It could not be described exactly, but it was a special atmosphere of togetherness and new beginnings that united the participants on site and at the monitors at the 3rd Human Friendly Automation Day at the German Pension Insurance Association on October 25, 2023. Perhaps it is also the great task that unites everyone and that the Chairwoman of the Board of the Federal Employment Agency, Andrea Nahles, could not have summarised better: "Human Friendly Automation is work on the mindset of society."
The HFA Day per se unites people who think and live interdisciplinarly. People who want to think outside the box and shape the future of the era of AI and digital automation for the benefit of people and their organizations.
We were able to welcome many leaders for digitalization, AI, cloud and automation. We were also able to welcome many guests from management as well as from personnel development, business innovation, organizational development and science! This mixture was not only formative for the positive climate (in addition to the AI cocktail machine ;-)), but also marks the way to approach artificial intelligence and digital automation in organizations: across divisions and on a clear foundation of values!
Employees are less afraid of AI than they are of their own management
If employees know, "My boss wants AI to use to reduce personnel costs - no more, no less" then this is a short-sighted management perspective. Employees in this organization will be afraid of automation, will not feel comfortable for long, and many will leave. Probably "the wrong ones"! At the HFA Day, I was able to get to know leaders for AI who leave their employers precisely because of such an attitude (and in combination with usual performance management consultants). Generative AI devalues the tasks of many experts - especially in the supporting areas of the value chains. Countermeasures must be taken here. It's about making intelligent automation come alive as an opportunity. This is a complex task for management, which begins with fundamental decisions in the sense of value-oriented corporate management and must be communicated.
For me personally, it was therefore a positive surprise how important the Human Friendly Automation Value Charter has become over the past two years. Of course, this is also due to the breakthrough innovation of generative AI, which will now also significantly change the work of many knowledge workers. However, the strong commitment of many top managers of private and public institutions to adapt the charter of the Human Friendly Automation Alliance of Experts as a binding basis of values or to orient themselves towards it was enormous. It is the foundation and the clear message to the employees: "We will not leave the AI era to chance." "We don't leave it to the 'cost cutters' as a new tool." "We sincerely want employees in our organization to have a workplace in which modern automation technologies are used, but always the identification with the work and the employer as well as sufficient income are a priority."
German Pension Insurance Association Director Dr. Stephan Fasshauer was a guest at the 2nd HFA Day in 2022 at the Federal Employment Agency. At that time, he offered to host the HFA Day 2023 at the DRV Bund. The fact that this was not a coincidence, but a logical consequence, was shown by the many activities that Deutsche Renten undertakes to shape the era of bots and process automation in the interests of customers and employees. This became particularly clear in my interview with DRV Bund CDO Dr. Matthias Flügge for the Human Friendly Automation book, who - as it turned out - already has HFA in his DNA. :)
Thus, there was no suspicion of "human-friendly automation greenwashing". On the other hand, it was extraordinarily justified and an honor to be able to present Dr. Fasshauer, on behalf of the organization of the German Pension Insurance Association, with the award "Human Friendly Automation - Place for the Preservation of Dignified and Valuable Work in the AI Era". Employees can be happy that their employer accepts this award and hosts HFA Day: Automation will be based on values that always aim for good work. After IBM Germany, the Federal Employment Agency, the DRV Bund is now the third organization with a large number of employees that can dress up with the award. An award that can be mentioned, for example, to employees as well as in the job market. Young people in particular will think carefully about how a future employer will deal with artificial intelligence.
Release of the Human Friendly Automation Book
A Milestone of the Human Friendly Automation Alliance of Experts was the presentation of the Human Friendly Automation Book at the 3. HFA Day. The editorial team, which includes Dr. Hans-Joachim Gergs (GfeO), Prof. Dr. Tobias Kaempf and Barbara Langes (both ISF Munich) and myself, has been able to create a compass for those responsible in organizations in 11 months.
The book is an anthology of over 40 contributions - from board members to AI developers - from various industries. As Barbara Langes said on October 25, the book was produced very quickly. There have been no cancellations and the quality of the items is strong. I was particularly pleased that they are not "embellished" statements. Honest, authentic accounts of positive and negative experiences. Or clear, unambiguous stances on the part of authors from the management levels help readers to grasp and tackle the era of digital automation and robotics as an organizational field of activity. No wonder the response on social media is enormous – a lot of noise for HFA is "highly welcome".
Many Thanks to all authors and contributors!!!
Strong perspectives on HFA from opinion leaders
Admittedly, there was a lot of work in the preparation as well as in addressing and coordinating the agenda and speakers. I don't need to promise this to the event and organization team of the DRV Bund, around Florian Ibrügger and Verena Manhardt as well as the strong supporter, HFA network founding member Martin Födisch (Federal Employment Agency) - but it should be mentioned here again! But the commitment paid off: The interaction of the participants was high and the selection of guests simply meant quality.
The insights into the "Why HFA and the HFA Day" by Manfred Baer (IBM Germany), Stefan Latuski (Federal Employment Agency) and Dr. Matthias Flügge (DRV Bund) were full of examples that made the sense of this initiative and the annual event clear.
The panel discussion, professionally moderated by Ines Arland (overall moderation), built on the HFA book presentation. But here it was about the "big picture": "Will human-friendly automation be a driver or an obstacle in the competition for markets and skilled workers?" This was discussed by Anna Kopp (Microsoft Germany), Sascha Poggemann (Cognigy), Andrea Martin (IBM Germany), State Secretary Dr. Fedor Ruhose (State of Rhineland-Palatinate), Jürgen Kandlbinder (Bayernwerk Netz) and Oliver Suchy (DGB).
The discussion was not "scripted" and the choice of guests would have suggested more controversy. But everyone involved agreed that human-friendly automation is the way to go. Rather, competitive disadvantages would arise if the era of AI and automation were not based on the principles of human-friendly automation. There were also concrete hints and recommendations:
State Secretary Dr. Fedor Ruhose pointed out that SMEs need special support in order to cope with the change. He announced that Rhineland-Palatinate is therefore the first federal state in Germany to adopt the HFA Values Charter as the basis of the state's digital strategy, and that transformation pilots are already helping to shape change through AI.
Jürgen Kandlbinder spoke of experiences: Employees must be given the power to imagine as early as possible what change means and how they can change. Employees must not be left alone. The benefits of AI are great.
Anna Kopp warned against overloads and burnouts. Automation can help reduce workload. She brought into play the idea that employees must experience a personal benefit. Why not the 4 day week when the rest of the time the bot is working?! An exciting idea that we have often heard at decision-making level in the private sector - to combine AI with work-life balance.
Andrea Martin underlined the importance of retraining. She pointed to a new study by IBM's Institute for Business Value (IBV) that said that about 40% of the workforce will need to be respelled in the next 3 years due to intelligent automation. The HFA Alliance of Experts is certain that this structural change and the associated efforts in job transfer management have not yet arrived in the consciousness of many managing directors and HR managers. Andrea Martin's advice in this regard was very valuable. Political support is certainly needed.
Sascha Poggemann reports on ongoing AI projects in service centers. Here, the impact is very high. He outlined how call center employees are taking on new tasks and how change is succeeding. A value-oriented approach in the sense of the HFA is very important.
Oliver Suchy, a member of the HFA Alliance of Experts and a long-time expert on the influence of digitalization on people's work, was skeptical: He was still waiting for the clear gains/advantages for employees through digital technological progress. He did not refer to the benefits of automation that everyone enjoys, but rather to a return on investment at the individual level for employees (e.g. avoidance of further intensification of work). He expressed his conviction and optimism that the HFA initiative and the Charter of Values are opportunities to ensure at an early stage that individuals in the companies actually experience an improvement in work.
After the lunch break, the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Employment Agency, Andrea Nahles, and the German Pension Insurance Association, Dr. Matthias Flügge (CDO) and Dr. Konstanze Schlegelberger (Head of Corporate Development) gave speeches. While Ms. Nahles has once again shown that she sees Human Friendly Automation as a conditio sine quo non formula for the success of our country in the automation era and that this is the only way to effectively counteract the shortage of skilled workers, Matthias Flügge and Konstanze Schlegelberger went into the depths of the implementation of Human Friendly Automation at DRV Bund. They showed very vividly how the competence development on AI is set up and with which strategic approach an HFA can be anchored in the entire organization.
The HFA Day: Festival of Co-Creationdes
With so many exciting impulses, the desire of the guests to want to have a say was high. Both virtually and on-site, there were many requests to speak. And during the breaks and at the booths of the participating companies, the conversations were heated.
Marta Szpindor and Christine Geissler presented the use of AI and robotics for RWE to provide employees with a modern learning environment. Augmented reality, in particular, plays a central role in this. A new standard is being created here, which is particularly trend-setting for internationally positioned organizations. In this context, I also recommend the interview with RWE's Chief Human Resources and IT Officer Katja van Doren, which is published in the HFA book.
The AI Studios - AI Experience Workshops, a project of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in cooperation with Fraunhofer IAO, presented "content" of the AI Infomobile. It makes it possible to create relevance for further training and to make employees fit for the AI era. We are glad that the team led by Judith Peterka (BMAS) provided these insights and enriched the HFA Day 2023 and, together with her colleague Linda Wichmann, published an article in the Human Friendly Automation book.
Together with IBM Germany, the Federal Employment Agency presented the results of a proof-of-concept for the implementation of human-friendly automation along the automation of e-mails at its booth. The two representatives Uwe Henkel (BA) and Michael Becher (IBM) also gave an insight into how to tackle HFA in order to scale it on a large scale. It became clear that cooperation between HR and IT is becoming indispensable!
At the booth of the Human Friendly Automation Alliance of Experts, the number one point of discussion was the Values Charter. Along the A-0 poster, the associated principles of the Charter were intensively discussed. Visitors were advised on how best to start with the introduction of HFA and the Values Charter in companies. Just this much in advance: The management level plays the decisive role. ;-)
The German Pension Insurance Association demonstrated the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) at its booth. The DRV Bund links the introduction of RPA with the topic of empowerment. This hand-in-hand approach represents the requirements for Human Friendly Automation Standards. At this point, it should be mentioned that the HFA Alliance of Experts is developing a standard catalogue and publishing it next year in order to formulate a minimum requirement. Because we also had to experience: Some are currently trying to "pour old wine into new wineskins", which could also be described as HFA greenwashing.
"Strong participation" in four breakouts
The moderators of the Human Friendly Automation Alliance of Experts presented short theses and examples, which were developed in four working groups with the guests on site. The results were then presented and discussed on stage in front of the plenary. In addition to the insights, new relationships have emerged. Subsequently, plans for cooperation and deepening were agreed. Nothing more can be achieved in a one-hour workshop with participants, most of whom have met for the first time. An event with such diverse guests will only be a success if many people open up, want to participate and also want to meet afterwards to work on HFA. And we succeeded!
Conclusion: A meeting of a lot of people of conviction
Last year, we were guests of a large and influential association in Berlin. The speaker who received us had (supposedly) dealt intensively with Human Friendly Automation. He had invited us to tell us that his association could not commit to the HFA Values Charter and that the entire initiative did not pursue a good goal. He was convinced that the preservation of good work should not dominate. Above all, AI and the automation associated with it must serve efficiency. In addition, we would encourage the regulation of AI.
In fact, I was entertainingly annoyed to hear such nonsense. But in the HFA Alliance of experts, we discussed this opinion intensively. On the one hand, the HFA Values Charter in particular is intended to be an offer to companies to demonstrate to political and social stakeholders that they are willing to "shape the AI era well" and to counteract regulation. And on the other hand, HFA is intended to take into account the scaling of AI, as the focus should no longer only be on technology, but on the rapid empowerment and motivated assumption of new tasks by employees. Efficiency and respect for values to ensure go hand in hand.
Many entrepreneurs and the guests of the HFA Day have shown: The man from the association was wrong. HFA is not an issue that is intended to be divisive and politicized. HFA Day unites "all stakeholder groups". The guests present at the Day understood: We can only achieve this structural change by standing shoulder to shoulder! The response on LinkedIn and the demand for the book are strong evidence of this.
We are looking forward to the Human Friendly Automation Day 2024!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, DEAR DRV BUND!
MANY THANKS TO ALL PARTICIPANTS AND FACILITATORS!!!
If there are translation errors here, it wasn't my fault. I made it easy for myself and used Microsoft Bing ;-)