HomeThe GenZ LabWhy we need to streamline businesses and treat adults as adults.

Why we need to streamline businesses and treat adults as adults.

  • Saturday, February 10, 2024
  • Edmée Citroën

"What are the key factors for addressing employees' quest for purpose? How can we approach the rapidly growing competencies of AI? A conversation with Alexandre Viros, President of The Adecco Group France and leader of the Dialogues association."

What is the difference between a job and work? 

"For me, 'a job' refers to the position you hold and your responsibilities. It's what corresponds, to caricature, to the job description. 'Work,' on the other hand, is what you do on a daily basis, over the course of a year, and the goals you achieve.

What we should focus on today is a career trajectory, how you experience your daily life, and the impact you have on the tasks assigned to you. You're not just there to carry out assigned tasks."

You don't have to have a job with direct impact to find meaning in your work

What makes a company meaningful?

Some companies inherently have a mission filled with purpose, like those dedicated to environmental protection or driven by a strong social mission, for instance. However, I believe it's essential to delve deeper. A meaningful company is an organization that instills a sense of purpose in its employees through their daily work.

You might work in a warehouse, serving as a storekeeper for a company that deals in what could be considered a basic commodity. Yet, in one scenario, due to the management style, employees might say, "I'm motivated, I believe in this, it makes sense, and I'm proud of the excellent work I do," while in the other, they might not.

The sense of meaning doesn't necessarily have to align with the company's mission. You don't have to have a job with a direct impact to find significance in your work.

Let go of the idea that you own your employees

What guidance can you offer employers to infuse more meaning into work?

Simplify things. Over the past half-century, companies have become increasingly bureaucratic, and there are valid reasons for this - the need to establish processes and reporting where they were lacking, especially in areas where things were too uncertain.

Today, it's crucial to grant more autonomy to teams, foster trust among all employees, and treat adults like adults. We must grasp that an employee is not a mere pawn we control but an individual on a personal growth journey. A young person entering the workforce will likely have around fifteen different employers in their career. We need to discard the idea that we own our employees. It's a contractual relationship, which is incredibly healthy as it allows us to define what's acceptable and what's not.

What's your take on the trend towards hyper-individualization among employees who seek diverse work arrangements? How can we maintain a sense of collective identity in this environment?

It's all about finding the right balance. We're currently in an age of individualization, and this desire for personal autonomy extends beyond the workplace; people want to set their own rules and carve out their unique identities. It's crucial for companies to be responsive to this evolving landscape.

However, it's equally important to remember that an organization can't function as a mere assembly of freelancers. It must maintain a cohesive culture and a shared sense of purpose. This transformation fundamentally reshapes the landscape of management. In the past, with a physical presence, this cohesion often developed organically. But today, especially with the prevalence of remote work, managers face new challenges and pressures.

How are things different now for managers? 

In the realm of physical workplaces, managers draw energy from their teams, whereas with remote work, managers must actively provide energy to their teams, ensuring, for instance, that meetings go beyond being mere project updates, and so on.

Mastering the Art of Learning and Unlearning

You mentioned that skills have changed: it used to be about stock, and now it's about flow. Could you explain further?

During the 1980s, for a given job, it was believed that your skills would last for roughly 40 years, even if you were a forklift operator in a warehouse.

In a world marked by technology and environmental changes, skills are in a constant state of flux.

You'll have to learn how to operate a machine, then remotely control it, operate it using an iPad, perhaps even write some lines of code, and if chatbots like GPT can adapt, you'll need to be capable of interfacing with artificial intelligence.

Whereas in the past, you would respond to a job posting and check off a set of requirements, today it's not so much about that. Skills used to be a stock; now they're in a state of flow.

It's essential to learn how to learn, how to unlearn, and continuously question yourself. Creating a learning culture is the responsibility of the company

What defines a learning organization?

It's a company that places learning at the core of its functions - not just on the periphery. It's an organization that conducts regular skills assessments, provides training tools for its employees, and acknowledges that training is an investment rather than a cost. This distinction is crucial. When you spend on technology, it's seen as an investment, and it's reflected that way in your financial statements. But training, when viewed as a cost, can create the impression that it diminishes profitability. This financial differentiation significantly influences the overall philosophy of training. That's what we need to strive to change.