15 points for work-life blending instead of work-life balance for future-oriented leadership
The merging of work and life and the challenges for employers
Future-oriented leadership means providing optimum support for employees in all phases of their lives. It is about attractive working conditions and skills development. But it’s also about filling management positions sustainably and keeping high-potential employees in the company for the long term. Walk your talk – working part-time as a manager
15 points for Work-Life-Blending
1. Attract specialists and managers
Investment in recruiting is a success factor for companies in order to secure their need for specialists and executives. At the same time, we are increasingly seeing that filling management positions in particular is becoming more of a challenge for companies than ever before. Leadership has long since ceased to be the preferred career goal when generations Y and Z are asked. And even experienced managers are increasingly taking advantage of opportunities to “break out” of a management career.
2. Leadership is still needed
One thing is clear: leadership is not obsolete. Despite flat hierarchies and self-managing teams, leadership is still in demand. If there is no explicit leader, the group will look for a leader again. The role of leadership is changing, and that’s a good thing when you look at the trends in the world of work. Conversely, however, this means that companies will have to do a lot to fill leadership positions in the future. Why is it difficult at all? Doesn’t everyone want to become a manager? After all, this is also a career aspiration that young children today often name alongside firefighter, ballerina and policewoman.
3. Trust and health – the top values of the generations
This has to do with a shift in values. Back in 2010, youth researcher Simon Schnetzer launched the “Young Germans” study. His goal is to investigate the influence of digitalization on the life and work worlds of generations Z & Y. New results appeared in 2021 (5th edition). An important aspect for people between the ages of 14 and 39 continues to be family cohesion (was already important in 2019). Family stands for protection, structure in everyday life and psychological security. The most important values are trust (65%) and health (66%).
4. Working oneself up beyond the breaking point is out.
What is exciting is that these two values are just as important for all other generations. Only the ranking of confidence and health vary. Health also stands for not working oneself up as a manager, as we know from corporate practice. Being available all the time and everywhere is not desirable.
5. Being a parent is a joint project
In addition, more and more young families are setting themselves up differently than in the past. Providing for their offspring is a joint project for both parents. Young women are no longer content to accept career setbacks as the price of having children. Young fathers are also happy to share the responsibility. Influencers are leading the way. Successful careers and happy families at the same time. Companies need to rethink their approach if they want to retain their skilled workers. In most established companies, these requirements do not fit in with the management culture and the reality of life.
6. Being an attractive employer and promoting and retaining skilled workers
If it’s no longer necessarily a management career, what makes employers attractive? Here, too, the study provides answers. At 62%, the working atmosphere is the most important point. However, the pandemic moved a topic that had been neglected in recent years back to the forefront: job security.
7. Fun, meaning and safety are the most important factors
It is interesting to note that these three factors have moved closer together since the pandemic. Fun at and at work is still important and the top value for Generation Z. But money has also become more important during the crisis. Generation Y is obviously increasingly asking itself whether it earns enough money to be able to afford its own prosperity in the future.
8. The chance out of the dilemma?
Is this triad a suitable starting point for attracting more skilled workers back into management positions? Perhaps a helpful effect, but certainly not the sole solution to the problem. After all, we can have all this without a management career – with less stress and responsibility.
9. Corporate culture must change along with it
The corporate culture must pave the way for changed working models. It’s not enough to have more family-friendly seals of approval; it’s the culture that counts. Managers working part-time (whereby we are generally talking about a part-time degree of at least 70%) must not be ridiculed, but should be “normal”. The same applies to job-sharing offers for executives. It has long been proven that this works. No one said it would be easy.
10. Digital enables participation in working life in all phases of life
But the fact is: Whether it’s childcare or caring for relatives. More and more people in the workforce are facing the challenge of balancing family obligations with their own professional lives. And the crucial thing is: people want to do the same. In order to successfully and profitably retain these high potentials in the company, it is necessary to strengthen skills and competencies at all levels and to develop and establish precisely these new working models.
11. Technical requirements and concepts are the beginning
Future-oriented leadership at all levels therefore means that three areas need to be examined more closely and actively supported:
- Corporate culture, leadership culture, framework conditions
- Leadership development
- Teamwork and competence building
In concrete terms, the aim is to create a breeding ground for good reconciliation concepts to be put into practice. There is still a long way to go in companies in terms of understanding, tolerance and acceptance. What does this mean in concrete terms?
12. Corporate culture, leadership culture and framework conditions.
There are some good reasons why part-time work in a management position can make sense. A few examples (original quotes from companies that already put this into practice):
- Managers working part-time are often more productive, motivated and creative
- Managers who can work part-time and thus reconcile family and career are more satisfied
- Part-time employees have more free time, which means more opportunities and more time for training and development
- Part-time management models increase employee retention – especially for women
The external impact of these models should also not be underestimated, which in turn has a positive effect on employer attractiveness. Here, too, there is more to it than the development of concepts and framework conditions. In order for part-time leadership or job sharing in management positions to succeed, the ground must be laid for an understanding and open corporate culture. This means, for example, that workshops must be held at different levels to make advantages and disadvantages transparent and to create understanding for the situations. A well-developed roadmap for internal communication is important, as well as informed contact persons to provide practical support for the managers affected.
13. Targeted management development
Teamwork in the past was comparable to an eight-man rowing boat pulling its course in calm waters against other teams to the finish line. Unlike today: The team sits in an inflatable boat and faces roaring rapids – without knowing what will happen next. A new surprise around every bend. This is our environment in today’s business world. It is no longer manageable.
There are a wide variety of studies on leadership competencies in today’s world. Again and again, surprisingly, digital competence is not mentioned first; it is taken for granted, just like a driver’s license, for example. Instead, our own surveys show the high importance of communication skills. This is closely followed by methodological skills (e.g., moderation, conflict resolution, etc.) and emotional intelligence.
Here, too, HR/PE play an important role. Once the foundations have been laid for part-time models, for example, the next step is to support people in their new roles. In addition to the fields of action for competence development already mentioned, self-organization and also stress resistance or resilience play a major role here.
14. Adjusting your own demands to a realistic level
Leading part-time also means lowering personal expectations. For example, if I only have 80% of the working time available, I will not be able to perform at 120%. Confidence in your own employees and good organization are important. In part-time, you can’t attend every meeting yourself. Delegating and prioritizing are important issues.
The same applies when two people share a management position. Good division of labor and information policy are essential. Without regular consultation, clear agreements and trust, this cannot succeed. It is a basic prerequisite that the chemistry between the two people must be right. It is important that the management tandem works continuously on its own relationship. There must also be room for this in addition to operational issues. Especially the orientation on personal strengths and a corresponding distribution of tasks is an absolute plus in shared positions.
15. Teamwork and competence building
The team has an important role to play. Here, too, more individual responsibility and entrepreneurial thinking is required. Team members are asked to make and represent decisions independently within their area of responsibility. Information must be provided transparently. Team meetings must also function in a value-added manner without the presence of the manager. Employees also need support in finding their way into these new roles.
Ideally, the team should discuss and decide on the design of the tools, the rules of the game, the roles and responsibilities. This way, everyone is on board and supports the decisions. Attention: Regular reviews and retrospectives are important in order to adjust.
Communication and the ability to deal with conflict are also essential skills here, as is self-organization. Leadership and team live on psychological security. This means that difficulties and uncertainties can be discussed openly. That the team supports each other and sees success as a joint project. Then modern leadership concepts can also succeed and the leadership career becomes more attractive.
Conclusion on work-life blending
Companies are well advised to question management structures that have proven themselves in the past. Potential is wasted if management positions are linked to 100% working hours. Flexibility and openness can be a breeding ground for successful merging of working time and lifetime (work-life blending). Future-oriented leadership means providing employees with optimal support in all phases of their lives and enabling modern working models.
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