How the world of work has changed, why feedback is no (longer) bullshit and why we should take it seriously
If we look at how the world of work has evolved, even just in the last 3 decades, we realize that it is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place, and still is.
This major shift goes back to globalisation and the relentless technological progress, that are in fact at the base of what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The effects of this revolution, also impacted the world of work, which became more dynamic and unpredictable, given the many variables implied in it.
The traditional organisational model based on a full, permanent work contract, to be performed in a given place, at given times, likely in the same way, has been subverted. We have gone through a great evolution in terms of being able to work, often in a more agile, flexible, and freer way.
Everything around work has changed. From a technological and from a human point of view. New jobs and new ways of working have been created by necessity of the ever-evolving contexts. Positions and professions unthinkable just a few years ago, sprung and are now becoming the norm in this new volatile market.
And while the world of work underwent great, we also dramatically changed the way we look at it. From mere way to sustenance, today people (and this is more true in the higher social segments across cultures), think of work as a tool to express and develop themselves. Like never before, people are exposed to a culture that promotes and romanticizes the idea of open possibilities in life. We can dream to do whatever job we like, in whatever context. And we can dream of changing it along the way if we are uncomfortable with it. At the same time, technology and an encompassing idea of democracy fuel these aspirations, in different ways, in different parts of the globe.
Yet, across countries and at different degrees, never the world of work has been so unpredictable and unstable, subject to laws that people have little influence on, and that often do not include them. Work has actually become imperfect in theory as in reality.
If in fact, while work gained a whole new human meaning in terms of the values it is charged with today – self expression, self realization, development, improvement, empowerment, success, capability, advancement, achievement just to name the main ones -, it also brings a heavy load of frustration.
In a world where nothing is fixed anymore – from roles, to necessities, to solutions – the world of work requires from people a continuous evolution and improvement that can even be overwhelming. Humans need to adapt learning new skills, new capacities, becoming more creative and versatile within structures that are always more fragmented, themselves subject to constant change. No job seems to be ‘perfect’ as such anymore; because no job makes our lives easier anymore; and because no job can be done perfectly anymore.
It is now clear how improvement becomes vital. Vital to make us adapt and survive in the environment where today we primarily need to do so: work. In times of fast change, improvement also needs to happen faster, hence we need more instruments that can further it.
Feedback is one of the greatest tools for improvement. An engine that help us enhance for the better. A mechanism through which we learn about ourselves, and about us in the world, including that of work. And yet, rather than looking at it with benevolent eyes, admiring it, we live feedback at best with unease, if not with terror!
But, even though it makes us panic, even though we fear it because as human beings we all want to be validated, we fully need it! We therefore need to make the cultural shift to consider feedback as an ally, crucial for our survival. We need to start detaching feedback from the old idea of evaluation; sprung in the times after the industrial revolution, where the necessity was the standardisation of performance, the repetition of the same offer, through the same processes. We need to move from evaluating top down, unilateral and fixed; to feedback that is shared, reciprocal and ongoing. The old evaluation, had the goal to level and align. Whereas what we need today, is a “Feedback Fit” culture to empower each individual, so that each one can give his best for all to benefit.
And to greatly improve, we need to train ourselves to feedback, and become feedback fit. At Innate Motion we have built a solid experience working with different cultures and different generations, for how we are structured as a company, borderless and brickless, and for the variety of projects we have conducted. Below are some points to consider when approaching and applying feedback: The current times, the generational gaps and the culture of people within a company.
Why we look at the current times:
The magnification of perfection pervades modern cultures. Failure is denied and is no longer an option. The emphasis on the ideal, culturally instills and fuels biased beliefs and behaviors that are somehow the new reference. This determines our struggle with any form of personal assessment. But there’s something very inhuman about the ongoing search for limitless perfection and overall about the struggle that this puts people into. Yet it is undeniable that there’s some kind of admiration for an unrelenting perfectionism in modern society and culture, which is seen as the emblem of success.
The myth of perfection, places reality in a space (all in our minds) of idealization which rarely materializes, but often sets the bases for constant frustration and unhappiness, and causes in people a disconnection from reality.
This unrealistic benchmark hampers our readiness to face our own weaknesses and our openness to change to improve. Feedback becomes frightful for the fact itself that it could be negative. Turned it into a positive tool, it can dismantle a shared misleading cultural presumption that ultimately limits people’s advancement.
Why we look at the different generational mindsets:
Today, there are new pressures, unprecedented pressures. The way different generations face them, has a link to how they experience feedback. What they have in common however is that both do it in a not confident way.
The older generations (Baby Boomers and Gen X) were grown with a more top-down sense of authority, especially in work environments, and are therefore more open to be evaluated and judged but from higher ranks, in a top down mentality, and less in a peer to peer, horizontal way.
Together with this difficulty, older generations are by definition working on stabilizing what they gained and what they have, in practical terms as well as at a psychological level. This is why in a work relation they are those more loyal and more steady. But this is also why dealing with feedback can cause them great internal pressure as they relate observations to criticisms, hence loss of points of reference.
On the other side, the younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) show two common traits; they are the first native digital generations, grown up being offered the shortest possible distance between desire → search → find. Hence they yearn for what they want very fast, which makes them impatient and easily disinterested. This is why they struggle in accepting that it takes time and effort to evolve and become better at something before reaching an objective.
In addition, they are the most educated generations in history, which convinces them that they deserve the right place in the world, a place that for the first time is openly required to offer positive relations, good work-life balance and inspiration. This makes them brave, positive and bold but also demanding in the workplace, and troublesome when not positively appraised.
A company must have knowledge and sensitivity when facing with generational differences, fostering ad hoc development and mentorship (almost tailored on individuals and personalities) to ensure a longer lasting, healthier pipeline of talents. Companies that do this successfully, will thrive being able to mingle and make flourish the new kids on the block, as more of Gen Z moves into the workforce, together with the older core.
Why we look at the company’s culture:
A company’s culture expresses the identity of a company. It includes many aspects, all of which are null if not lived by all, from within. Companies that thrive today have strong identities. Whatever you decide your personality is, all members of the group should grow and develop, embracing your values and your codes which are kept coherent by your company culture.
It is proven that people tend to enjoy work when their values are consistent with those in the workplace. Workers who fit in with the company’s culture will not only be happier, but more productive and loyal, whereas companies with poor or nonexistent culture face an increase in turnover. Exactly as consumers prefer consistent brands able to inspire them around values they want to share because aspirational to them. Thus, a strong company culture can raise the level of productivity, company image, employee retention and happiness. This means that all workers should embrace it. People who don’t, simply scatter the power of the group. The analysis that can be done out of ongoing, reciprocal, honest feedback, allows right this understanding.
In closing, beyond all the cultural and individual clashes, we need to open up to feedback, which is learning about ourselves through each other’s eyes, and a lot more:
It is recognising the others, hence it is about respect.
It is having an adult attitude, hence it is about accountability.
It is embracing our vulnerability and frustration, hence it is about being human.
It is a conversation, it is not about shaming nor passive acceptance, hence it is about maturity.
It is not about you, it is about collective improvement and growth, hence it is about generosity.
Feedback is a gift we do to ourselves and to others.
For our sake and the sake of the work we do
feedback must be taken seriously,
must become a habit,
all must be encouraged to share it,
all must give and ask for more,
time must be found for it.
Serving companies that navigate in this new sea of work, and need constant enhancement of their people and their systems, we offer processes and tools to humanize feedback, and help its application within group cultures for a healthy growth! We want to turn feedback from a cause of panic (useless for anyone), to a source of pride (useful for all). From a hassle in the should-do list, to a source of positive advancement, making it valuable and fun. Ultimately, human.
Come enjoy the ride with us!
SOURCES: https://hbr.org/2019/07/are-companies-about-to-have-a-gen-x-retention-problem https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2019/09/10/how-generation-z-will-revolutionize-the-workplace/#652ecf724f53 https://arena-attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/2437076/4f43f54288b6782b9cb110b219d8a207.pdf?1531758351 https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-company-culture-2062000 https://hbr.org/2018/01/perfectionism-is-increasing-and-thats-not-good-news