Another industrial revolution, the fourth one in history, is taking place before our very eyes. The progress has already caused a great deal of confusion in the production departments of many companies, which is also reflected in the labour market. How should employers prepare for the changes? How to gain top employees not only through their wallets, but above all through their hearts and minds? How to motivate the youngest generation in the labour market, getting inspiration from... computer games? Paweł Miąsek, a psychologist and a trainer of social competences, answers these questions in a mini handbook for the employer 4.0.
Every industrial revolution involved significant technological progress—from the age of steam, through electricity and computerisation, to the age of Internetization. There has been an increase in the complexity of tools and machines in use, and of work itself at the same time. If an employee wanted to achieve professional success, had to devote more and more time to adapting to the increasingly professionalised role he or she was supposed to play in the company. This resulted in the strengthening of their position, and together with the growing costs of their education, they also became more valuable to the organisation. In this respect, in the age of Industry 4.0, we are moving towards the "expertization" of work.
Such a change in the role of an employee also entails changes in the structure of salaries, responsibilities and duties, as well as the working time management. Employers thereby face a serious challenge: how to hire top employees and, what is more important, how to keep those who are valuable to the company? The answer to this question is quite complex, but I will try to discuss its most important aspects.
"Flexibility" - why do experts prefer a consultative management style?
The first element worthy of attention is flexibility—both on the part of the employer and the employee. Why is it so important? The Work 4.0 is most often work on specific projects. For the employers, however, it involves several consequences, which are often problematic. They have to manage a group of experts who also carry out other tasks at the same time, and their interests are often divergent.
The common mistake related to such an employment structure is precisely the lack of flexibility. Employers rely on an authoritarian management style that is simply ineffective, and if it is effective, it is only with a very high level of involvement of the company's owner, which means controlling instead of management. Meanwhile, such a method worked better in the Industry 2.0, where full-time work with a clear employment structure based on a "lifetime" contract was a value itself. Today, however, employees-experts who know their value on the market increasingly pay attention not only to the salary itself, but also to working conditions, the social sphere, benefits or to a friendly atmosphere.
In Poland, these changes result from the fact that for the first time in over 100 years, the labour market is being entered by a generation that grew up in stable economic and social conditions. The "Z" generation, as this is the one in question, is not burdened with critical events like war, reconstruction of the country, struggle for freedom or economic chase for Western societies. The Protestant work ethic, widely described by Max Weber in the nineteenth century, according to which work is a value in itself and shows the actual qualities of a person, has been slowly becoming forgotten. The representatives of the Z generation treat work only as an element of "work-life balance", a means to achieve the goal of "happy life".
Hence the new challenge for companies' managers and owners whose management style must evolve from authoritarian to consultative one. Until recently, it seemed that the model of employee involvement in the company management was reserved for the largest companies, however, practice shows that it has more and more often been applied in smaller entities.
The role of a superior in such an organisation is based on the management of a group of experts whose expertise often exceeds the superior's own skills. Subordinates have a high degree of flexibility and a wide set of measures to carry out tasks, while the manager retains the responsibility for the final result. Such kind of independence governs the involvement of employees as it gives them a sense of direct agency which builds their motivation to work.
"Loyalty" - how to prevent the young generation from seeking employment abroad?
Loyalty is a word recently inflected by employers in all cases. Young adults who enter the labour market without burdens and complexes, for example owing to their age, want to experiment and look for best options for themselves. The Internet and the transnationalisation of carees open up endless possibilities for them. When considering employment offers, they are not limited to just one country, but view their own potential in a global context. The question should be: what are the costs of such actions? The source literature and own research conducted over the last 11 years clearly show that such costs are quite significant.
In 19th century, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, when analysing the socio-cultural impact on an individual, created the concept of cultural capital. It is a collection of ideas, cultural assets, human bonds and other resources that we acquire when participating in social life. When we decide to pursue our own career abroad, we lose the practical "social wealth" accumulated over the generations. After all, we cannot take with us the "grandmother's institution", friends from the university or a good orientation on the Polish real estate market. Many things abroad have to be learnt again or simply bought. It is a costly process not only in terms of financial outlays, but also in terms of time.
Such cost, considered in a lifelong perspective, often turns out to be very high, and the "career investment" requires further expenditure on foreign cultural capital in order to be cost-effective. It is not without a reason that we often hear emigrants say: "Our lives will not change for the better yet, but the next generations' lives surely will".
Building and strengthening Polish cultural capital is an indication for retaining young employees in Poland. That postulate is addressed not only to employers, as it also comprises the standard of living, legal and social transparency, access to health care services and their quality, ease of running a business, access to innovations and functional infrastructure. All these aspects prove the fact that going abroad for a young person is simply... unprofitable.
"Gamification" - how to motivate employees?
What motivates an employee and how to optimise such actions in order to work more effectively? —these questions are pondered by many company heads. We are constantly trying to predict the future trends affecting the involvement of employees. In order to do it properly, it is worth to go back to the analysis of the youngest generation of employees that in a few years' time will become the driving force of the economy. Its representatives live in symbiosis with new technologies. They look for answers to the puzzling questions and actually find them on the Internet right away; such circulation of information is what they expect. Most of their social life is led virtually, and this is also true for their business life (even the one that has nothing to do with the Internet). Their demand for incentives (TV, the Internet, games, music) is very high and this is the reality is which the Z generation can work effectively.
This completely different lifestyle means that the motivational system for such employees also requires significant changes. When analysing the motivation structure of the young generation, learning organisations began to study the computer games market and its impact on the degree of involvement. It turned out that the mechanics of games can also be used in building customer relations, loyalty programmes or, finally, in creating incentive systems. The process of gamification consists in defining the rules for attaining further skills, which are equivalent to reaching further levels in a game, competing with others, acquiring better resources and winning. This model is based on one of the most primal human needs: collecting and hunting. But nowadays it's more about collecting "coins" and hunting for "deals". People's behaviour is modified by regulating their involvement, which is based on predictability and availability of awards.
The Economy 4.0 is not a matter of our choice, but the approaching future. In a corporate reality it is much faster and simpler to introduce technological changes rather than changes in mentality. The companies that now will invest in employee training and start restructuring their companies in the direction of 4.0, in a few years will have an advantage not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of human resources.