Continuing education New work and new lear­ning

Ever­yo­ne is tal­king about New Work. And, as with most terms of the digi­tal age, ever­yo­ne under­stands it dif­fer­ent­ly. Here you can read about what the term ori­gi­nal­ly meant, how we inter­pret it, and how and why lear­ning needs to be rethought with New Work.

Continuing education August 06, 2023 Jens Oppermann 8 min

New work and its ori­gins

In the ear­ly 1980s, the anthro­po­lo­gist Frith­jof Berg­mann was loo­king for a way for unem­ploy­ed skil­led workers in the auto­mo­ti­ve indus­try to expe­ri­ence their work as mea­ning­ful and ful­fil­ling again. He com­pa­red the work needs of indi­vi­du­als with the con­di­ti­ons offe­red by employ­ers - and natu­ral­ly found a huge dis­crepan­cy. So Berg­mann asked hims­elf the ques­ti­on: What do we need so that we don’t see work as an annoy­ing way of ear­ning money? But as some­thing we want to do with all our heart?

From this ques­ti­on he deve­lo­ped the New Work model, which is based on three pil­lars:

  1. As acti­vi­ties are fur­ther auto­ma­ted, wage labour can be great­ly redu­ced.
  2. Most of the goods we need in our dai­ly lives should be able to be pro­du­ced by new tech­no­lo­gies without human inter­ven­ti­on.
  3. With the time saved, peop­le will be able to pur­sue acti­vi­ties that they find tru­ly mea­ning­ful and the­re­fo­re of their own free will.

So much for the theo­ry. What com­pa­nies are doing with it today is dif­fe­rent, of cour­se. Today, New Work is always asso­cia­ted with the digi­tal world of work and stands for free­dom, self-deter­mi­na­ti­on and the con­stant trans­for­ma­ti­on of com­pa­nies and their employees.

How New Work is being imple­men­ted today

What Berg­mann has trig­ge­red with his theo­ry is the social will for a working world that is ori­en­ted towards peo­p­le’s needs - and not the other way round. The youn­ger genera­ti­ons’ expec­ta­ti­ons of work are cor­re­spon­din­gly high. The law of sup­ply and demand is dri­ving them even hig­her. Com­pa­nies would the­re­fo­re do well to rethink - and rede­sign - work.
Like this, for examp­le:

1. flat hier­ar­chies

New Work focu­ses on encou­ra­ging and deman­ding per­so­nal respon­si­bi­li­ty and empower­ment from employees. At its heart is the idea that flat hier­ar­chies enhan­ce the empower­ment of each indi­vi­du­al in the orga­ni­sa­ti­on. Grea­ter crea­ti­ve free­dom crea­tes oppor­tu­nities for all employees and empha­si­ses the value of each indi­vi­du­al, regard­less of their posi­ti­on. Howe­ver, this free­dom also comes with respon­si­bi­li­ty: employees must actively use their crea­ti­ve free­dom, set their own goals and pur­sue them con­sist­ent­ly. In an envi­ron­ment whe­re the­re are fewer top-down direc­ti­ves, intrinsic moti­va­ti­on beco­mes the dri­ving for­ce - whe­ther it is to per­form or to com­ple­te trai­ning. With incre­a­sing auto­no­my, the need to moti­va­te oneself to achie­ve goals incre­a­ses.

Accord­ing to self-deter­mi­na­ti­on theo­ry, three con­di­ti­ons must be met for intrinsic moti­va­ti­on to deve­lop:

  • Auto­no­my, i.e. the inde­pen­dent orga­ni­sa­ti­on of lear­ning and work accord­ing to indi­vi­du­al needs.
  • Com­pe­tence, i.e. the expe­ri­ence of suc­cess in a domain
  • Social inte­gra­ti­on, i.e. the fee­ling of belon­ging to a group

New Work, with its flat hier­ar­chies, the­re­fo­re requi­res more self-moti­va­ti­on through more free­dom. On the other hand, the con­cept pro­mo­tes moti­va­ti­on any­way, as it com­bi­nes the three most important moti­va­tio­nal fac­tors.

2. fle­xi­ble work

When peop­le talk about new work” today, they often mean digi­tal noma­dism: you can work from any­whe­re. Thanks to digi­ta­li­sa­ti­on, you are no lon­ger tied to one place or fixed working hours, but you can shape the­se con­di­ti­ons to suit you. But fle­xi­ble working does­n’t just mean that com­pa­nies have to give their employees this kind of free­dom. Con­ver­se­ly, skil­led workers must also be pre­pa­red to work fle­xi­b­ly, for examp­le, to take on ever-chan­ging tasks through job rota­ti­on and to learn as they go. This leads to the next point.

3. employee lear­ning as the basis for New Work

New Work can only work if both the orga­ni­sa­ti­on and its peop­le are wil­ling to deve­lop. And that inclu­des a wil­ling­ness to learn. This is whe­re the term lear­ning worker” comes from. This refers to employees who are able to learn new things inde­pendent­ly and effi­ci­ent­ly, while at the same time con­stant­ly impro­ving the lear­ning pro­cess its­elf. In princip­le, this is the basis for agi­le working, a con­cept that has emer­ged from the New Work con­cept, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment: employees learn with every expe­ri­ence and app­ly this know­ledge in the next step to con­ti­nuous­ly impro­ve qua­li­ty and effi­ci­en­cy.

Lear­ning in the sen­se of New Work the­re­fo­re invol­ves a high degree of per­so­nal respon­si­bi­li­ty, as does the work its­elf. This is why we need lear­ning con­cepts that not only impart know­ledge, but also incre­a­se the moti­va­ti­on to learn and impro­ve the abi­li­ty to learn.

4. focus on peop­le, not pro­ducts

New Work aims to make work not only more pro­duc­ti­ve, but also more mea­ning­ful. After all, work exists for peop­le - not the other way around. With this in mind, peop­le are always at the cent­re of the work envi­ron­ment. This inclu­des good working con­di­ti­ons, emo­tio­nal appre­cia­ti­on and the men­tal hygie­ne of the indi­vi­du­al employee. Of cour­se, all this also has a posi­ti­ve effect on pro­fi­ta­bi­li­ty: Peop­le who can orga­ni­se their work in a rela­xed and mea­ning­ful way work healt­hi­er, hap­pier and bet­ter. Rather than using up’ staff, they are encou­ra­ged and sup­por­ted. And vice ver­sa, they can sup­port the com­pa­ny in the best pos­si­ble way.

5. enthu­si­asm for inno­va­ti­on

With New Work comes not only a wil­ling­ness to evol­ve whe­re necessa­ry. It also inclu­des a natu­ral curio­si­ty and desi­re to inno­va­te. New Work is crea­ti­ve, expe­ri­men­tal and hands-on: ins­tead of for­ging long con­cepts, things are sim­ply done - and this leads to much more and much fas­ter inno­va­ti­on. In turn, cus­to­mers beco­me more loy­al to com­pa­nies becau­se they are con­stant­ly being offe­red good new pro­ducts. For employees, this dri­ve for inno­va­ti­on means a high demand for ori­gi­na­li­ty and prac­ti­ca­li­ty, but also a con­struc­ti­ve cul­tu­re of fail­u­re, whe­re mista­kes are a use­ful part of deve­lo­p­ment.

6. diver­si­ty

New Work is not pos­si­ble without diver­si­ty - becau­se the high demand for fle­xi­bi­li­ty and deve­lo­p­ment can only be met with a cor­re­spon­din­gly diver­se and talen­ted work­for­ce. New employ­er bran­ding stra­te­gies must the­re­fo­re be deve­lo­ped to ensu­re this diver­si­ty in com­pa­nies.

Whe­re New Work reaches its limits

Of cour­se, the­re are are­as whe­re deman­ds such as fle­xi­ble working hours, home offices, etc. can­not be met. This inclu­des, for examp­le, most social pro­fes­si­ons. As a tea­cher, I can’t just teach from home, any more than I can be a rub­bish collec­tor and deci­de when to pick up peo­p­le’s rub­bish. New work is a con­cept that has been adop­ted main­ly by the digi­tal indus­try - and the­re­fo­re main­ly by aca­de­mics and high­ly edu­ca­ted peop­le who work in an office.

Howe­ver, the­re are cer­tain­ly valu­able things that other pro­fes­sio­nal groups can take away from the New Work con­cept, name­ly

  • Self-deter­mi­na­ti­on at work
  • Co-crea­ti­on of working con­di­ti­ons
  • Focus on indi­vi­du­als and their needs

In this sen­se, New Work can ensu­re that work as a who­le beco­mes more employee-friend­ly - and the­re­fo­re more mea­ning­ful, easier and, yes, bet­ter.

Lear­ning in the spi­rit of New Work

Inno­va­ti­on, fle­xi­bi­li­ty, deve­lo­p­ment, agi­le working and a lear­ning work­for­ce are all ele­ments of New Work that empha­sise lear­ning. And for good rea­son: digi­ta­li­sa­ti­on and glo­ba­li­sa­ti­on are dri­ving con­stant chan­ge in all are­as of socie­ty, inclu­ding the world of work. For com­pa­nies to keep pace, the abi­li­ty to learn will beco­me - or alrea­dy is - the No. 1 skill. So we need not only new ways of working, but also the lear­ning stra­te­gies and approa­ches that make them pos­si­ble.

Lear­ning and stay­ing inno­va­ti­ve with SAPE­RED

Even if the term New Work” sounds a bit hack­ney­ed by now, the new world of work is here and every com­pa­ny has to deal with the new deman­ds of work and offer appro­pria­te lear­ning con­cepts. Tha­t’s why we’­re here: to deve­lop lear­ning expe­ri­en­ces that don’t focus on fast-food know­ledge, but ins­tead enab­le aha’ expe­ri­en­ces and incre­a­se the wil­ling­ness to learn. Qui­te sim­ply, becau­se they always add real value to work, becau­se they are fun and moti­va­te peop­le.

If you are inte­res­ted, we look for­ward to tal­king to you. Arran­ge a no-obli­ga­ti­on con­sul­ta­ti­on now. We look for­ward to hea­ring from you!

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