Many still feel that humanity in the workplace is a weakness that should be left at the door.
The world is changing and the only profits matter approach to business is becoming harder to justify and get away with. Humanity in the workplace has become a bottom line necessity to compete in a global market place. The old style of the end justifies the means and the purpose of business is profit is dying. The transparency of social media and the advent of the global economy makes bad behaviour more visible, and the impact on brand and profit more telling. Businesses need people to function and begin to fail when we don’t take care of them.
The impact of humanity on the workplace
Despite the changes in the workplace some leaders still cling to the belief that allowing personality, humility and humour into the workplace gives away too much of their power. Decades of research into happiness and the successful workplaces show that this belief is false. The truth is that our humanity is what creates a successful workplace in today’s knowledge and service based workplace. This type of emotionless management style may have worked a command and control era of management, where employees clocked in and out and were expected to perform mindless routine tasks. The world is changing, we need each employee to use their creativity and innovation to help our organisations compete on a global level.
We are on call 24/7 through email and smart phones causing the line between work and home has blurred. Many routine tasks can be done using technology and our jobs have changed from repetitive tasks to knowledge work and service. This command and deliver approach with people as resources to utilise has become ineffective. This dictatorial management style doesn’t work anymore as we can’t command innovation and motivation. What works is nurturing a culture where these desired behaviours are encouraged and then expected.
Many still believe that money is the great motivator, but research is showing that the best performers are often more motivated by intrinsic rewards than by pure financial ones. Particularly in the Millennial generation, who want to make a difference and feel that the work they do matters. The human element in the workplace cannot be ignored, and some of the most successful companies have recognised and capitalised on this. After all we are feeling human beings first and employees second. Realistically we cannot stop feeling.
As human beings our first response is always emotional
Take a few moments to recall an annoying customer/boss. What behaviours do they demonstrate? (e.g. They don’t listen, they are vague in their communication, they are rude?) Now think about how you feel when you have to go and see them. (Do you feel confident, nervous, excited or stressed?) And when you have to interact with this rude, stress inducing person what do you do, or not do? (Do you go the extra mile or do as little as possible?) Instead imagine a client/boss you like/respect. What behaviours characterise them? What do you feel when you interact with them, and what do you do differently with them? Our feelings influence and colour our behaviours and cannot be “left at the door.”
To build an innovative and agile organisation employees must know that they can suggest new ideas, without those ideas being immediately shot down. They must be encouraged to go beyond their job descriptions to help their organisations compete in a knowledge-based economy. This type of work environment requires a sense of humanity to nurture engagement and participation. Core values that are lived daily can be the guiding principles of humanity in the workplace. However, if values are not lived and only decorate the walls they can become a demotivating factor.
Core values lived can support humanity in the workplace
The online shoe retailer Zappos, for example, hires based on a mix of their core values and skills. Some of their core values include to “create fun and a little weirdness”, “build a positive team and family spirit” and to “be adventurous and drive change.” In a job interview they are as interested in how you live these values as your sales experience. The Zappos culture encourages employees to utilise their individual talents and unique personalities in the work they do. In their customer call centre, employees are encouraged to decorate their cubicles, bring in pets and make their workplace feel more like home.
Though Zappos doesn’t always pay more than other organisations in their call centre, they have created a world class call centre with engaged motivated employees. These employees are more motivated because they feel appreciated and part of the Zappos family. Does your culture foster creativity, engagement and passion or just showing up to work? Who would you rather represented your brand? An employee just doing their job or one who has bought into the culture and who puts their heart into each day?
Building and sustaining this type of values based culture begins at the top. Co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, believes that employees must come first, as when you treat the employees right they treat the customers right, which creates loyal customers who come back, and this makes the business successful. Kelleher’s dedication to Southwest Airlines’s values inspired the passion of his employees, and grew the company from a regional airline to an industry leader.
How leaders can foster humanity in the workplace:
Become aware of your own attitude as you come into work. How we enter the building can set the tone for the day. When we smile and taking time to touch base with employees it sets a different tone to when we barge in with a scowl. Our employees take their cue from our behaviour. Each interaction is an experience that colours our culture.
Look for opportunities to have a little fun and to celebrate successes. Celebrations don’t need to be time consuming or expensive, but they do need to be sincere. A timely acknowledgment over coffee can be more meaningful than an elaborate impersonal awards dinner.
Different perspectives encourage creative thinking and problem solving. Homogenous groups tend to produce uniform solutions. Encouraging uniqueness and celebrating diverse experiences adds to the creative innovative mix.
We can’t dictate a new culture it needs to be lived, demonstrated in a thousand different (yet consistent) ways. Act like a human yourself, and celebrate those human elements within your team daily. Start making that change today.
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