Digital biography – how to find employees for the blog: in an interview with kai heddergott

Finding employees for the company blog or to take care of the social media channels is sometimes a real challenge. But what if you look at what digital origins someone has and actively promote and demand them??

Last year, I gave a presentation on social recruiting at the Branch Management Day in Munster, Germany. The event is aimed at managers in bakery sales, because digitization is playing an increasingly important role in the trade as well. On 14. The next branch management day will take place in May, a SPECIAL on "Digital change in sales". One topic there will be the "digital biography". The lecture will be given by Kai Heddergott , who as a communications consultant is intensively involved in this area. I found this exciting, especially with regard to corporate blogs. Because it’s all about digital competence.

Social Recruiting

How companies can acquire employees via social networks? What role does a blog play in positioning you as an attractive employer? I addressed these and other questions in my talk in October. Hannah Maske from the Olaf Balzer bakery spoke before me and presented her company’s activities to attract and win over trainees. She herself started as an apprentice in the company and now works in human resources. It was her first appearance and she mastered it brilliantly.

The positive reactions from the audience have been very direct: "Can you be poached??", someone shouted mischievously and had the laughs on his side.

In my presentation, I addressed exactly this situation: "Each of you has a Mrs. Mask in your house. You just have to find them. How many of you share with your employees the knowledge you have gained today, to see who could implement what or to collect ideas?", I asked. Two hands went up from around 160 visitors. Unfortunately, this is how it often looks: Bosses go for training and employees don’t benefit from it.

Finding digital competencies

I often see the same thing with blogging and social media in companies. Likewise, in conversations with customers or with participants of my courses, I hear sentences like: "We don’t have anyone who could maintain the blog or the social networks." Or, "If I have a choice between printing a sales receipt or writing a blog article, I’ll print the sales receipt. That belongs to my tasks."Few people, however, are aware of the digital competence that actually lies dormant in their workforce.

Perhaps there is an employee sitting just one table away who is interested in writing or learning about social media. To find out, however, you need to either reach out to people or get them interested. Of course, external capacities can be purchased. I also write blog articles on behalf of clients, for which I receive very good feedback. But let’s be honest: An employee would approach the issues differently because he or she has completely different perspectives.

He looks authentic – like Hannah-Maske from the Balzer bakery. Reason enough to take a close look at the digital biographies of your own employees. There is more potential in German companies than some people think.

And if anyone knows about this, it’s Kai Heddergott, with whom I spoke at length .

Kai Heddergott

bloggerabc: Dear Kai, what exactly do you understand by the term digital biography??

Kai Heddergott: We all have a digital biography – namely, exposure to digital applications, the process of digitization, and the use of digital tools in our personal and work lives along our life journey. Depending on age and personal biography, this may have been the case from the beginning or only later on. People around 65 have only had contact with PCs, e-mails and smartphones in the last third of their working lives. For the offspring of Generation Y, born after 1980, much of this has existed since childhood or adolescence.

My digital biography covers for example more than three and a half decades – with birth year 1969 I belong to the generation X, in which at least with the boys the contact with homecomputers like the C64 and Co. was nothing unusual in the early 1980s. Since that initial contact, I, like many others, have engaged with the possibilities of digital tools that have subsequently emerged. I have been on the Web for half of my life – I realized this only recently on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday – since I registered at the university’s computer center in 1995 and was able to dial into the WWW with a modem.

Everyone can also look back on this for themselves: When was my first contact with digital? And many will note: That was much earlier than I myself had assumed.

bloggerabc: Why is the topic important for companies and what can a business owner do with this knowledge?

Kai Heddergott: There is no industry and no size of company that does not have to deal with digitization in some way. It is therefore a central question whether employees and decision-makers in companies have dealt sufficiently with digital topics or solutions in their professional or private lives to be fit for digitally driven change processes. Knowing who in the workforce perhaps even has digital skills contrary to previous assumptions, because they are part of the respective biography, can be very helpful here.

It’s about unearthing the hidden treasure of digital skills. The colleague from the shipping department, whose hobby is programming the do-it-yourself computer Raspberry Pi, may be able to give helpful tips for the introduction of new digital logistics systems, although he has so far rather filled the high shelves.

bloggerabc: What is the best way for a company to approach this topic?? How to implement it?

Kai Heddergott: First of all, everyone should have it clearly in mind: Looking at digital biographies does not replace a digital strategy. The analysis of which workflows, which administrative processes or which tools for daily work can and should be digitally optimized is indispensable. Smart digital consultants aren’t the only ones who can help – industry associations and chambers of commerce can also help track down and exploit the digital potential of the company.

Digital biography is used to remove inhibitions, perceived barriers, and false assumptions. I always start with a paper version of the digital biography: Here, everyone ticks off for themselves where they first had contact with mobile computers, with the Internet or with operating systems, for example.

If colleagues fill out this form at the same time, a dialog in the style of: "Oh, I didn’t know that about you!" Or, "You were already in the nineties, too…?" These playfully identified overlaps of individual digital biographies germinate a common digital identity, which is a good basis for tackling the digitalization that seems so difficult to master.

As a result, HR managers can collect results of digital-biographical observations, use them to create comparisons between departments or groups of employees – of course, with data protection in mind. This is how a digital profile of the company can be created. This forms the basis for something like a digital scorecard: where do we stand today? Where do we want to go with certain aspects of digitization?? And what picture emerges, for example, after six months?

bloggerabc: You’ll be at the SPEZIAL branch management day in May. The participants come from the trades, specifically bakeries. How can this industry use the topic of digital biographies for its own benefit?? Are there differences between employees who work directly with customers in sales and are behind the counter, and managers who are more controlling?

Kai Heddergott: It becomes exciting when a company makes a transformation process that has been set in motion visible to the outside world and reports on it. This can be done very well in a corporate blog. This is how customers and the public learn that the company is tackling the issue at all. On the blog, you can write about the talents and competencies of your employees. For example, series of articles on "My key digital experience" are conceivable. And since it can be assumed that the readers or customers have experienced a similar situation as the employees, something like an identification with the company can develop – the basis is an overlap between the digital biography of the author and that of the reader.

If a company implements digital storytelling in this way, there are indeed differences between colleagues at the counter and those in the executive suite. After all, the latter are usually the employees visible in public, even though the daily customer contact is actually in sales. Now the counter staff can become the company’s storytellers, if they want to be. And by the way, previous hierarchy levels fade into the background because it’s the story and not the "rank" that counts. That alone can be an impetus for a timely culture change in the company. But it’s the executives who have to allow this, because they are the ones who set the course for change in the company.

bloggerabc: What resistance do you encounter in your day-to-day consulting work and how do you deal with it?? What tips can you give people who want to actively tackle the digital transformation in their company??

Kai Heddergott: Decision-makers in companies, especially in owner-managed SMEs, are currently still mostly representatives of the baby boomer generation, born between 1955 and 1964. These top executives have a more analog socialization; in school and training, and even in the first third of their professional lives, digitization didn’t yet have the significance it does today. However, this is where the course setters for the future orientation and development of the company in digital times can be found.

Making them aware that they should deal with digitalization as pragmatically and solution-oriented as they have been successfully running their company is sometimes a tough nut to crack. What has traditionally led to success is often left untouched. It is not always recognized that tried and true can be the basis for change processes. Sometimes it’s necessary to use tools like the digital biography at the highest level to dispel fears and give people courage. Or, in other words, the process should start "at the top". If the inertial forces at management level are overcome and a fear-free discussion of digitization results, then the employees can also be taken along with them.

That would be my most important tip: letting the bosses experience that we are all more digital than we commonly assume. And that the shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation of the different digital generations is more likely to lead to the goal than the short-sighted focus on the digital natives, because they supposedly know and can do everything that is digital. If the digital competencies of the hinge generation X, the industry and technical knowledge of the baby boomers and the rather playful handling of new digital tools of the generations Y and Z are combined – then the transformation will work out.

My conclusion

The digital biography is a part of us and therefore also of supervisors and managers. So when it comes to implementing social media and or a corporate blog and the leadership votes against it, it often has something to do with the digital background. Those who do not recognize the benefits for themselves and are not open to arguments will find it difficult to deal with the topic objectively.

So my recommendation is to keep at it, keep pointing out examples, and get support. Because the fact is: the net is not going away anymore, and it would make sense to use the possibilities. The competitor does it too.

PS: If you are interested in attending the Branch Management Day SPECIAL and want to look beyond the industry plate, you can still purchase tickets. Kai Heddergott will be joined by Christiane Brandes-Visbeck on the topic of digital leadership and Tobias Muller aka " Der Kuchenbacker " on the topic of blogger relations.

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