This entry is actually the first entry of a series which will entail my reflections and thoughts about how work in the future might look like and what are the implications all those changes and the advent of AI and automatization. Especially the implications on us and our relationship with work.
The future of work is changing rapidly. But we as a society and are too big and too numerous to create instant change. That is also very true for companies. That is why we need to have a dialog about how we can create the transition.
Many, and especially, young people who join the work force want to have meaningful work. And many struggle to find it. I had a lot of talks with peers about how unsatisfied they are not only with their studies but also with the prospect of work itself. And this doesn’t really change when they start their careers. I mean, I am no exception. More and more leadership books write about the necessity to create meaning for employees. But what does create meaning? And how to create it for others? Especially when we don’t know how to create it for ourselves?
I think it was Karl Marx who wrote that we made a decision as a society. A decision to specialize and therefore be more productive and efficient in producing things. This has several advantages as it can for example increase wealth for a society. However, he also wrote that people are not specialist. People are curious and want to do several things. And I think that you can see that in the last couple of years in the rising numbers of freelancers.
So maybe that is one way to create meaning for people. To give them the chance to work on sometimes completely different things which satisfy and still their own curiosity. But what can a company do? Maybe one way could be to grant every employee a certain amount of time each week for their own personal development. Just today, a friend told me that his new contract includes 4 hours a week of learning and development that he can use as he likes. He works for a very nice company called Impact Hub Berlin. I like the idea. I also know that big companies such as Google or LinkedIn have or had similar offers.
What are the downsides? Well, the employee works fewer hours on his or her tasks. But, if you have demotivated employees, how productive are they anyway? On the upside you could motivate your employees. Maybe they share their new knowledge with their colleagues, creating a positive ripple effect. Maybe they become intrapreneurs. But what you will do is to give them time and the opportunity to find meaning. I think it is hard to tell others what can give them meaning, but you can create the space that facilitates this process.
The workforce of the future is looking for meaning in what they are doing. Think about what you as a leader, or as a company can do to help them with that goal. And yes, maybe employees will quit, because they want to do something else. But they will be the best marketing for your company. They will remember that you gave them the opportunity. And, I mean people leave. That way you have an influence how they speak about you once they are gone.
What do you think might help people to find meaning at work? Let me know in the comments below.
You can find the next article in this series here.
Have a wonderful day and take care!