The setting sun slowly sheds its last rays of sunlight and the ancient city plunges into a gold-gray light. The wet cobblestones, freshly polished by the setting fall, glimmer in this twilight. Late summer in Rome is golden-gray. Rain and sunshine exchange shifts generously and yet warmth underlies every thunderstorm. I am sitting in a park in the centre of the ancient city, nipping at my cappuccino as people walk by, nodding their head. Cappuccino after 12 is strictly forbidden in Italy; I know it, but I sometimes cave to an old habit. When I sit to consider where my future is headed, I cannot help to but begin with my past; the journey I have taken that has led me here, in the middle of Rome, under the great pines of the ancient city.
The past begins eight months ago when a fellow student at Copenhagen Business School told me about Peakon, an emerging start-up that wanted to transform jobs into journeys. At the time I was looking for a challenge in a young and dynamic business environment. A few days later, I took my bike for a ride to Sydhavn, an old working-class quarter that enjoys growing popularity. The old brick walls, reminiscent of the era of traditional manufacturing, has been transformed by today’s digital startups. The blue-collar manufacturing facilities are now defined by the co-working spaces, modern think-tanks and innovation factories.
I entered the spacious retired production hall and was immediately caught by a lower floor which had been redesigned to a modern workspace. There was an Ikea-hacked kitchen by REFORM, a long dining table, couches, table-tennis and a bar for thirsty-Thursdays. My colleague Gustav Jonsson gave me a warm welcome, and we sat down for a coffee. It was not the entrance job interview I expected. Instead, it felt like drinking coffee with a friend in one of Copenhagen fancy cafés. On my second visit, I met Co-Founder Kasper Hulthin. I was well prepared when he asked me ”so what is your experience in sales?”. I had planned how to sweep over the fact that I basically had none. But when the question arrived, I answered honestly and confidently; ‘Well, I have none’. My answer created a little pause. I broke the silence with my closing sentence: “But I am pretty sure if we sit here again in 3 months, you will think, I have worked in sales for ages.” To be fair, it was a bit bold, but I was in a comfortable position, I already had a part-time job, and was not desperate for a new one.
We continued the interview by watching a presentation of the product. Peakon is the world’s first intelligent employee experience platform that delivers trusted insights into the engagement levels of a company’s workforce. Continuous listening to employees is a vital aspect of business success but unfortunately overlooked by many executives. My ideas around the product, my curiosity and my belief convinced Kasper in the end. He looked out of the window in the conference room and said: “fuck it, let’s do it.” We shook hands on one of the greatest opportunities in my life.
I am 26 and belong to the Generation Y, in short: I am a millennial. A term that conjures up uneasiness amongst people, particularly leaders in traditional companies. Why? Because we cannot relate to the traditional, outdated values in most businesses, where money is the main motivation. Because the incentive structures of the past do not reflect our values. Because the leaders of the traditional companies fail to understand what truly drives us to succeed. If you want to attract young talent, then give us flexibility, a purpose, flat hierarchies that mirror our zeitgeist and space to grow. Do not hand us a job – instead provide us with responsibilities. Micromanagement should have died in the 80s. We want to try, succeed, fail, and learn.
A clear drive paired with curiosity will lead inevitably to innovation. Millennials just need the autonomy. Autonomy has a 57% greater impact on engagement with Millennials than their older colleagues, and short-term goals are not the answer. If you work in HR and you are not sure what pushes the millennials in your company, then it’s time to implement Peakon to feel the pulse of your young coworkers.
Only a few months after shaking hands I have successfully laid the foundation for our sales operations, (re-)structured our outbound approach and pitched Peakon to the HR directors of several of the biggest German DAX companies. So what am I doing now as I gleefully break rules of Italian cappuccino etiquette? From January onwards, I decided to join Peakon in London as a strategic account executive. What I forgot to say is, that I am still doing my Master’s at Copenhagen Business School and I am currently doing an exchange semester in Italy. In fact, I just ate a pistachio ice-cream at my favourite home-made gelateria here in Rome. Flexibility, empowerment and trust always pay off. Put the people first, and products and profits will follow.
Here at Peakon we don’t hire experience, we hire talent, and we believe in it!