The Generation Z works to live. Not the other way around. The digital natives have correspondingly high expectations of their employers. 5 fields of action that you should work on as a boss or manager.

For members of Generation Z, living without Instagram, Whatsapp, or YouTube is possible but meaningless. After all, those born after 1998 have been at home on the (mobile) Internet since childhood. However, anyone who associates Generation Z with a high affinity for technology is falling short. Because the workforce of the future is characterized by one thing above all: They show attitude and have values. Whether Fridays for future, BlackLivesMatter, or the consistent renunciation of meat: Members of Generation Z know what they want and are committed to it.

This is even more true in the job: For many job starters, making a career is secondary for the first time, but it is much more important to do something meaningful. This is why the young generation of skilled workers cannot be inspired to take up a job by flexible working hours and remuneration models alone. Instead, they attach great importance to “soft” aspects such as the right to a say, open communication at eye level, and working in an equal team. This requires one thing above all: a modern corporate culture without rigid hierarchies and short decision-making paths.

Five success factors for companies that want to inspire members of Generation Z

1. Innovative remuneration systems

Money alone does not make you happy. A truism that nevertheless only a few companies take to heart. Of course, skilled workers of Generation Z also want to be properly paid for their work. However, researchers at the University of Basel have shown that classic wage increases do not permanently improve employee motivation. On the other hand, free company parking, company bicycles, fuel vouchers, or other flexible remuneration instruments contribute much more to making young employees feel comfortable at their workplace.

2. Flexible working hours

Time clock, time card, and working hours set in stone are a no-go for Generation Z. The compatibility of family and career is an important issue for the next generation of professionals. They want to decide for themselves when they work. And not only when they have small children. But in general. Some people are more productive early in the morning, while others tend to get into top form in the late afternoon or evening. So companies that don’t restrict their employees benefit twice over: employee loyalty increases. Productivity, as well.

3. Work opportunities independent of location

In addition to working hours, the place of work also plays a major role for Generation Z. At the latest, since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the home office has become a matter of course for employees and companies. This is good news for the next generation of skilled workers. The crisis has made working from home acceptable – now companies should take the opportunity to offer their young employees even more flexible working conditions.

4. Cooperative management models suiting Generation Z

It used to be clear: What the boss says is valid. But in Generation Z, authoritarian bosses bite the dust. The future workers no longer want to be restricted from above but demand maximum freedom of action and decision-making. They do not want to continue to be the recipients of orders after school, training, or studies. True to the formula “Shared responsibility leads to double success,” companies should rely on cooperative management concepts.

5. A good working atmosphere

One of the most important aspects of scoring with Generation Z workers is a good working atmosphere. This starts with a good management style and does not end with the collegial interaction between employees. The design of the premises and workplaces as well as team events outside work also contribute significantly to a good working atmosphere. Those who keep in touch with their employees after work blur the line between work and leisure time. This goes down very well with Generation Z.

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Poor management, a lack of conflict, error, and criticism culture can cost a company dearly. Due to the shortage of skilled workers, demographic developments and digitalization, the demand for services related to mental health at the workplace are increasing more and more. ABO psychologists (Industrial and Organizational Psychology), for example, are a valuable support for organizations. But exactly this is their job and what are their strengths?

For a long time, the mental health of employees has received little attention. With the increasing density of work, ever higher demands and increasing burdens due to digital availability, mental health has also been the focus of attention for a few years now. By 2018, German health insurers had reported an ever-increasing number of cases of mental illness. They are now the most common cause of early retirement and occupational disability in Germany and, with 15.2 percent, are still the third most common cause of absenteeism. Poor leadership, a lack of conflict, error and criticism culture are sooner or later a business-critical issue that can endanger the continued existence of the organization. Above all, people can be overloaded to the point of burnout if they are only supposed to function on the factual level during change processes and are not heard. Fears, emotions and internal and external conflicts are still far too rarely discussed.

Looking behind the façade and promoting healthy cooperation

Unlike psychotherapists, ABO psychologists are not clinicians but analyze an organization and its actors at all hierarchical levels from a socio-psychological perspective. The job of an ABO psychologist is to look behind the façade of a company and analyze social relationships and interactions. How do individual people feel when, for example, they constantly experience themselves in change situations as a result of digitalization? To what extent do the demands and reality of a company’s social dealings soften and how does this affect the perception and behavior of employees? How does a manager lead and communicate? Are emotional needs addressed in communication in addition to factual issues, especially in change situations? And how does a company deal with conflicts, mistakes, and fears? Does a manager then also address the relationship levels between conflict parties and works up disturbed relationships in such a way that it can then continue on a healthy working level? ABO psychologists need a pronounced communicative and social competence. They must ask the right questions and above all be able to listen. They must moderate conversations and be emphatic and sympathetic to people of all hierarchies. Above all, they must impart knowledge and methods on how healthy cooperation in companies, departments or teams should and can be successful.

High qualification requirements for ABO psychologists

Ambitious providers recruit only graduates of a diploma or master’s degree course in psychology. In Germany, the subject has a numerus clause of 1.0. Other courses of study in psychology often do not fulfill the specialist and methodological knowledge that is ideally available. One recognizes quality providers by the fact that they submit enterprises no run-of-the-mill-offers, instead these can clarify beforehand, where the pain points are, what the enterprise needs and expects as purposeful solutions. Even though there are only a few legal requirements for ABO psychologists, large providers also attach great importance to the qualification of their colleagues along with the methodological and technical developments in corporate psychology research and practice.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

In 2013, the German legislator also recognized that mental health is a high value in a modern, synchronized and digitalized working world with increasingly older employees. It, therefore, included a guideline in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that all employers, regardless of the size of their company, must regularly carry out a risk analysis of psychological stress at the workplace. However, the guidelines for the implementation of the “Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy” do not stipulate that such risk analysis must be prepared by psychologists. For example, at AMD TÜV it has been agreed that the ABO psychologists will be in charge of the process, will advise on the methodology and will play a key role in supporting communication. Occupational physicians and safety specialists must also be involved. The cooperation in prevention teams with occupational medicine, occupational health and safety, occupational health promotion and occupational integration management is necessary in order to deal with the complex issues relating to occupational health and safety in companies.

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In the context of digital transformation, how can and how should managers and executives ensure with qualified leadership that teams and individual employees remain healthy, qualified and motivated – despite the stress brought on them by change and dynamic working conditions? For example, first of all be self-critical: After all, if things don’t run smoothly in the company, productivity and innovation rates fall short of expectations and the company falls steadily behind in the market, this can be caused by the coexistence of traditional and modern management models. Some executives like to cling to outdated models of staff management – and at the same time hope to somehow manage to survive the change. Dr. Sven Grote, who also talked about the TÜV Rheinland dialog “Human and health”, addresses the most important management myths.

“In management research, there is nothing that does not exist,” summarized the organizational psychologist Prof. Nerdinger back in 1994. Since then, the world of leadership models and approaches has been no less diverse. The management development alone is bringing forth numerous blossoms, from being a leader of horses and wolves to personality coaching, outdoor seminars with and without raft building and a variety of esoteric offers, just to name a few. The same applies to requirements imposed on managers. Here it is necessary to examine exactly what really makes sense, what requires further scrutiny (also in the sense of evidence-based management) and what is perhaps proven to be a myth.

Myth 1: Skills are a trendy subject.

Skills of managers and employees cannot be considered a temporary trend or fashion topic. Rather, it can be seen as the timeless core of entrepreneurial change and as a guarantor of success in industry 4.0. Leadership skills exceed knowledge and formal qualification and also focus on the practical application of knowledge. It proves itself especially in new, unknown situations. Leadership skills were already considered relevant in times of “relative stability”. This makes the importance of leadership skills even more important in “disruptive”, i.e. exponentially unstable times. The systematic definition and development of relevant skills remains an important management task.

Myth 2: Professional skills are not important.

This is a myth that has been around for many years, often from consultants or trainers. Accordingly, professional skills are not that important for managers. Much more important success factors are social skills and emotional intelligence. However, this statement is not accurate. No evidence can be found for this either in research or in practice. The following are rarely found in day-to-day business Executives who are successful in the long term without distinctive professional skills simply because they would not be accepted by employees. Limited professional skills cannot easily be compensated for by social skills such as empathy or intuition.

Myth 3: Social skills are the key to success.

Previous studies (with Prof. Kauffeld and Prof. Frieling) with real teams from companies according to the Kassel skills grid (today Act4-teams) have investigated the role of skills. The Kassel Skills Grid, KKR for short, is a method developed in 2000 at the Institute of Ergonomics at the University of Kassel for the “External assessment of problem-solving skills of workgroups”. A group of five to seven employees worked on a current and relevant problem from the operational process during 60 to 90 minutes. The process of dealing with the problem was written down and evaluated on the basis of the KKR. This study showed in particular the importance of professional, methodological and personal skills; social skills made less or hardly any distinction between effective and less effective problem-solving groups. 

Myth 4: Managers must be extroverted.

The available empirical data does not confirm this. There are numerous counter examples of highly successful and at the same time less extroverted executives and company founders. Executives achieve acceptance among employees and organizational effectiveness in very different ways, for example through perseverance, patience, loyalty to the company and its employees, openness and trust. Extroverted people may find it easier to reach leadership positions, but this does not necessarily make them more successful than others.

Myth 5: Industry 4.0 and digital change is a new phase in the life of German companies.

Many companies have been dealing with digital transformation, end-to-end processes and the development of new business models for years. Digital transformation has long been the focus of attention for future-oriented companies, even though it is currently experiencing new impulses and gaining momentum.

Myth 6: If you want to understand what digital transformation means, you have to go to Silicon Valley.

Because this is where the thought leaders, the trendsetters, the visionaries of the new work can be found. But essential aspects of corporate culture are “invisible”. Also many things cannot be transferred on a one-to-one basis. Although many of Silicon Valley’s management strategies provide new insights, they also involve well-known and familiar aspects. Certain concepts, such as agile leadership, risk degenerating into buzzwords.

Myth 7: Digitization is above all a question of technology.

There is a risk that digitization and industry 4.0 will be narrowed down to technological aspects. It is often not enough to offer an app. Solutions that are too simple then turn into “digital soap bubbles” that burst in practice. Sustainable digitization processes usually also involve aspects of cooperation, leadership, corporate culture and even values. Avoiding these issues may seem like an attractive shortcut, but it usually turns out to be a dead end. For successful digitization, companies need leadership skills. The aim is to reflect, communicate and systematically develop one’s own skills. Trying out, failing and learning are just as essential as the right communication. It is important to give employees freedom to communicate with each other, to know what they want and to let them know that their ideas are appreciated. Organizations that rely on skills can react more easily to major transitions, to change, to an unclear future such as what digital transformation brings. Try out, fail, discard, recognize your skills and gain new ones. None of this is a magic formula. But they may be tips that one should pay more attention to as a manager for the sake of successful leadership in times of disruption and digital transformation.

About Dr. Sven Grote: Owner of the consulting firm Fokus-K, with work and research focus on competence measurement, modeling, development, management. Other focal points are personnel and organizational development, leadership, training and transfer, group work, team diagnosis, development, management, company change processes, process support, large group events. Teaching activities at universities, i.a. Leuphana in Lüneburg, the DISC at the University of Kaiserslautern, Business and Information Technology School, Berlin, UNIKIMS, Kassel. https://www.fokus-k.de

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Today, VUCA shapes the modern working world: it is subject to volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, that is what we today call digital transformation and the associated disruption. In times of VUCA, what does that mean for the health of workers and the competitiveness of the company?  This central question goes to Prof. Dr. med. Joachim E. Fischer in an interview with tr-academy.com. The Director of the Mannheim Institute for Public Health at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg sees in the “FreuSinn” – joy at work – a central factor for a healthy and motivating Leadership 4.0. In his opinion, the thesis that prevention is better than cure – is more relevant than ever.

In your opinion, how can one reconcile protecting employee health and the competitiveness of a company?

Traditionally, the culture of prevention has been meant: We protected employee health with technical measures designed to reduce exposure to risk. We have achieved an exemplary high standard in this regard. Today, digitalization has taken over the workplace and has increased the amount of knowledge work employees do. The demand for flexible, individualized solutions is increasing, especially in industrial settings. This is changing the kinds of health protection we need to provide. Averting physical risks is taking a back seat and it’s becoming more important to strengthen employees’ ability to cope with challenges. Adding to the complexity is an increasing unpredictability and uncertainty, often even contradictions, which are not exactly diminished by current political upheavals, whether it’s Brexit or American tariffs.

But people need sufficient security in order to tap their potential. The culture of prevention in the sense of using conventional health campaigns such as veggie day in the staff cafeteria, health awareness days, or healthy back training is far too short-sighted. By taking the opportunity to find out what will help employees develop their potential and thus increase the company’s competitiveness is often good for their overall mental health. The aim here is to find the best possible intersections: this is at the heart of the new “culture of prevention.”

You see having a sense of joy (“FreuSinn”) as a central factor of the culture of prevention in the sense of a healthy and motivating Leadership 4.0. What exactly do you mean by this?

Originally, it was out of pure scientific curiosity that we asked more than 20,000 people whether they look forward to going to work in the morning when they wake up and whether their work helps them see their lives as meaningful. We were quite surprised when those employees who could fully agree with both statements were healthier, even down to biological markers, and described themselves as more effective. We decided to name this phenomenon “FreuSinn.” Obviously it is joy, not fun, and experiencing the job as meaningful is vital to these people. It is close to what others have described as “flow.” And we know from neurobiological research that the frontal lobe of the brain is particularly active when these conditions are active. It is in the frontal lobe where we think, decide, invent, judge, plan. In other words, exactly those things today’s knowledge-based economy and society need.

If a company’s ability to create value increasingly depends on employees’ using the frontal lobes of their brains and not shutting that aspect of their humanity down when they cross the entrance gates, then it is up to managers at all levels of the hierarchy to create the conditions for more joy and meaningfulness at work. This does not necessarily make the management task any easier, because there are no simple formulas to follow. Sometimes it might involve simplifying disruptive processes. It might be allowing certain people to work from home or it might involve firing people that are disrupting the team with their poisonous attitudes. An important task in this regard is to cushion the ubiquitous uncertainty credibly, whether it is uncertainty caused by fixed-term contracts (like we have in research) or the uncertainty caused by turbulent markets. And because many people react more irritably under stress and with increasing exhaustion, taking care of the workplace atmosphere day in, day out becomes all the more important.

We recently evaluated data from a representative study conducted by the German Labor Ministry, which included both an internationally used scale for mental well-being and a scale for measuring enthusiasm, commitment, and passion for work. The results showed that 40% of employees are both committed and engaged in their work and also mentally healthy. So a job that keeps you healthy has long been a real possibility. Empirical data from several studies even agree that people who voluntarily work longer and feel useful have longer lives. Managers must therefore ask themselves how they can increase the sense of joy and meaningfulness at work both today and in the future tomorrow from their own strength without extensive training. Whether it’s city cleaning, nursing care for the elderly, working the assembly line, or in an architecture firm. We know companies in every industry that can do this. They have low absenteeism rates, and they generate great added value with their work. Almost nothing has a more lasting effect than genuine sincere recognition for good performance. And not in the form of a bonus payment at the end of the year, but with a grateful handshake immediately.

We have collected our own data to compare the effects of convention health campaigns with that of creating a sense of joy and meaningfulness at work. While 10% healthier behaviors only contribute 1% to employee health and just over half a percent to productivity, 10% more joy and a sense of meaning bring about 5% more productivity. It’s no wonder why SAP’s Business Health Culture Index, where half the questions measure the quality of leadership and support, has become a significant internal key performance indicator for SAP. PWC calculated on SAP’s behalf that a 1% improvement in the Business Health Culture Index translates into €65-75 million more profit. This is no secret; it has been published online in SAP’s annual report. Anyone who thinks conventional health campaigns will be enough will, in the long run, not be able to exploit the full potential of holistic health management.

What opportunities do you see in bargaining agreements that can’t be solved by the healthcare system?

The healthcare system is excellent when it comes to treating acute illnesses with clear medical causes and treatment options. However, the healthcare system is not at all equipped to maintain employees’ ability to work and create value. If, for example, employees are so mentally restricted that, although they still function day-to-day and aren’t in need to psychiatric hospitalization, they will no longer be able to work in a way that creates value. We have to define a new culture of prevention. Our healthcare system only offers waiting times and no solutions. So there is a gap between conventional, technical health protection measures and the healthcare system which is yearning for healthcare that includes psycho social aspects. This applies to a wide range of potential offerings aimed at the individual, such as family assistance in problem situations such as caring for relatives, early intervention in cases of pain or psychological complaints, and meaningful attempts at making working hours or locations more flexible.

But this affects especially how we design work, that is, the conditions under which people work. Whereas the focus was once on emissions, noise, dangers, and lighting, it’s the psycho social impact and mental noise that we now need to get under control. What gets forgotten in all these risk assessments is that the mind also benefits from resources that will help it to overcome challenges. So it’s not just a question of reducing burdens and averting dangers. Unlike the technical prevention of risks, the most important thing for the mind is that which strengthens it. You can’t avert the cancer risk from asbestos through your mood. But you can solve a big task together as a team and what remain are the sense of achievement and the certainty and confidence of being able to solve the next problem together again, too.

When I was a child, Esso gas stations used to advertise with the “tiger in the tank.” The “tiger in the tank” for value creation is increasing the experience of joy and meaningfulness at work. The cover story of the current issue of Harvard Business Review is: “When work has meaning: how to turn purpose into performance.”

Professor Fischer, thank you for speaking with us.

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In a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), everything is volatile, uncertain, complex and full of ambivalence. Many managers allegedly lack time to communicate adequately with their employees. But internal communication is becoming increasingly critical to success, especially in large companies with locations worldwide. How can everyone pull together if most people don’t know to what end and for what purpose? Here are a few tips on how to improve internal communication in your organization.

Tip 1: Use sales tools for employees for intensifying internal communication

Webinars are not only excellent tools for sales to tomorrow’s customers. They are also ideal for regular Q&A with the employees. In contrast to static internal newsletters, regular internal questions & answers are interactive and perfect to ensure that everyone has the same level of knowledge and to detect possible misunderstandings or undesirable developments at an early stage and to counteract them. Make sure that the webinars are part of your internal communication and advertised in time via internal channels such as the employee newsletter, Yammer or Slack. Make it clear in advance how employees can participate in this webinar. Consider in advance what questions might come and ask your team to prepare the answers. Be prepared for unpleasant or unexpected aspects to be addressed. Develop a sovereign strategy for this.

Tip 2: Managing resources intelligently

Don’t work harder, work smarter. Management software and platforms can help you manage resources and projects in real time and significantly improve internal communication. They can better delegate responsibilities, make sure your team stays on schedule and can support you when bottlenecks occur. They bridge the communication between management, employees, customers, and suppliers. Examples for this are platforms such as Bitrix24 or Monday (Dapulse) – with group and video chats, document management, cloud service, integrated calendar, email, CRM, HR tools and much more. Set achievable goals and divide them into manageable sections. Attach files and set due dates. Let the software automatically remind you and the team of overdue tasks – if they still exist at all. Automatically learn when milestones are reached and keep up to date with team success in real time.

Tip 3: Switch to real-time communication

SMS and e-mail are old school. How much faster could your employees communicate, make decisions, and even make decisions if they were allowed to use a direct messaging app – just as they do in their private lives? Yammer is a collaboration tool that enables teams to share messages, files, documents or updates quickly and without having to take detours. Slack with both private and public channels is now also at the top of the popularity scale of corporate apps. The app supports Direct Messaging, Drag & Drop for file sharing, document feedback, and comments, and centralizes all notifications. The app also has a search function that allows you to search the content for keywords. By the way – project management tools like Monday allow the integration of direct messengers such as Slack.

Tip 4: Dare to take an anonymous employee survey

Have the courage to use anonymous feedback software such as Custom Insights or Survey Monkey to learn what your employees feel you can do to improve your leadership performance and your internal communication too. Under certain circumstances, the results may be devastating initially. Think of it as an opportunity. Only if you know where the problem areas are you can work to change something for the better. Experience shows: You will be repaid for this courage with employee satisfaction and performance. Yet this can only be the case if you change something and don’t just put the results back in the drawer.

Tip 5: Communicate clearly and appreciatively

Internal communication involve respecting the time of others. This applies to meetings as well as to one-on-one conversations. Do not go on and on, but argue clearly and to the point. Let others have their say and catch them should they go beyond the scope and time budget of others in the meeting. And if a conversation needs a decision at the conclusion, then you decide. Stay respectful and appreciative in your language. Empathy today is often regarded as part of social competence as if it were not innate to us. “I can imagine that this makes you proud” or “This certainly upset you” are good examples of how an executive shows empathy. Clear language, clear head.

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How the “Inspire and Empower People” challenge succeeds

Be honest: Why do you get up every morning and go to work? If you have an answer to this, then you can confidently regard yourself as “inspired”, as personnel managers and managers have recently been calling it. Researchers have found that companies that consistently pursue their thoughts and actions according to a mission statement with a clear value orientation and are able to communicate the concept to their employees in a comprehensible manner are demonstrably more successful in the market than others and generate greater social and economic added value. This value-oriented approach, which encompasses ecology, economy, and humanity, is referred to as “purpose-led”. As a guiding principle, “purpose” requires an ethical assessment of all consequences of one’s own actions within and outside the company.

What does this mean for individuals who are increasingly asking about the meaning of their work, and who will be in the foreground much more than before in the future and who represent the most important long-term investment from a company perspective? What are the effects of digitization on their present and future workplace? How should the future of work be shaped when companies have to react quickly and need agile employees? The answer: More responsibility for employees and more freedom – towards self-organization, also referred to as “empowering”. In the future, if self-organization is to be understood as an entrepreneurial design principle and people are increasingly acting in a self-organized manner and also across divisions to promote creativity, dynamism, and innovation, then people in such organizations must also be empowered to do so. Thus, empowering also means: lifelong learning, e. g. through targeted competence management in the company.

Reduce fears of job loss – through empowering

A good example of the necessity of “inspiration” and “empowering” is the field of production. What demands does digitization place on the professional development of production employees? Does dynamic technological progress turn employees into a small gear and are robots competing with their colleagues or do they still have to do what artificial intelligence cannot? A balanced and adapted personnel development is important. In production, further training does not mean mastering Word and Excel as it does for colleagues at their desks. Rather, the aim is to convey the opportunities of digitization in production and to increase the competence in the safe application of new technologies. Above all, managers in production, i.e. foremen and group leaders, play a special role here, e.g. by reducing fears of job loss through inspiration and empowerment.

Pure technical and methodological knowledge is no longer sufficient

For organizations, it is essential to recognize competence needs in good time and to promote lifelong learning with good competence management as well as dedication, curiosity, enthusiasm or willingness to change. In my opinion, this is more important than ever for companies in the context of digital transformation.

Today, pure technical and methodological knowledge is no longer sufficient to deal with these challenges. Competences take the place of technical and methodological knowledge. In addition to content-related skills, competence includes the ability to act in open situations in a self-organized, responsible and creative manner, to solve problems and to apply knowledge consistently. The purpose is an important framework and also influences the definition of competence requirements. Competencies must be able to develop and grow constantly, and above all they should be allowed to be used and applied.

Read more here: www.tuv.com/innovationstagung

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