Yes, You Can

“Only when every employee has the feeling of being part of something big the company can really hit its stride.” Futurologist Ali Mahlodji explains in the 2019 Work Report the current transformation in the world of work and how people can unlock their full potential.

Ali Mahlodji is Author of the 2019 Work Report. Photo: Florian Rainer

Ali Mahlodji is Author of the 2019 Work Report. Photo: Ali Mahlodji

A core theme in the 2019 Work Report is the abandonment of hierarchical organization structures. What are the problems with them?

Mahlodji: Hierarchies worked well in the early stages of industrialization and still have their place in sectors concerning safety, such as aviation or healthcare. In the modern world of work – a world characterized by globalization and digitalization – hierarchical structures are often not fit-for-purpose and instead represent an obstacle. Organizations are faced with increasing complexity and rapid change, and the knowledge and decision-making ability needs to be spread across multiple players.

What new roles will need filling by management and employees?

Mahlodji: In the old world of work, management was in the spotlight, while in the new, it is the employees. Discovering and developing employees’ talents is the new focus. Managers nowadays act like the coach on a football team. Once the star player, they have intimate knowledge of all the tactics and set plays. Their task is to make all the current players the very best versions of themselves, and find out who performs best in which position, in what combination with the others, as well as unify the team in their pursuit of the ultimate goal and against the competition. But once the game starts, the players are the players, and the coach must retreat to the dugout.

When employees take on more responsibility, how does one generate the necessary trust?

“Knowledge and decision-making ability needs to be spread across multiple players," says Ali Mahlodj. Photo: Florian Rainer

“Knowledge and decision-making ability needs to be spread across multiple players,” says Ali Mahlodj. Photo: Florian Rainer

Mahlodji: The manager must make it clear to the employee how their individual contribution fits into the grander scheme of things. When employees receive information that extends past the boundaries of their role, they feel more involved and valued. In addition, rewards or incentivization systems must be redeveloped. Only once every employee has the feeling of being part of something big can the company really hit its stride.

You recommend the integration of older employees. How can the generation gap be closed effectively?

Mahlodji: In a world in which we are all linked by smartphone, we no longer talk so much with one another, and do not enter such deep relationships. On the Internet, young people experience a world in which they can – it seems – have anything, and right at once. Patience and interpersonal skills are qualities that are now in short supply in the labor market. By mixing the dynamism of younger employees with the wisdom and patience of the older, one can ensure a robust and versatile operation.

Digitalization is increasing work rates and workloads. This leads to excessive demands being placed on staff. How can organizations combat this?

Mahlodji: Countermeasures are currently being developed by adapting traditional mindfulness techniques from Asia, such as yoga and meditation. Employees who are trained in mindfulness are no longer permanently stuck in reaction mode. They learn to take a couple of deep breaths between action and reaction, and in doing this are able to improve their quality of life. Every worker must, however, learn for themselves that being overworked cannot be remedied by working faster. Instead, the working paradigm must be reconsidered in order to discover what is truly needed.

You paint a positive scenario for the future world of work. What has to change for this to become reality?

Mahlodji: People have always strived to do what they enjoy doing, and we are rapidly moving towards this goal. A key problem is the old-world view of paid work: without it, you aren’t worth anything. In 40 years, there will be fewer jobs generated. At this point we will not be able to talk of poor motivation or abusing the social welfare system as reasons for unemployment. An unconditional basic living income must be seriously thought through and understood in order to maintain people’s dignity, and also develop a more positive image in society.

You say that security must be found in constant movement, rather than in what presently exists. How are we to understand this?

Mahlodji: The two greatest security mechanisms of the old world of work no longer exist: individuals can no longer shift their responsibilities onto their employer or the state. As such, it is a positive when managers talk with their employees about change and make it clear that while the future cannot be predicted, whatever happens will need to be tackled together as a team. By bringing in multiple people and recognizing camaraderie, the stress is alleviated. As individuals, we need to understand ourselves – our own skills, work rate, and networks.

Ali Mahlodji was born in 1981 in Tehran and grew up in Vienna. Here, he completed a technical degree. He found his path in the world of work via a series of detours and more than 40 jobs. This experience led him to co-found the online career guidance portal whatchado.com. Today, he is EU Youth Ambassador, key note speaker, investor, consultant and author. Aside from this, he is also the Director of Education and Personal Development at Prof. Dr. Gerald Hüther’s Akademie der Potentialentfaltung [Academy of Potential Maximization]. The 2019 Work Report was published by the Future Institute.

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