Young generations of employees tick differently, even if they basically want exactly the same as experienced employees. Part 2 of our interview with Ali Mahlodji.
Which needs do younger employees in particular have with regard to organisational structure and human resources management?
Basically, young employees want exactly the same as older ones: they want to be seen. Only the definition of “Am I seen or not?” has changed. In the past, it might have meant having a cool company car or an appealing business card. Today, young people are mainly concerned with appreciation, visibility and further education. They are interested in the question of meaning and whether they are being heard. They demand regular feedback from their managers and want to know where they currently stand. And what young people now want more than ever is not to work like their parents who became sick through work. Young people don’t want to be part of the burnout generation, the “writing emails at 11pm at night” generation, to whom the boss says “Great job!”. They want to keep their professional and private lives in balance and are therefore looking for flexible structures that give them the opportunity to live different working models than the ones they have been used to. An additional week of holiday per year, the 4‑day week, less pay, but more training: That is important to young people. And to contribute to improving the world a little bit. A Nielsen study of 2018 already shows that they want to work for companies that offer them exactly that and support them in realising their potential.
What skills do managers need to empower their employees so that they can realise their potential?
One year ago I wrote a book for the Zukunftsinstitut called “Next Level Work”. It’s about three levels that managers can address in today’s world in order to regain their ability to act. The first ability is to make decisions. That means understanding when the time is right to break away from the old and engage in the new game. The second level is that leaders need to understand what true we-culture means. Specifically, not a culture that imposes values, but an environment that creates spaces and formats where employees with different perspectives can meet and share ideas. That’s why Christmas parties are so important. That people dance together, celebrate together, but also cry together. And that brings us to item number three, namely the ability to allow emotions and to deal with them professionally. This is about the skill of professional empathy. Leaders need the ability to adopt a change of perspective and, with professional curiosity, to have a genuine interest in understanding what really drives their employees. In other words, not to ask “How are you doing?” but to ask “How are you really doing?” and then actually bearing the answer. Because only when my counterpart, i.e. the employee, has the feeling that I, as a leader, am genuinely interested in them and want to learn from them, can I build a really deep relationship.
What does a perfect team mix look like for you?
It needs a good mix of seniors and juniors. Young people want to learn. Seniors with their knowledge and experience can be a good buddy, a mentor. Experienced people within the teams are needed to accompany the young people, show them what is possible and support them to grow personally. Rather than pointing the finger, it’s more about patience and composure. For me, teams are positioned for the future if they are happy to share their knowledge and learn from each other. Who have a common goal that everyone wants to work for. And where the question is “Are we managing to allow new ideas?” instead of going round in circles all the time. Successful teams stimulate each other. They have a healthy culture of debate and are able to form profound relationships with each other. Then everyone benefits.
Ali, thank you for the interview.
Read part 1 of the interview with Ali Mahlodji here.