Learning Culture

Work Hacks for Change at BASF

Patricia OhnhausKarlsruhe (GER)/Berlin (GER), December 2019 - "We have set out to introduce a new logic into our company based on openness, cooperation, and interaction. Innovative ideas, a new self-image of togetherness and new markets are to emerge in a network. In the future, it will not only be specialists who generate the ideas. Instead, new ideas will sprout from the lively exchange among people". This is how Patricia Ohnhaus from Personnel Development at BASF Services Europe in Berlin describes the topic of her presentation at the LEARNTEC Congress. The session is on 30 January at 11:30.

What has BASF Berlin’s view of learning culture been and in which direction should it develop?

Patricia Ohnhaus: Until two years ago, training at BASF Berlin was classroom based, with employees being "sent" obligatorily or voluntarily. Now the trend is toward presence, blended or online self-directed learning. Peer consulting is becoming increasingly important, either with external moderation or only among the employees. We have also introduced "working out loud" as a method of self-directed learning. Online learning is supported, for example, by free access to LinkedIn Learning or by internal online trainings developed in house.


Your talk focuses on "work hacks". What does the term mean?

Patricia Ohnhaus: For me, work hacks are the minimal changes in the way we work that can enormously improve cooperation and hence make learning more effective.


And how do you integrate them into your change management concept?

Patricia Ohnhaus: The introduction of work hacks at BASF Berlin was part of our major cultural change, called "New Logic", which kicked off with the Leadership Intervention. This was a three-day workshop for all managers of the three Shared Service Centres from Berlin, Montevideo, and Kuala Lumpur. Among other things, work hacks were introduced, and teams could volunteer to try them out.

After eight teams signed up and started in succession, there were several Best Practice Sharing Meetings at which they could learn from each other and share experiences. Meanwhile work hacks have become known in the company, and some have been invented and introduced. Work hacks strengthen cooperation and enhance teams’ motivation and effectiveness. This creates tolerance and greater acceptance for independent and collective learning.


What timeframe do you envisage for conceiving the changes, familiarising the employees with them, anchoring them, and ultimately making them a matter of course?

Patricia Ohnhaus: In order to introduce a work hack into one single team, it takes a workshop and then at least two months to try it out and, if necessary, adapt it to the special needs of the team and its customers. After the two months, there should be an assessment to decide whether and how the work hack should be continued. Only then is the team ready to introduce a second one.

Most of our teams were able to implement two to three work hacks within eight months. I would say it took a good year for work hacks to establish themselves as a tool in the company and to have a positive impact on the learning culture. We’re obviously continuing to work on our learning culture because work hacks are only one factor that can have a positive impact on it.