New technologies and the transformation of the working world present major challenges to all of us. Companies also have a responsibility to meet them. They must enable their employees to face new tasks with self-confidence and responsibility. TechUcation is a unique learning ecosystem that the Otto Group has created for this purpose.
In the history of mankind, knowledge has never been so easily accessible and available in such abundance as it is today. But it is not at all easy to filter out from the flood of information what’s right, what you can use for your work, for example, what will help you get ahead. This requires tools and support. Which is why companies have a crucial role to play here at the workplace. They must guide their employees through the maze of digital transformation and new work; they must create opportunities for targeted training. We are aware of this responsibility: “In times of rapidly changing technologies and requirements, lifelong learning is becoming a success factor for each and every individual, but also for the future viability of an entire company,” says Petra Scharner-Wolff, Member of the Executive Board for Finance, Controlling, and Human Resources at the Otto Group. We are demonstrating that we take this challenge seriously with the group-wide TechUcation education initiative.
Acquiring new skills has long been an integral part of our corporate culture
The centerpiece of TechUcation is the Masterplan learning platform. At the start of the initiative in 2019, there were already 130 videos on the platform, which are based on the principle of TED Talks. Digital experts from all over the world and a variety of fields introduce specific topics in keynote addresses, workshops, and interviews. These include basic programming skills, how to resolve conflicts, and how the blockchain works. All of the Otto Group’s roughly 43,000 employees can access Masterplan on their computers or via a mobile app, from warehouse workers to members of the Executive Board. This gives everyone the chance to learn the direction their field of work will take, what they should be able to do to stay on the ball, and what new opportunities this will open up for each and every one of them. An eight-hour introductory course on the basics of digitization, with subtitles in English, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Polish, and Romanian and to be completed during working hours, is required for all Otto Group employees. Big Data, Digital Responsibility, and Artificial Intelligence—this is where everyone learns what they need to know about these and other digitization topics Following this introductory module, employees are given access to an extensive network of videos and courses on a wide range of topics, which is being continuously expanded and updated. Every employee is encouraged to put together their own course program and organize their own personal training. An algorithm supports users in doing so and recommends learning content tailored to their interests. Participation is voluntary at the moment, but offers all employees an excellent opportunity to continuously hone their skills on their own responsibility and to effectively combine learning and working.
Our TechUcation initiative extends the participatory, open learning culture within the Otto Group that was already in place. It aims to enhance the skills of our employees to better deal with the challenges of working in an agile and interdisciplinary manner. The learning content is by no means limited to digital. Because what is learned and experienced on the Masterplan platform should also be applied in everyday life. To ensure that this transfer is successful, the Otto Group provides its employees with tips & tricks and learning hacks, which help to put new knowledge into practice. That is why it is important that what is learned is always closely related to their own working reality. Thus, TechUcation@Logistics specifically addresses the needs of industrial sectors, where completely different learning and working environments prevail and different content is required than, for example, in commercial professions. Co-creation processes in the creation of new course content are therefore the key to success. In addition, all Otto Group employees can undergo training to become learning coaches. In workshops or with self-produced videos, they can explain to their colleagues how to overcome learning hurdles and integrate what they have learned into their everyday work. There are also many formats, such as bar camps and learning days, that employees organize independently and across the Group. At these events, they share their newly acquired knowledge and learn with and from each other. This is how TechUcation combines online and offline formats and is gradually establishing a far-reaching and transparent learning ecosystem.
The Otto Group’s commitment to collectively addressing the challenges of digital transformation does not end at the company’s doors. We are well aware that we need to contribute our expertise and experience to the advancement of society as a whole. One example of this engagement is the TechUcation@school project. In collaboration with the Hamburg School Authority and the Hamburg State Institute for Teacher Training, we have taken the principle of TechUcation a step further. Training in the digital sphere is now focused on teachers. “The idea is that the teachers use the program for themselves and then act as ‘influencers:’ They gain a greater understanding of digitization and are able to pass their knowledge on to students. Our cooperation is truly unique,” says Bjarne Dankwardt, an employee of the Otto Group and Managing Director of TechUcation@school gGmbH. On the platform, teachers can watch videos on topics such as blockchain, virtual reality, and the transformation taking place in the world of work. Experts from the Otto Group, as well as teachers themselves, introduce a wide variety of topics from the digital world. In a playful, entertaining, and smart way, the project creates a sustainable understanding of the digital transformation. As is the norm at TechUcation.