fast. We need to listen hard and always be ready to learn new things and recognise and understand wishes and needs as early as possible. If we can manage that, we’re on the right track.


5. Room for ideas

A new internal attitude towards work needs a matching outer framework. Working hours and locations should be as flexible as possible, oriented towards employees’ needs. Offices should be set up so that they encourage communication and networking across teams and departments, providing more space for creative and focused work.



Kulturwandel 4.0 (cultural change) 

A trip around the Otto Group that is trying to combine the best of new job worlds and established working structures.

Flexible Size - The Otto Group and the Kulturwandel 4.0