Every two weeks we bring you opinion, news and research on Employee Engagement, Leadership and Organisational Performance, along with some thoughts on practical workplace applications.

Editorial: Enter the Era of ‘Human Needs’

It’s interesting to scan the key themes that have come and gone as the latest ‘thing’ in the world of corporate management over the years. In the 1950s/60s we had MBO – Management By Objectives, then came Quality Circles and TQM (Total Quality Management) in the 70s and 80s. Then there was BPR (Business Process Reengineering), matrix management, empowerment and self-directed teams in the 90s, followed by knowledge management and the ‘learning organisation’ in the early ‘noughties’. There’s also Six Sigma, lean manufacturing and Agile Leadership, and the more recent developments in ‘Big Data,’ alongside a shift towards in the more employee-centric disciplines such as employee engagement, engagement experience and employee voice giving way to the concept of transformational engagement.

Much of what has gone before has been (and still is) useful, but the shifts we see during the natural ebb and flow of business cycles tell us something very clearly: what was right yesterday isn’t necessarily a panacea for all ills today.

An interesting article published this week talks about the need for HR to get more ‘intimate’ with its ‘human capital’. Says author Matt Davis: “For far too long, HR officials found themselves complacent in an era that established corporate needs over human needs, often failing to establish intimate connections with workers… however, some positive change is finally being brought about; for perhaps the first time ever, it’s finally the era of human needs… It’s now all but indisputable that putting your human capital first is essentially necessary for any business to succeed in the 21st century marketplace.”

Davis considers the importance of harnessing the power of IT if an organisation is to become ‘intimate’ with its ‘human capital’. Words and the context they are used in matter, so two significant questions arise:

  • What does ‘intimate’ mean in this context?
  • What is the impact of referring to people as ‘human capital’ (a phrase first coined in the 18thCentury by Adam Smith)?

The implication is that IT is key to this intimacy, so one is sucked into the realm of data analytics and using these to understand employee behaviour, likes, dislikes, habits, etc. etc. “To truly get intimate with your employees and give them the skills and tools they need to thrive in a 21st century economy, your HR department will need to work hand in hand with your company’s IT team in order to fully digitise its operations so that you’re not letting your workers down,” says Davis, with the intent of raising productivity.

I’m all for raising productivity, but whilst it may be that organisations want this degree of ‘intimacy’ I’m not convinced that people working there would always agree – especially if they are referred to as ‘human capital’!

So in the era of ‘human needs’, what is it that humans need?

Perhaps at risk of over-simplifying, it’s all about creating the right environment so that people can flourish and organisations can prosper. We don’t need a complex strategy to achieve those objectives. We simply need managers in organisations who treat their ‘human capital’ as individual people, not a value in the accounts.

Steve Short – Emenex

Should We be Happy at Work?

The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Is it unreasonable to expect that the majority of those should be happy ones?
First, let’s consider what happy employees create. Economists at the University of Warwick carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder.
Another study by a management consulting firm looked at whether morale made a difference in company value. They separated large organizations into high, medium or low morale categories, with high morale defined as 70% or more of employees expressing overall job satisfaction.
The findings for these and further studies – plus the ‘flipside’ – can be found here from forbes.  And the obvious question: How do you create a happy work environment?

UK Workers Suffer a Mid-life Work Crisis, with Engagement Levels Dipping Significantly at 45

New research from Rungway has suggested a correlation between age and engagement levels, with those aged 45 to 54 the most likely to say their manager is not an engaged employee (41 percent), and that they are not an engaged employee (47 percent). In fact, almost two in five (36%) British employees think their manager is disengaged at work.

The survey of 2,000 UK people also reveals managers’ disengagement may impact upon employee engagement levels more broadly, with 40 percent of survey respondents saying they themselves are not an engaged employee.

The full story from insight.

Voice at Work is About More than Internal Marketing News

The CIPD’s UK Working Lives research demonstrated the importance of employee voice as a means of influencing other aspects of job quality. Having a voice at work is the primary vehicle through which individuals can influence matters that affect their working lives.

While they found that workers are generally satisfied with their opportunities to express their views in the organisation, the survey highlighted issues around management ability to effectively capture employee voice, and especially the voices of particular workforce groups.

This piece from the CIPD includes additional references to underline its findings.

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