The digital organization - new demands on leadership & management.
Sophie Seiwald, a native of Austria, is Director IT People & Products at Mercedez-Benz AG. With her innovative approach to introducing digital processes into an established company, she can look back on successful career stages.
Her career path there was "left to right," as Seiwald describes it. "I quickly seized the opportunities I was given, and it paid off," says Seiwald, picturing her career at Mercedez-Benz. Her best decision was moving to Singapore eight years ago. There, she set up digital touchpoints for customers, such as digitization for customer portals and more.
Seiwald explains that when she was a student, digitization was not yet a topic and she had to work hard to learn the knowledge herself. Even today, she does not see any significant efforts to produce digital professionals in Europe. Compared to the U.S. and China, which have much more interest here.
Digital organization during COVID-19
COVID-19 greatly changed the work structure at Mercedes-Benz, Seiwald said. In addition to Home Office, uncertainty preoccupied the entire workforce. It soon became clear to management that communication was the key to ensuring solidarity among employees. Every day, the entire workforce was invited to attend meetings where stabilization efforts were disclosed. Mainly to prevent rumors, but also for the mental satisfaction of the employees. These efforts are positively reflected in the '2020 Great Place to Work'.
New demands on managers
New trends in the working world have been part Mercedes-Benz HR strategy even before Covid-19. Flexible working hours, remote working or reduced working have long been standard at Mercedes-Benz. Nevertheless, the corporate identity suffers from identification and the trend that every company is interchangeable.
For Seiwald, it was a challenge to introduce digital innovations in technology in an established and even conservative company. In the past, the processes were often linear, and positive results had to be achieved within a certain period of time. In the meantime, the processes around Seiwald have changed and it is OK for ideas to be discarded if proven as not good enough. Common processes are questioned and alternatives are sought.
For Seiwald, this was a very important learning process in her career. She also noticed euphoria - but also tension - in her team when it came to the new process structures.
In this context, Seiwald explains that ideas are often criticized because they are not understood. Here, she recommends being convinced of the idea itself. Afterwards, she never tires of explaining the idea to everyone anew and also initiating rounds of discourse or questions around the innovation. "If a process is established too easily, then maybe nothing has really changed," Seiwald says.
Sophie Seiwald leads the internal Mercedes-Benz Software Engineering Units worldwide and at the same time the transformation of the internal HR & Legal IT units of Mercedes-Benz.
Previously, she was CEO of Mercedes-Benz' own Marketing & Sales Digital Flagship Unit ("Mercedes-Benz.io") to build the entire customer online journey.
She held various roles at Mercedes in Germany, China and Singapore. Sophie is 38 years old and was born and raised in Austria, she currently lives in Stuttgart.