We are Mannaz Youth Advisory Board. As young academics and professionals we reflect and comment on various themes such as the future of work, contemporary challenges of leadership and new organisational structures. Based on our own experiences, anticipations and perspectives, this first article reflects our thoughts and comments on the future of work, as our generation moves into contemporary organisational life.
Technological, economical and political changes continue to alter how work is organised and carried out. These changes leave an immense potential for rethinking and experimenting with new ways of organising around work. Additionally, a new generation of employees are eagerly entering the professional work sphere urging to revise business as usual. In the following, we explore four trending concepts and attitudes which we believe, will (or must) characterise the future of work - and the leaders of today - to meet the changing environment and the expectations of the next generation employees.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Taylorism and the fundamental ideas of scientific management have inspired organisations and organisational structures. With minor changes and few exceptions, organisational principles such as ‘standardisation’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘best practice’ continue to dominate the logics of organisational development and management. However, standing on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution which fundamentality impacts the very human condition (and, inevitably, will continue to do so), alternative business models and new organisational forms are required. Moreover, the coming working generation, which we represent, have ambitions and anticipations currently not accommodated by the organisation, as we know it.
Therefore, highlighting four trending concepts currently in liminality, we investigate the dynamic between 1) profit and impact, 2) working and learning, 3) passive and active organising, and 4) respect and provocation. All based on our own experiences and expectations.
Trend 1: Creating impact, not (merely) profit
In our view, profit and revenue as the primary success criteria are insufficient. They are means to an end and do not reveal the greater goal of the organisation. We wish to create real positive impact through the work we do, within and beyond organisations. Arguably, concepts such as purpose, impact and meaningfulness are buzzwords of our time and it is easy to undermine their relevance and significance exactly because of this omnipresent focus. We are not saying that all organisations must subjugate to the purpose of saving the world, rather, what we wish to inspire is a greater focus on evaluation and feedback on the work we do - also from society, clients or customers. We want to know whether and how we make an impact.
Furthermore, this wish (to directly recognise our impact) is also prevalent on an organisational level; we anticipate being able to act on our knowledge and experiences, and to see that our thoughts and actions matter. Hence, being a mere number in a recruiting process, one in many to our nearest manager or an invisible actor within an organisation of policies and “we use to” attitudes is a clear hindrance to our motivation - and, therefore, performance.
Hence, as a manager within an organisation we urge you to spend time and resources beyond the delivery of a project or product; invite your colleagues to collaboratively evaluate on both the process, the result and the long-term impact of the work carried out and ensure that the feedback from employees, clients and society enable us to improve or enhance the quality of our deliveries.
Example: prior to most projects the project manager facilitates a kick-off meeting aligning expectations, assigning roles and outlining the (expected) project plan - imagine if we also facilitated round-off meetings focussing on feedback, evaluation and learnings. Or if the yearly financial statement were in fact a yearly impact statement (not distinct from the financial statement as is often seen with regular CSR reports).
"Create systems and institutions where procedures are facilitating, rather than hindering, these multi-stakeholder engagements."
Trend 2: Lifelong and lifewide learning
Being curious (whether of nature or culture) and having access to knowledge, research and real life cases from anywhere, at any time, and in any form we seek to learn and continue to educate ourselves both academically and professionally - within and beyond the classroom.
Moreover, in order to solve the complex challenges of both organisations and society we need to be able to attain new knowledge, experiment with various solutions and create new practices. We need to be able to understand the skills and competencies of disciplines different from our own. Therefore, the ease to collaborate and co-develop solutions across disciplines, sectors and organisations are crucial. Create systems and institutions where procedures are facilitating, rather than hindering, these multi-stakeholder engagements.
Example: ERFA groups (or similar clusters, where professionals and specialists gather around fields of interest or particular business or societal challenges) enable practitioners to share knowledge, experiences and successes across organisations and industries. Hopefully, some of these meetings will result in cross-organisational and -sectorial collaborations to the benefit of each organisation and society as such.
"We, Mannaz’ Youth Advisory Board, see the need for leaders acting boundary-spanners between old and young employees with different ontological understandings of and abilities for the organisation."
Trend 3: Active organising
Being students, teaching assistants, entrepreneurs and assisting employees in various tasks within organisations we are used to assume diverse (even seemingly contradicting) roles and tasks within different groups and teams working towards distinct goals and purposes. We work and collaborate beyond a certain role within any one organisation in order to fulfil our potential. Hence enabling us to move frictionless within the organisation working on diverse projects with different colleagues and other relevant actors will ensure our continuous flourishing to the benefit of the organisation and our development.
Example: The increasing amount of graduate programmes enabling newly graduates to move between countries and departments throughout the first two years of employment. Imagine if this fluidity were characterising the normal employment rather than the exceptional.
Trend 4: Room for confronting and challenging
We need to be able to confront and challenge the established because a. there’s a serious value in allowing us to do so and b. we feel like we are getting tongue-tied otherwise – here’s why.
What can be seen as a lack of respect for traditions, experience and the established by older generations is simply a driver and an intuitive perspective for young people entering the working life and established organisations. Back in the day, the discipline and respect of the elderly enabled the established to remain established and powerful – despite its appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency.
Today, however, there can be a huge value for long-lived organisations with institutionalised structure and behaviour to allow sharp and well-intentioned outsider to question and comment on the meaning they experience in what they are introduced and exposed to. Let us know how we address and question the established in a respectful way without hurting anyone’s pride, and then let older generations respect or at least appreciate our nosiness, curiosity, enthusiasm – and potential value for contributing to the organisation and its goals. We, Mannaz’ Youth Advisory Board, see the need for leaders acting boundary-spanners between old and young employees with different ontological understandings of and abilities for the organisation.
Example: Mannaz Youth Advisory Board enabling fruitful dialogue between experienced professionals and students - how is this forum for discussion integrated in the daily operation and business?