Andrea Euenheim – CHRO and Board Member, Metro AG

Johann

My name is Johann Berlin host of the Discerning What Matters podcast and CEO of TLEX Institute. Throughout this series, I’ll be interviewing experts and leaders who are driving with the future of work will look like within their companies and across their industries. During the podcast, we’ll be exploiting a central question. As technology speeds us into an uncertain future. How can we design a future of work that meets our human needs and values? How can we create environments that will help us flourish and thrive in the way we live and work? We’d love to hear from you what matters most to you in the future of work. Please share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook at TLEX Institute and you can check out our work and symposiums on Tlexinstitute.com. Our guest today is Andrea Euenheim CHRO and board member of Metro AG and previously head of global M&A for Amazon. And I really appreciated Andrea’s ability to see the big picture, but also really think about more local personalized customizations. So I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Andrea, great to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for taking the time. And we certainly live in an unprecedented situation, with COVID-19 and in all the disruptions in the global economy. And I’d be curious from your point of view, as we think about the future of work and the future of humans at work. What are some of the patterns that you see emerging or what are some of the patterns that you see that really matter right now?

Andrea

A lot of leaders talk about what are the opportunities that we were seeking yesterday and how do they matter today. And what will truly matter in the future? So I think what you can see from the experience that we’re going through right now is the question around globalization. I think while everybody was aiming and working very hard towards further globalization. you also now have to reflect and look at your local needs your local customers and also keeping a certain level of independence to say. Can I truly need a bigger spectrum of my customer needs? Or do we really need the very specific particular needs of our customers? So as an example, if I’m a recruitment agency today, I probably have to think about what other services can I double down on in order to meet a broader need of our customers going forward. Another pattern that I have seen also with customers who were probably not in the forefront of digitalization. And looking at innovation through digital tools and solutions, those companies now hurry to catch up with whatever is needed because the way of working the way of serving our customers now looks very different.

Johann

I’d love this point you’re making around just line of sight, the importance of line of sight to your local customers in your regions. And how important that is for actually having customer empathy and understanding. So often when we’re so niched in a particular aspect of a supply chain or serving a very particular need and it’s spread across globally, you can lose that sort of human connection. What do you think? And you may have already touched on this, what do you think some of the adaptive challenges are going to be in this transition like that you’re experiencing or that you predict the field will experience.

Andrea

Going back to my previous point? I think it’s truly looking at the suite of products we’re offering today. And how can you flexibly adapt depending on not only what the specific customer need is or the industry need is but it’s also responding to the economic situation that we have. Because coming out of this situation now, some companies will probably accelerate faster than others. So I think there is something to say about how can you probably tailor. Also in the range of products you are offering to your customers going forward truly understanding who your customer is and what they need.

Johann

And when you look at this could be before you know before COVID or going or post, what are theareas where you feel that human connection, the human side where I mean, obviously, so many things are being automated away. I know you used to also do work with Amazon and you know, like automated truck drivers and machine learning you would be very familiar with so many of these things. A lot of that conversation has to do with fear, uncertainty for people. But there’s also opportunity for us to create enhanced human experience in the customer journeys and I’d be curious. Are there any areas where you see that really have a lot of potential and could actually be more enjoyable for humans then then some of the previous repeatable tasks?

Andrea

Yeah, I think what is very obvious is that the nature of human interaction will change in the way services are provided going forward. I think we have to from my perspective, look more at where human interaction truly adds value in a way of providing more tailored support to customers providing more consulting versus just pure simple service. If I can give you an example of Metro right now, but what we see as the wholesale industry is evolving. And we’re serving restaurants, meaning hotels, restaurants and catering services. And what we see is a trend of the repetitive tasks obviously, getting replaced through digital solutions. So a restaurant like a chef and restaurants shouldn’t worry about his basic needs in the kitchen anymore that should be a subscribe and safe program. So everything is delivered to the doorstep of the kitchen on a daily basis. But what truly matters also then if a chef goes to one of our stores, what they want to see is they truly want to get consulting services with regards to food innovation assortments, different menu opportunities that we can show. So I think they’re truly human interaction still matters in so many ways where you want to give truly added value to your customers. And for us it is truly giving more tailored services that focus on inspiring our customers on how to further enhance their own business. And not just simply supplying goods to the their kitchen that they need on daily basis.

Johann

So more personalized, making their workflows easier.

Andrea

Exactly.

Johann

And what is one of the areas that gives you the most hope? Whenever we think about the future of work I mean technology was a disruption before COVID. But yeah obviously this has been a massive global and economic health pandemic. What do you feel in any disruption, there’s also opportunity there’s emergent. So what’s the challenge? What would you say are the the opportunities that you see coming out of this potentially?

Andrea

Yes and that’s a very good question. And I keep telling my teams all the time like, write down two good things that you see right now that you are experiencing during this crisis, where you say I would love to preserve them. I don’t want them to go away anymore and that truly has to do with the level of interaction. The humanity in our interactions has probably now increased significantly compared to what it was before. And a lot of people talk about slowing down the pace, interacting with each other. Well, I don’t think it has necessarily slowed down. It has become more personal it has the level of kindness that we currently experience is very different to what it was before also the personal touch of interaction. So we truly care about how people are doing, what their personal situation is how they perceive the world at this point in time. I also see a lot more working together. So the level of togetherness is very different. And also Things that we never thought would be possible is the level of partnership of teams or companies that consider themselves as competitors is like never seen before. Right and so this is something where I would love us to keep a big portion of this coming out of the crisis. To say we can all do business we can all be successful and there can still be a healthy level of competition but with the feeling of community at the same time.

Johann

And I love that and it really does bring out the human they it brings out some of the bad tendencies he has, but it also brings out a lot of human goodness. And you really see actually what cultures are made of when they go under that pressure test. Like what is up and so often we ask how are you doing to somebody. And we don’t like where it’s just a tool we do. And now when you ask it, you’re really asking how are you doing? How are you? Beautiful point you made there. I would love to hear your advice. You’ve had a great career and I would love to hear your advice for maybe younger people who are emerging in their careers. What types of things would you advise them to work on what kind of skills to develop for the for the future of humans at work?

Andrea

I still believe that life experience is something that truly forms and shapes you as a person the most. So take the opportunities that are offered to you. And it might sound more spiritual than you know. I mean to say it, but I think life truly offers you opportunities. And you typically get clear signs that this might be the path that you should probably consider at this point in time. But something in your head always told you that you should rather go the other way. So, to which extent do I allow my gut feeling to guide my way through the decisions that I’m making. And I would like to encourage also younger folks to probably more trust their gut feeling more so than anything. And also really seeing challenges as a great opportunity. And not thinking that failure or not being so successful is breaking you. I think consider it as part of your journey as your life experience. That truly forms and shapes who you are, to make you an even better and well-rounded person. I think I also have learned a lot from my failures probably the most obviously and seeing it as something that makes you even more successful.

Johann

I love these and in particular I love this last point about failure. It’s that vulnerability that really brings us in contact with human life, which brings us in contact with our limitations, which show us how much we can and also allow us to see how far we can go beyond whatever we were thinking. We were thinking and what you said about meal is so interesting as well. One of the projects I’ve been heavily involved in is a large neuroscientific database for companies. And one of the things that they found is that emotion is driving almost everything like subtle emotion just immediate, non-conscious emotions and so often. We associate with by color jobs is the ability to mask emotion to be centered be calm, but then that emotion in that being in touch with it is actually can create a real agility of alignment. And now learning that it is a separate form of intelligence and cognitive intelligence. It is all rich and I think you’re having young people learn, those sort of skills are so powerful. So thank you for… And then just in terms of any other additional thoughts you have on the future of humans at work. Any kind of closing thoughts remarks, hopeful thoughts?

Andrea

Yeah. I’m super hopeful that there is no machine in the world that will be able to replace a human being in everything that a human being can bring to the table. I think there’s so much to say too, if you look at all the successful leaders in the world, what makes them unique why have become successful. And obviously there is not a one size fits all but there’s a pattern in it. Where you can say true, least successful leaders are authentic personalities. Something that a machine a computer or whatever artificial intelligence will never replace. I think this is something that comes with a belief where a level of confidence with the ability to balance data and anecdotes. At the same time where they have a great feeling for how data can support your decision making your level of innovation, your level of efficiency. But pairing it with anecdotes to truly make a well-rounded decision is absolutely critical. And then having authenticity, the confidence but also the courage to take risk is nothing that the machine would ever do. Innovation might be inspired by machines, but truly making sense out of an innovation comes from a human being. I think in order to truly understand what your customers need, what the world means at the end of the day, can be supported by artificial intelligence. But connecting the dots can only happen through human interaction.

Johann Berlin

Johann Berlin is a serial entrepreneur, international keynote speaker and leadership consultant specialized in human and organizational development, mental health and well-being, and sustainable business and investing. Johann is CEO of TLEX Institute, providing over 1 million digital users with evidence-based leadership, breathwork and emotional intelligence training. His clients include top business schools like Harvard Business Schools and Fortune 500 companies like Amazon and Microsoft. A leadership writer at Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Real Leaders and Huffington Post, Johann is also Consulting Chief Learning Officer for Cooper Investors, a $13 billion private equity fund where he is integrating values-based investing principles into the firm’s culture fund. He is also Consulting Chief Learning Officer at Total Brain where he develops mental health and well-being content for clinicians, large consumer groups, and organizations. Johann is a leading voice on human-centered leadership, founding the Future of Humans at Work conference and podcast. Previously, he served as CEO and co-founder of Sustainable CitySolutions and was SVP of Sustainability and Strategy for JDI. As a board member, executive advisor and community volunteer, Johann is passionate about social ventures dedicated to resilient schools, local economy, prisoner rehabilitation, and youth leadership. Johann's TEDx talk has been viewed over 100,000 times.

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