DigitalLife@Daimler: Using #collaborate to shape connected cooperation

Every expanding startup knows that as more and more people get on board, the role of effective digital cooperation becomes increasingly important. The “startup” known as Daimler now has approximately 300,000 employees. Is it possible for all of them to meet on one platform?

It is, and they want to. We are supporting their efforts, and since 2016 we have used the hashtag #collaborate to sustainably build bridges between technology and people. Our recipe for success: The employees themselves shape the network in which they want to work.

Digitalization has brought us not only huge opportunities and challenges but also quite a few buzzwords and abstract promises about the future. In practice, it often gives rise to questions such as: What concrete benefits will this new app bring me? Why am I receiving this flood of e-mails? Which digital applications and methods can help me network more effectively with other people? Why should I make my work visible to others? And who will help me with these problems?

That’s where we come in. Our core mission is to prepare all Daimler employees for the digital transformation — especially in areas where digital cooperation comes into play. Our work includes providing people with tools they can use in their daily work. Or, as we like to put it, we give them the right mindset, skill set, and tool set.

We want our work to enable individualized networking, even between colleagues who feel at home in completely different places and professional worlds. Our goal is to sustainably connect employees so that knowledge and expertise are only a click away.

But first things first. Who are we?

Employees create their own networks at the Network Camp 2017

Starting small, then reaching 300,000 people

Just over two years ago, I was commissioned to create the #collaborate team as part of the DigitalLife@Daimler strategy. Our team initially consisted of two people. At the beginning, we had lots of ideas, but no structure or strategic foundation. The demand for more efficient ways to cooperate, tools, and methods was overwhelming from the very start. So we developed supportive formats step by step and introduced collaboration tools — while eliminating others. Today we are an eight-person team that is managing the #collaborate projects and expanding connected cooperation into a movement within the group.

Our team includes communications experts, IT specialists, community management professionals, and event managers. As a result, we already represent many different perspectives and a broad range of skills. We also cooperate closely with our neighboring teams at DigitalLife in the theme fields of #transform, #change, and #ideate. (You can get an overview here in the Daimler Blog). We work together to identify any possible synergies with other specialist units and initiatives. Together with our colleagues, who play the leading role, we drive the transformation from the center of the company outward, dealing with one another on an equal footing.

One for all: the Daimler social intranet

During our initial talks and events in 2016, it became clear that the centerpiece of our work should be a (social) network for our company — the new Daimler social intranet. Previously, Daimler employees had had three different channels available for them to communicate, gather information, and network with one another.

The social intranet is a new platform that serves as a new home for connected cooperation and digital communication within the Group. It’s a big home, because at the end of this year Daimler as a whole is going to move in.

But many employees already got started much earlier. We already broke new ground when we built up the platform. The social intranet was opened up to all Daimler employees during the beta phase in 2017. Thousands of them have been using this platform for months now, working together on documents, keeping up to date on company news, establishing communities, and posting on the Daimler Blog. In parallel, we’ve continued to technically optimize the software. It has to fulfill the needs of a wide variety of target groups, from developers in Bangalore to production planners in Sindelfingen.

Cross-unit cooperation — that’s what it’s about

The way our social intranet was created already shows where we want to go in terms of networking. An interdisciplinary team with members from IT, Corporate Communications, and ourselves — DigitalLife strategy — came together for the project. Not everything ran smoothly at the start, and we all had to get to know the working methods of the other units.

But it was exactly this combination of diverse backgrounds and our own cooperation within a project community by means of the new tool that enabled us to successfully develop a new communication and collaboration platform that could really be used by all employees. By now we are a seasoned project team that works together across hierarchies in consistently agile and highly transparent ways.

#collaborate theme-hubs at the netWork Camp

Strengthening, enabling, showing the way

We now have the social intranet, a powerful new platform. But what good is even the best tool without people who can use it successfully and profitably? That’s why the area of responsibility of #collaborate includes four more important pillars. All of them focus on the mindset and skill set of the employees — in other words, their flexibility and empowerment.

Our community management function helps us to create virtual spaces above and beyond locations and divisions. How can we generate the right dynamic interactions, how does the lifecycle of a community work, and how can a group be administered? To enable knowledge to be shared as rapidly as possible, we train community managers. They make sure that all of the content and the groups in the social intranet provide high-quality and sustainable added value. In this connection, a practical orientation is the key to success. The participants in our community manager qualification programs work out their solutions on their own and openly share their experiences in the network.

This is very compatible with our early establishment of Working Out Loud (WOL) — the attitude that your own work should be made visible to others in a way that provides added value. John Stepper has made it possible to learn this attitude. In his method, four or five colleagues work in “circles” for 12 weeks to attain their individual goals, developing digital skills and mindsets in the process. I launched the first WOL circle at Daimler together with four colleagues just under three years ago. Since then, more than 400 practitioners within the company have committed themselves to using this method. Making our work visible, asking questions, and learning from one another — we do this not only across units but also in cooperation with other companies. We have more information about that here at the Daimler Blog.

In the digital collaboration task area, employees can find concrete tips and helpful instructions on how to deal with new digital cooperation technologies. We regard our team as an information hub and a traveling companion that equips all Daimler employees, ranging from millennials with an affinity for the digital world to experienced older employees, with the individualized value-added tools they need. A collaboration tool compass offers orientation in the jungle of diverse applications.

Our team recently included the Group-wide reverse mentoring program in our repertoire. This is a program that deliberately turns hierarchies upside down. The reverse mentors — many of whom are well-versed digital natives — support top-level managers in their dealings with digital theme fields. As in every mentoring project, we make sure that the tandem partners are good fit so that they can learn as much as possible from each other. It’s a program that conveys knowledge and, even more importantly, is accompanied by a change of perspective.

From a team to a movement

Even this brief overview of our areas of responsibility clearly shows that by itself, our team will never be large enough to disseminate all of the relevant themes throughout the Group and implement a sustainable transformation. We need ambassadors and fellow campaigners!

As a result, during our first year we started to build up a network of multipliers. We call it the netWork. At our kickoff in 2016, we had gathered together 80 colleagues for this network. At that time, most of them came from Germany. During the second netWork camp in 2017, we were already able to train 400 participants, and they came from all over the world. We bring together people who want to shape things and get their colleagues interested in new ways to work digitally. We’re very proud that our netWorkers are now disseminating our themes with know-how and enthusiasm — and we’re especially proud that they are organizing their work themselves. They are making the transformation of the workplace easily understandable and joining together with us to bring change into every corner of the Group — and beyond.

400 international information multiplier support connected work at the network Camp 2017

Beyond company boundaries

Connecting employees is an in-house issue — but who’s to say that companies can’t learn from one another in the process? It’s not necessary for everyone to reinvent the wheel. External models and the open sharing of ideas can be extremely helpful for internal networking.

Consequently, we are relying on what we call “benchlearning.” Unlike benchmarking, this process does not focus on quantitative comparisons. Instead, the aim is to learn from one another and grow together. As a result, we regularly work together with the drivers of other major companies’ social intranets and New Work programs. For example, we meet with them in order to share the experiences we’ve had with intranet projects or to collaboratively advance Working Out Loud.

At this point, some of you might be thinking, “What? You cooperate with other companies?” Yes! And first and foremost, transparently. In other words, we’re always open about whom we meet, where we meet them, and what we talk about. The topics and the results can be read on Twitter and LinkedIn. We even received the HR Excellence Award in 2017 for our cooperation with Bosch, Continental, Siemens, and other companies in the “Working Out Loud Community of Practice.”

We’ve achieved a great deal — and we want to do a lot more. In the future we want to open up opportunities for even more people at Daimler to learn efficient ways of working together digitally and to work together to advance connected collaboration. Our aim is to be a lively social network with even more agility and innovative power so that we can successfully shape the future of mobility.

If you’d like to get to know us better, we’re sure you can find me and my team online.

Team #collaborate

Lukas Fütterer is the Head of the Employee Networking and Social Intranet team, which has the hashtag #collaborate in the DigitalLife@Daimler strategy. Together with the “netWork” multipliers, the team is enabling all Daimler employees to experience and learn how to effectively engage in connected cooperation. It is also expanding the new social intranet throughout the entire group.