Say what you mean – and do what you say
“New Work” is one of the most frequently heard buzzwords in the course of work in times of digital change. “New Work” is actually not that new: At its core, it is about seeing the employee as a person with all their worries, needs and living conditions – and taking these into account when designing their working conditions so that they can feels comfortable, enjoys doing his job and accordingly performs excellently for the company. And that a motivated employee obviously performs better was already known 100 years ago!
André Roitzsch, CEO of Shopmacher
Rather, what is new is that in the current rapidly changing world of work, the importance of motivated employees is increasing. Because a purely repetitive activity, such as working on an assembly line in the past, can perhaps still be accomplished with moderate motivation, or with a motivation that is generated extrinsically by pressure and concern about the job necessary to make a living.
But these repetitive activities are falling away more and more, and the need for creative employees is growing. (see R. Ziegenbein: Creativity is the key competence of the future) And it is precisely these employees who perform best when they are intrinsically motivated, when they associate their actions with meaning, when they are valued, when they feel good about their work. What is new about the New Work approach is not the approach itself, but that without this perspective, today and in the future, it will be difficult to attract highly qualified specialists, let alone retain them – and in no case will it be possible to motivate them to perform at their best. And that’s why the concept, which was developed by the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann in the 1970s under the term “New Work”, will become increasingly important in the future.
However, the whole thing misses the mark if it is reduced to a few buzzwords that are simply en vogue at the moment – without changing the underlying attitude in the management of a company and the view of the employees and their needs.
For example, if I enable a software developer to work from home because it’s popular, then that alone isn’t New Work. And then when I trust him so little that I measure his productivity at home by counting the lines of code he writes and comparing it to what he creates at the office, that’s pretty much the opposite of what is meant by New Work. It probably doesn’t increase his motivation either.
There are other examples that can be found in supposedly up-to-date job advertisements or in statements by HR managers. At first they sound like New Work, but they remain hollow phrases: Transparency, co-determination, working in a self-organized team are important “artefacts” of the New Work concept – but as terms they are very flexible: What does “transparency” actually mean?
I might still be able to attract motivated employees with these catchphrases – but I certainly won’t be able to keep them for long without the substance behind them – and they won’t be particularly motivated either if the “sales promises” of my employer brand turn out to be lip service. Anyone who develops software in “sprints” is far from being “agile” with that alone.
Authenticity is therefore much more important for an employer brand than New Work Bullshit Bingo. As an employer, I really have to say what I mean – and then do what I say. Then I get the employees who see it the same way I do – and they stay because I played with my cards open. Hence my recommendation: Every employer should check their job advertisements to see whether what is written there is correct or whether they find empty phrases and commonplaces such as “teamwork”, “communicative” or “shaping the future”.
Finally, a few examples of New Work content that we have found to motivate our employees – but only because we really think it’s the right thing and do it that way:
Our motto: A little bit agile is like a little bit pregnant. We are agile through and through. From the tools to the processes to the mindset of the teams. And yet we are never satisfied with it and always want to get better at it. The most important mission of our Scrum Masters.
Workation - working in the sun
We want to know where we are good and where we can become even better as an employer. That is why we conduct a qualitative employee survey once a year. Among other things, we determine general satisfaction and the quality of leadership. Approval is increasing steadily. In 2020 we were at 84% agreement, or an average rating of 4/5.
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