DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Social Robots During the Service Encounter (2017-2020; DFG Research Grant)
Frontline employees act as representatives of a company through personal interactions with customers and thus have a significant influence on the success of customer relationships. This is especially true when employees succeed in transferring their own positive emotions to customers. The mechanism of this transfer of emotions, the so-called emotional contagion, has been demonstrated repeatedly between frontline employees and customers. For some years now, companies in various industries, such as retail, gastronomy and hotels, have increasingly been using social robots in customer contact. These robots inform or serve (e.g. at check-in) customers and can thus take over selected tasks of a customer contact employee. Against this background, the proposed research project asks the question to what extent social robots are capable of emotional contagion in a realistic customer interaction. Furthermore, framework conditions will be identified which influence the strength of a possible emotional contagion.
Link to the DFG-GEPRIS report: https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/388097473
Frontline Employees’ as the Key to Innovation Success (2012-2015; DFG Research Grant)
Employees with customer contact, the so-called “boundary spanners” of the R&D, marketing and sales departments are seen as important sources of innovation due to their proximity to customers. However, companies sometimes reach their limits when they try to exploit the innovation potential of their employees, as employees from different functional areas pursue different interests in connection with innovations that are not sufficiently addressed by companies. The project identified possible starting points in companies to address the respective function-related innovation motives of employees and thereby promote their innovativeness and inter-functional cooperation.
Link to the DFG-GEPRIS report: https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/216862471
Manager Stress (2009-2013; DFG Research Grant)
In an interdisciplinary project, influencing factors, mediators, moderators, as well as psycho-social and economic effects of stress in management were investigated. The analysis of the effects of company- or environment-related conditions on the strength of the connection between managerial stress and stress reactions was based on an interdisciplinary approach of psychology and business administration.
Link to the DFG-GEPRIS report: https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/109855168
Teams at the Interface Between Supplier and Customer Companies: An Integrative Approach (2002-2004; DFG Research Grants)
The environment of many companies is nowadays characterized by high market dynamics and high competitive pressure. One reaction to these developments is a reorientation of many companies, away from “lone wolves” to cross-company cooperation. An increasingly important form of cooperation is the formation of interorganizational, i.e. cross-company, teams. Examples are cross-company product development teams or teams for the development of cross-company logistics concepts. While the phenomenon of intra-organizational teams has been extensively investigated in the scientific community, the phenomenon of inter-organizational teams has not yet received much attention. Against this background, the question arose whether the mechanisms of action with regard to team success in interorganizational teams are the same as in intraorganizational teams. This research project focused on two questions: 1) What are the special features of inter-organizational teams compared to intra-organizational teams with regard to the influencing factors of team success (design and behavior)? 2) When are interorganizational (compared to intraorganizational) teams particularly successful?
Link to the DFG-GEPRIS report: https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/5373246
SOLIN – SOcial LINk – (2014 – 2017)
Mobile communications is the fastest growing technology with more than 5 billion users worldwide. On the one hand, this enables a new type of collaboration, e.g., very fast coordination of management, but on the other hand it also dissolves the temporal and spatial boundaries between professional and private life. The project comprised the design and research of technical and legal foundations of smartphone applications for an optimized work-life balance using the example of a new communication paradigm (SOLIN). In particular, the following three basic questions were researched: algorithms (such as peer-to-peer) for activity detection, legal requirements and the impact on team collaboration and the work-life balance of employees.
WhiteBox (2021 – 2024)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a key technology of the 21st century. In some cases, AI programs exceed the performance of human behavior by far. This progress of AI is based to a large extent on so-called deep neural networks (DNN), which find complex patterns in large amounts of data that we humans cannot easily discover. Due to their complexity, the predictions and decisions of DNNs are often not comprehensible to humans: They are black box models. However, for many AI applications in business and society, comprehensible and reliable predictions and decisions are essential in order for us to trust them and know that they will work even under adverse conditions. In the future, humans and robots will work in close cooperation. For this human-centered AI, comprehensible models on both sides are the key to facilitate interactions. The planned project expands trust research in the field of human-robot interaction. The developed whitebox models will be tested for their human-centricity. The planned studies focus on the variables transparency and trust. In addition, important user-related and AI-related moderator variables will be evaluated, e.g. user experience with AI, anthropomorphism and the appearance of AI.
Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Work-Life-Balance of Female Managers (2009)
As a result of growing globalization, increasing competition and the restructuring of organizations, the role perception of employees is changing. In addition to higher expectations regarding the flexibility and mobility of employees, constantly higher qualifications and permanent learning processes are demanded. The increasing shareholder-value-orientation also increases the employees' fears regarding the security of their jobs. The compatibility of work and family life is a central topic for female managers and also an explanation for the under-representation of women in management positions. This research project should provide explanations for the individual professional success of women in management positions and the success of the company. Furthermore, important factors influencing the work-life balance were identified. Based on these findings, areas with a high need for action were subsequently selected.
Zentrum verantwortungsbewusste Digitalisierung
RoboTrust (2020-2023, pilot project of the Zentrum verantwortungsbewusste Digitalisierung together with Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Kassel)
For some years now, anthropomorphic service robots have been used and researched in various areas. In occupations, in which human service providers are sometimes heavily overloaded due to a shortage of skilled workers, robotic assistants will support workers in the future by providing various services, such as information, advice, or in-depth training for human users (customers or pupils). A particularity of these robots is that they express emotional-like signals and can therefore build a kind of emotional bond with human users. Due to these developments and their potential, it is needed that service robots, however, should be developed and the human-robot interaction with them should be designed in a responsible way. The project RoboTrust has the scientific guiding idea to develop an anthropomorphic robotic assistant that allow an authentic and acceptable human-robot interaction.
Link to the project homepage: https://sites.google.com/view/robotrustgroup/homepage
Federal Ministry of Education and Research
KompAKI (2020-2025; BMBF project)
KompAKI is an interdisciplinary project. In the competence center of occupational research with a focus on the design of future forms of work through artificial intelligence (AI), the development of work-related AI, its application in operational practice and the investigation of effects on human work are therefore closely linked. The human-centered design of AI applications is intended to create new approaches for human-centered work. The developed approaches can then be transferred in a variety of ways: into university education, into consulting for companies (especially SMEs) and for political tasks (e.g., supervisory authorities). The project aims to investigate the acceptance of employees, organizations and providers in dealing with AI-based applications and thus the subjective evaluation from the user's point of view. Findings on acceptance evaluation will be derived and different design options for improving the acceptance will be examined.
SANDRA (2017-2020; BMBF project, together with Fraunhofer IAO, University of Kassel, Goethe University Frankfurt, among others)
The widespread use of modern information and communication technology (ICT) is shaping and changing today's working environment fundamentally and sustainably. Modern ICT technologies increase accessibility and the ability to work independently of time and place in the sense of “being connected 24/7”. It can be observed that an increasing number of companies are looking for solutions in the sense of health-promoting and effective accessibility management for their employees. The aim of the project was to develop practicable solutions and tools for employees and companies that improve the balance between work and private life with regard to constant availability. For companies, this should ensure the long-term performance of employees by providing them with breaks without disruptions by e-mail and telephone. The solutions found relate on the one hand to how employees can better use ICT to improve their work-life balance. For this purpose, organizational approaches and training concepts are developed for companies on how they can support their employees in dealing with ICT.
Further information on the project can be found on the SANDRA website: https://sandra-projekt.de/
COROBI (Collaborative Robots for Business, since 2019, cooperation project with Merck KGaA)
The cooperation project with the Merck company is designed to experimentally investigate the use of anthropomorphic robots in the company. In the future, social robots will increasingly be encountered in the workplace. They will take on roles in human robot teams. COROBI examined the extent to which robots are conceivable as colleagues and what influence they have on the people with whom they work. For example, the extent to which people feel privacy concerns about robots was also of interest.
Forum interdisziplinäre Forschung
Handshake Turing Test – Android robot vs. human (2019-2021, FiF project together with Prof. Jan Peters)
In the context of human-robot interaction (HRI), handshaking is a natural interaction used in many social contexts. Handshaking is an important social cue for several reasons. First, it plays an important role in shaping first impressions. Second, it is seen as a symbol of greeting, farewell, agreement, or congratulations, the most common being greeting. Third, it is usually the first non-verbal interaction in social contexts and would help set the tone of any interaction, especially since touch can convey information about a person’s emotional state. Having human-like body movements plays an important role in the acceptance of HRI as well. Thus, having a good handshake will help in widening the expressive abilities of social robots as well as in providing strong first impressions for future interactions. Therefore, for better acceptance and improved expressiveness, effective human-like handshaking is an important skill to widen the acceptability of social robots. The handshake will be developed as a machine learning algorithm and learned from the android robot Elenoide.
leap in time Stiftung
Life Balance, Stress, and Boreout
The world of work is constantly changing due to increasing digitalization. The possibility of constant availability puts employees under pressure and can challenge their work-life balance. Therefore, projects are supported that examine the relative impact of work-family programs versus work-family culture on employee job satisfaction and performance in different cultural environments. In addition, connections between positive psychology and work-life balance are drawn.
In addition to a potential overload due to constant accessibility, increasing digitalization also involves the risk of underchallenge. Therefore, projects are supported that investigate the emergence and consequences of a boreout. Possible effects are, for example, a threat to the innovativeness of frontline employees.
Future of Work
Technological breakthroughs, new business models and the changing needs of our society will significantly change our working environment and thus the way we work in the future. For this reason, funding is provided for projects that deliver insights into the working world of tomorrow. One example is how the use of signals (impression management) by freelancers predicts earnings in online labor markets and how this affects innovativeness.
User innovation and innovation-oriented leadership
Market orientation and innovation have become important requirements for the strategic management of companies and the leadership of employees.
With regard to the management of employees is examined, the funded projects deal e.g. with antecedents and outcomes of executive’s dual innovation leadership and the integration of customers in interorganizational teams.
The view that only developers contribute to innovation is already outdated. Consumers can also contribute to the development of innovations. This research examines the influence of consumer personality traits on their innovations. In addition, market failures and alleviating factors in the initial introduction of consumer innovations are examined.
Customer Relationship Marketing and Service Robots, Acceptance of Social Robots
Social robots are becoming increasingly popular in many areas of our working world. Especially for the provision of services in various sectors, such as the hotel industry, banks, health care and education. Also for the support of knowledge workers social robots will be of increasing importance in the future. The funded studies deal with human-robot-interactions in the service sector. Exemplary questions deal with how humans deal with service failures of robots compared to service failures of humans. It is examined how the use of social robots affects customer satisfaction. Since social robots are able to show different emotions, it is also of interest to what extent these emotions can be transferred to customers and what consequences this has.
In addition to the use of robots in the service sector, the use of robots in human robot teams, working groups consisting of robots and humans, is becoming increasingly important. Here it must be examined to what extent the robots are accepted by employees and managers.
Key Potentials of Older Employees in the Service Sector (2008-2010)
In the past, research on the elderly has focused on their decreasing physical and cognitive abilities. In contrast, there has been exceptionally limited research on the development of work-related socio-emotional competences of the elderly. The project was concerned with this gap in research. The central question was: Compared to younger employees what potentials do older employees have in service interactions, regarding social and emotional work demands? It was proposed that older employees have better strategies to cope with conflicts and stress, are better in emotion regulation to meet emotional work demands such as being friendly to customers and have more positive attitudes towards work, the organization and the customers. These attitudes support the management of the service interaction.