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Fully exploiting potential

Research scientists prepare companies for demographic change

Trainees, employees on parental leave, and retiring employees all have something in common – they all possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise about the company they work for. However, their innovative potential often goes unnoticed and therefore unused and ultimately to waste by the time they retire. “In light of the demographic change in Germany, companies can, however, no longer afford to lose this knowledge”, says Prof. Dr. Kathrin M. Möslein, head of the Chair of Information Systems I at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). This is why a team of research scientists headed up by Prof. Möslein, in conjunction with research scientists from FAU’s Institute of Sociology and Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg’s Institute of Psychology want to help put things right. Within the framework of the research project: “Appreciation networks as tools for integrated innovation within personnel and organisational development in the face of demographic change” (WiIPOD), the team of researchers hope to show companies how they can exploit their employees skills and expertise. Over a period of three years the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research is to provide the project with funding to the tune of €1.3 million.

“We are researching several questions”, says Prof. Möslein, coordinator of the WiIPOD joint research project. “For example, we hope to help companies find ways in which they can remain innovative and competitive despite having an ageing workforce, and ways of ensuring those with long-standing knowledge and experience remain with the company in the long term. Moreover, we are exploring the most efficient ways of transferring knowledge between younger and older employees”.

The research scientists’ approach
It is the innovative potential of “border innovators” – employees who are about to cross the so-called “border” of a company – that forms the core focus of scientific analysis. According to researchers this includes committed and motivated trainees, employees already on or who are about to go on parental leave, as well as retired employees. “In a group comprising employees of varying ages, border innovators share valuable experiences and new approaches, thereby forming the ideal basis for sustainable innovations”, explains Prof. Möslein.

The task of FAU researchers and their colleagues in Bamberg is to organise workshops in combination with virtual meetings with partners from industry, during which border innovators work on their companies’ most important questions. “For many, this new role as generator of inspiration and ideas will take some getting used to at first”, acknowledges Dr. Frank Danzinger, one of the project’s participating research scientists. “However, the workshops give rise to entire appreciation networks which companies can use in the long-term to influence their corporate culture accordingly and also to maintain and expand their capacity for innovation in the face of demographic change”.

The research scientists are developing and testing these appreciation networks for the following companies: Festo AG & Co. KG, Habermaaß GmbH, InterFace AG, Loewe Opta GmbH, Manomama GmbH and Siemens AG.

More information on the research project is available online at www.wiipod-projekt.de.

More information for the media:

Dr. Frank Danzinger
Tel.: 0911/5302-158
frank.danzinger@wiso.uni-erlangen.de

uni | media service | research No. 4/2012 on 16.2.2012

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