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When corporate managers and startup founders change the world of work together.

The best software in the world can only change organizations as much as people and culture allow. That is why at Tandemploy we do not only believe in the tandem principle when it comes to our job: through our new partnership with nextexitfuture, we’re changing and guiding companies sustainably – and with their cumulative startup and corporate experience. Together, the 8 founders of nextexitfuture have an impressive 160 years of experience in large companies: in top management, on executive boards and supervisory boards, and as investors. They know big hierarchical constructs, silo mentality, and the “but culture” of some internal stakeholders like the backs of their hands.

A perfect match, we thought – so we’ve invited one of the founders, Tatjana Erhardt (who was, among other things, HR Director of the Schwarzgruppe), for coffee and a double interview with our two founders, Anna Kaiser and Jana Tepe. Together, we reflected on how Tandemploy software supports organizations along the way to new work; why an experienced company can be meaningful; and what that has to do with change fatigue and corporate cunning.

How did nextexitfuture come about, who is behind it, and what is your biggest concern?

Tatjana (nef): With nextexitfuture, we have a clear goal in mind: we want to change the world of work and guide companies holistically through their digital transformation. The challenges that organizations face today are well known to everyone, but they are so big, so layered, and elusive: companies need to move away from their hierarchical thinking and silo structures to a different, appreciative form of collaboration. But where do you start with such a big project?

We help companies find their own way through the jungle of digital opportunities. With a holistic, interdisciplinary approach, we support our clients with the implementation of new forms of work and organization in order to make their business models, processes, and workflows fit for digital transformation.

nextexitfuture deliberately has a very broad base, because the future of work is complex and extremely flexible. We support organizations of all sizes, including startups, and operate a specialist network and an investor network. We ourselves are also quite active as investors.

Tandemploy software helps organizations bring their work models and structures into the digital age. How do you do that exactly – and how does that work with nextexitfuture?

Jana (Tandemploy): Companies – very big, but also medium-sized companies – use our software to better network their employees and reduce silos in their organizations. Specifically, employees use the software to join forces for new ways of working and collaborating. Recently, someone jokingly called it “Business Tinder;” I would rather call it colleague matching for new work.

Anna (Tandemploy): nextexitfuture is a wonderful addition – because the 8 founding women with years of executive and supervisory board experience know exactly how big companies tick and which factors (apart from great software) also play a culturally important role. Therefore, we are happy to accompany our customers on a long-term basis – how could it be otherwise? – in tandem.

Okay, let’s say when starting out, an organization has a decades-old, “traditional” culture, with a classic hierarchy, clear processes, and silo structures, and now needs/wants to transform. How can you help them?

Jana (Tandemploy): In fact, there is a great need for action almost everywhere and almost all companies need new structures and ways of working in order to remain innovative and creative in the digital age – and, if necessary, to rethink entire business models. The hardest thing for companies usually is to find a concrete starting point, away from the “Buzzword Bingo” and large-scale designs and concepts that then fail in practice or don’t yield anything along the way. Our software is driven by the employees themselves; that is, bottom-up – even if, of course, they are introduced and wanted from the top down. Colleagues are networked based on their own information and interests using our matching algorithm: for matching projects, a mentoring tandem, job rotation or job sharing, working circles or just a low-stress coffee break. Thus, we promote initiative, solutions in the middle and, of course, new, collaborative ways of working; and, thus, a natural transition to a networked organization.

Tatjana (nef): Every company is unique and so are our concepts. With us there is no off-the-peg solution. As a rule, we take stock of the respective topic together with the customer. For this we use our specialists for surveys. At the beginning is the diagnosis. Similar to checking for a fever, the “temperature” in the respective organization is measured. Our surveys and interviews are always tailored specifically to the customer and the sphere of activity.

The second step is the strategy, the vision, or the validation of the business model. What needs to be changed? How does the company remain competitive? We usually work in interdisciplinary workshops, together with the employees, across all hierarchical boundaries and with experts from our network – the lateral thinkers. This allows companies to bundle their own innovation potential and at the same time get inspiration from outside, without having to hire new employees, because the solution lies within the company itself – like a treasure that needs to be dug up.

In the end, we accompany the change in the company as needed. It is important to us to get to know the culture of the company and reach all people.

And what do you do about those with “change fatigue?” Can and must one also “take them along,” as it is often so nicely put? If so, where  do you take them, exactly?

Anna (Tandemploy): I find the phrase “taking employees along” a little difficult, frankly. Bring them where? And who knows where to go? What you should do in any case is to listen to the staff well. Because the knowledge for 95% of what companies need for their own digital transformation is already there! All you have to do is look closely and ask employees what “new work” looks like to them personally. It’s no wonder that the many change processes of the past few decades have often failed – putting them on the “top” and hoping that something “down” will happen is simply not enough. The employees had and still have the feeling that change processes and trendy topics are all too often well and good, but hardly anything changes in their own daily work routine.

Tatjana (nef): The rate of change has actually increased; digitalization is progressing rapidly. Technologically, a lot is possible today that was unthinkable 10 years ago. On the other hand, established processes and the needs of many people can no longer keep up with a fulfilling job that provides a secure livelihood. It is about reducing fears and making the organization fit for the future with its employees. Appreciation and mutual trust are the key to success for us. In addition, employees should be deployed and developed according to their talents.

Every company decides where to take people. Those who do not know the destination, will not find the way. Every company has to question and define whether the business model fits into the future or whether there is a need for adjustment – together and as a team at eye level.

The digital age and the ability of companies to act in this transformation are often very critically and even pessimistically discussed. Let’s turn it around: What unique opportunities do organizations have today?

Tatjana (nef): Digitalization brings many opportunities. Every successful entrepreneur has always scrutinized and optimized. Digitalization offers even more possibilities and new scope to exploit. Successful entrepreneurs will seize the opportunity to reorient their businesses, change their culture, motivate people in new and different ways, and unleash the innovation potential of the organization.

Jana (Tandemploy): We definitely see the opportunities of digitalization and see it as something that we ourselves – here and today! – shape. We can all shape how we work together today and in organizations to drive innovation and business models. The “future of work” is not something that will break over us at some point. However, in my view, the question of “why?” is asked far too infrequently. Why do we want to work differently, digitalize and change our business models? What does this ultimately bring for the individual? Where can we improve things for people? If we can answer these questions for ourselves and our companies, and then gradually align our working practices, organizations, and business models, we can all gain a lot.

Anna (Tandemploy): But we have to involve people who work in organizations. Especially those, by the way, whose work areas are being greatly changed or even made superfluous by digitalization – and there is enormous pent-up demand! The so-called “Blue Collar” employees, i.e., those in production, often do not even have a company e-mail address and therefore no access to the intranet. Companies want to “digitalize,” but do not even include this possibly most important group. It’s really unimaginable! With our software, we offer the possibility to invite even employees without a company e-mail address to use the tool. Successful digital transformation is only possible with everyone.

From your point of view, why does the tandem principle make sense when guiding companies through these processes?

Tatjana (nef): The tandem principle makes perfect sense when guiding companies. Tandemploy provides a technical basis and nextexitfuture helps with organizational restructuring. We know how corporations, medium-sized companies, and public administration work. Together we can break through boundaries, reduce fears at the middle management level, and overcome hierarchical boundaries. Tandemploy and nextexitfuture look together in one direction: forward. We want to initiate sustainable changes in companies and accompany them on their way.

Anna (Tandemploy): It’s pretty clear that we don’t have to try hard to convince ourselves of the value of the tandem principle… We are simply a good team and we combine the best of both worlds: full start-up power and technological innovation with decades of consulting and corporate experience.

Please complete the following for each other:

To you, Tandemploy is…

Tatjana (nef): …an exciting, innovative company that has recognized how to shape the future of work at the right time. Tandemploy is an absolutely reliable and trusting partner who shares the same values ​​as we do.

To you, nextexitfuture is…

Jana (Tandemploy): …the experienced big sister, with a lot of organizational cleverness and corporate cunning.


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