My Top 6: What the crisis has taught us
03 SEP 2021
The coronavirus has already kept us in suspense for one and a half years. Apart from personal sacrifices and blows of fate, this pandemic has revealed weak points in society, politics and business, both globally as well as in Europe and Germany.
So far, thanks to our medical doctors, nurses and numerous volunteers, we have done well in handling the virus to some extent. However, there are already lessons that can be learned from this challenging time. These lessons should help us not only to overcome the far-reaching consequences but also to better anticipate global crises in the future.
Only if the state, businesses and society become considerably more resilient can we more successfully get through future challenges. In my view, six action areas are key to achieving this:
1. Strengthening entrepreneurial freedoms
Our health system is essential. The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown this. We therefore cannot subject this system to even more bureaucracy. Supply bottlenecks, such as those that occurred at the start of the crisis for masks, disinfectant and protective clothing, must be prevented in the future. However, too much bureaucracy doesn’t just weaken the health system but also the economy overall and, by extension, also Germany as a production and industrial location in an international comparison. That’s why we in Germany are counting more on entrepreneurial freedom instead of overburdening economic life with regulations.
2. Digitalizing the state, business and society
Developments in the area of digitalization have progressed only sluggishly in Germany so far. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the digital transformation has been forced to pick up speed. Examples of this include the coronavirus warning app and digital learning in schools, even if there is still much to be done in this area. Nevertheless, we must now use this momentum. For their part, businesses need to transform the still large number of analog processes in their business models: How can they organize sales force for customers? How can they obtain orders and new customers if traditional platforms such as trade fairs and events are canceled at a day’s notice? How can decisions be made if company documents can’t be signed by hand? These questions need to be answered.
3. Investing in digital education
Apart from digital business models and investments in software and hardware, another factor is crucial for future success: the digital capabilities of our future and present employees. We need to invest more strongly in this in the future. This requires a stronger focus on digital education. Already in 2018, we at the German Federation of Chemical Employers’ Associations (BAVC), of which I am President, together with the VCI (German Chemical Industry Association), published a position paper in which we presented the essential core requirements for digital education. This includes, for example, imparting knowledge and competencies when it comes to modern IT-based tools, which are increasingly being used in industry. It also includes training virtual teams that are located across different locations.
4. Promoting modern ways of working
Modern ways of working are also to be more strongly promoted in Germany. The last one and a half years have proved that jobs allow for flexible working models. However, in order to enable employers to take responsibility for individual solutions for their industries and operations, it is necessary to revise and modernize labor law. Tailor-made solutions for company and employee representatives must have priority.
5. Modernizing the network and working infrastructure
Lockdowns and mandatory working from home have made it clear that our network infrastructure is in urgent need of modernization. We need to remove the blank spots that still exist with regard to fast Internet and network coverage throughout Germany as quickly as possible. People need and want to be able to live and work anywhere in Germany. Widespread high-speed Internet is another essential factor for the attractiveness of technology locations. We cannot allow Germany to fall behind in the international comparison.
6. Expanding existing strengths
The supply chains in our globalized world came under a lot of pressure during the pandemic. First, there was a mask shortage and then basic materials such as steel and mass plastics became scarce. And now, chipboards and semiconductors are in short supply. But de-globalization is not a viable alternative. Instead, consistent risk management along the supply chains must become standard. We should also reflect on the strengths of our industrial location. Already, a considerable amount of time before the current crisis, Germany and Europe promoted specific key technologies and strengthened manufacturing capacities on location. One example of this is “Saxony Valley” near Dresden where companies such as Bosch are building semiconductor factories. International technology heavyweights such as Apple are also investing in Germany in order to develop chips here. And Tesla is building its gigafactory in Brandenburg. I see this as a positive sign for smart, global division of work.
My conclusion for society, politics and business in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic is therefore as follows: Take this crucial turning point as an opportunity to grasp a comprehensive structural change and tackle the identified action areas step by step.