“Green gold” is the young academic knowledge workers who are self-motivated and self-engaged, and who first and foremost use working life as a part of their personal and endless identity project. They look for meaning in everything they do, and because meaning is created and negotiated in relationships, both management and colleagues play a very important role. Read more about what motivates the green gold and what it requires of management.
The debate about the future's challenges for most European societies is largely about “gray gold.” About how we keep the industrialized society's wheels turning when the post-war baby boomers retire. In the new knowledge economy, it is the academic knowledge worker that must bring home the money. The green gold are those who, by all accounts, must run faster for longer, so increasingly higher standards of living can be a reality.
To be a young academic knowledge worker is often to be described as an individualistic and demanding employee who is always looking for new challenges to meet in the quest for success and self-realization. On the surface, it may seem that solidarity and community have disappeared from the workplace together with industrial jobs, in step with the rise of individualism. But solidarity and community exist harmoniously with individualization. To a great degree, both individual and communal values drive and motivate the young.
The collegial communities in the workplace have great influence on the knowledge worker's behavior. The young knowledge workers are a generation of children who grew up in institutions, and who worked in groups in university. So they are used to organizing play and work between coequals, with authority figures there to help solve especially knotty problems, or put something new on the educational agenda.
Network structures and team-based work also support the orientation toward collegiality as the socially controlling and steering element in cooperation and work life. Through project work and other forms of cooperation, the work-motivated young keep up the tempo themselves by “pacing” each other to meet deadlines and deliver high quality.
Collegiality largely removes the traditionally heaviest tasks from the management role: setting the pace and ensuring all deadlines are met. It now falls to managers to coach, protect, be professional sparring partners, and imbue assignments with meaning. The manager is no longer the enemy or the opponent, but the colleague and helper who ensures the employee thrives. That some management tasks are taken over by the colleague community doesn't mean that the management function is any less important. The manager must continue to represent the system, and formulate clear goals and strategies. And, for the young knowledge worker, it is exceedingly important for the manager to be a skilled, professional sparring partner.
Pay is often overlooked in discussions about the concept of work and work relations. But pay plays an important symbolic role on several levels. Pay tells the employee where he stands, and what he is “worth.” Pay is an indicator and at the same time a starting point for comparison with others - not just the colleague community, but also with other young academic knowledge workers. Pay alone plays little role in the motivation and job satisfaction of young academics. The important thing is that it is in line with what others with similar assignments receive.
That pay is, in many workplaces, negotiated individually - even in workplaces covered by labor agreement - does not, then, make much sense. The small joy someone gets from a raise - often small change - acquired through good negotiation technique is paid for by the often great irritation of colleagues who received nothing.
Certainly there can be pay differences in a workplace - even between colleagues at the same level - but ideally the colleague community should view the differences as reasonable and fair. What is viewed as reasonable and fair is for management to find out. However, most knowledge workers believe higher pay is acceptable if it is difficult to recruit someone to carry out the job, if a colleague assumes burdensome extra assignments, if there are special time-related obligations, or if the colleague has greater responsibility. Pay and pay differences must, in other words, make sense.
In the past, one went to work to realize and find oneself. But with a new and far more dynamic concept of work, where negotiating and creating meaning is central, young academics in the network society and loosely-coupled organizations must adapt to being on the path to finding themselves their entire work life. This active search for identity, which happens through negotiation of opinion and values, both in and outside the workplace, is in itself a motivating driver in the individual. The young knowledge workers are largely self-motivating and self-engaging when their work is meaningful and challenging.
Corporate branding in the best Dream Society manner is often not positive for the academic knowledge workers' identity project - they do not seek a collective identity with collective values. It is important that the company give the employee the chance to be himself, so he has space for identity work and so that he, in that space, has the chance to create self-discovery more or less independently of the company. The space, in other words, lies between the employee's need for identity and the company's need to use the company culture as a leadership tool for managing the employee.
Young academics have very high, specific ambitions and demands for what a “real” and “modern” academic does, thinks, and desires. An overall tendency is that jobs with social value or a character of intellectual challenge are seen as motivating and satisfying. At the same time, many young knowledge workers do not find sales and administration particularly attractive. What meets the expectations of the individual is tied, of course, to personal preference, and not least to the individuals ability to create meaning herself on the job - also in relation to less attractive assignments.
For the manager, it will be about creating connections between the concrete assignments so that work life is meaningful for the individual. One of the leadership techniques of the future will, in other words, not be imposing the organization's values, but to observe what drives the individual, and act accordingly.
Source: Larsen et al. Begejstring & distance, 2005. Mellem individualisering og fællesskab, Member Report #4/2005, Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.