Have you ever met a court jester? Entrepreneur, Jort Verhage, has made it his profession. Under the banner of "De Hofnar®," Jort instigates cultural and leadership transitions in Dutch companies, government offices, and educational institutions. How? Simply put, by speaking the truth. He stands outside the hierarchy, serving as a confidant, and operates entirely independently without conflicting interests. As a result, employees dare to express what they truly think and feel to the court jester, which they might not voice internally. Subsequently, the court jester makes subjects discussable from his inviolable role by holding up mirrors to both management and employees. The outcome? Increased work happiness, development, and decisiveness. Achieved through enhanced connection, openness, efficiency, mutual understanding, and trust. AFAS Software, Europe's top Dutch employer, has embraced and experienced the ideology. "Every company deserves a court jester, someone who, without judgment, brings out the real story in a courteous, approachable, and refreshing manner. This empowers the organization to better harness employees' strengths, address blind spots and unconsciously incompetent areas, and encourage everyone to speak their minds. This way, everyone becomes a bit of a court jester themselves, and the court jester can move on to the next court.
Generations in the workplace
As a court jester, Jort engages with thousands of employees from various generations across different workplaces. In doing so, he leverages his perspective as a young entrepreneur, philosophy student, and speaker to reflect on societal challenges. CHRO Day centers around the concept of time. Jort has penned down a few thoughts on how differences in age can pose challenges, but more importantly, he offers solutions.
"What are generations? In simplified terms, they refer to birth cohorts that separate from each other in a biological rhythm of approximately 15 years, thus sharing distinct life histories. The tinted circumstances of such a birth cohort are generally defined by cultural aspects like music, language, clothing, science, and societal discourse. One might say that different generations in the workplace speak a different 'language.' Just as French and Dutch individuals must study and learn each other's language before engaging in meaningful conversation, the same applies to different generations seeking to connect. How does one learn the language of another generation? It starts with curiosity. Be inquisitive, ask questions, take turns shadowing each other, delve into each other's histories, and, during this process, minimize your own filter. How do you bring generations together in the workplace? The answer lies within the very question. The act of asking the question demonstrates an interest in finding common ground between each other, with 'each other' being the operative phrase. No generation is inherently right or knows ‘it’ better. Thus, it's not about older generations understanding younger ones in order to keep up with the times. No, it's a two-way street. Younger generations also have an obligation to understand older ones. This is where mutual understanding occurs, leading everyone to the realization that the connection between young and old is truly valuable!”