It’s been said over and over many times – happy employees create a highly productive company culture. But as straightforward as it may seem, why do a lot of organizations still get trapped in the same pitfalls that have been around for ages?
Employee engagement is one of the most difficult conundrums facing businesses that want to grow. In a time of economic downturn, businesses are pressured to increase productivity to avoid further costs, interruptions, or losses, leaving out employee satisfaction in the process. It’s highly tempting for employers to just focus on extreme productivity and disregard the fact that employees also need to be happy in their roles.
When it comes to real-life business practice, a lot of companies still end up applying traditional relationship of authority which leaves employees disengaged and dissatisfied with their work. In fact, Gallup’s most recent data shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. Creating a climate of trust between an employee and an employer is hard. And the so-called “engagement programs” that are meant to keep employees committed and productive are doing more harm than good. They often tend to be greedy strategies to get more work done with fewer resources.
France and its Happy Workforce
We all know that France has a reputation of having lazy employees. However, contrary to popular belief, its workforce is not as unproductive as they seem. And this is because of one simple yet powerful mindset they possess – embracing the concept of happiness at work. They started by figuring out what their workforce really needed, from mandating shorter working hours to creating labor policies that value their personal and social lives. Most French retails groups have now taken the politic of happiness at work tempting the public sector to do the same.
What is Happiness at Work?
A great number of large, medium, and small private and public institutions are starting to embrace the concept of happiness. But what exactly does happiness at work mean? Happiness at work may mean differently to different people. It could be a job where people can fulfill their personal interests – a job that allows them to get closer to what they really like and love. It could also mean that an employee’s strengths and efforts are widely recognized. Or it could mean providing employees regular feedbacks and thanking them for their genuine care and attention towards the business. Happiness at work could also mean ending a hierarchical employment system and putting the focus on collaborations and partnership opportunities instead. Oftentimes, it’s not so much of the salary, though it can also factor in on the happiness level of employees. More often than not, the factors are interrelated. Bottom line is, happiness at work is achieved when we feel good about ourselves in the work we do, it’s when we are able to give valuable contributions and get appreciated in return. It’s the feeling of belongingness, of enjoying our social relationships.
Like an Old Family Business
Is the concept of happiness at work new? No, it’s not. It’s just an old family business culture applied to corporations. Think about it. In the traditional family business, all participants get the work done regardless of hierarchy, department, and silos. Everyone helps each other to make the whole thing work. That’s the kind of mentality corporations are looking for while engaging into the concept of happiness at work. It sounds simple but it’s hard to execute when people have been used to hierarchical procedures. Fortunately, workplace happiness and satisfaction collectives and workshops abound. Today’s organizations are lucky to have resources at their fingertips. SYPartners, Ahead and KYU to name a few helps organizations and individuals transform themselves and their respective organizations using business leadership strategies that encourage collaborations. These agencies focus on changing traditional work cultures and promoting effective partnerships through different networks. Aside from discovering new things about yourself and others, you’re given a chance to widen your connections that could prove to be beneficial in the near future.
There’s No Turning Back
Like any other ideas, embracing the concept of happiness also has a risky side. Once you’ve fully embraced this concept, you cannot come back to old practices anymore. Once you have given your employees the freedom to manage their time and responsibilities according to what they believe is the best for the business, you won’t be able to take back the freedom you’ve given them.
Freedom can come with a price that’s why as a leader or an employer, you have to make sure you still maintain a certain degree of authority and professionalism. In the end, it’s all about the equilibrium of every aspect of human life and work life.
Transformation has taken a new definition in this era of constant disruption. It’s no longer just a concept or a theory; transformation has already become a necessity and a reality.
Most of today’s societies – both developed and underdeveloped, face growing global crises and unprecedented changes that have profoundly shaken the core of traditional norms and practices. Disruption is starting to shape industries, markets, and our future. And people and businesses need to continuously grow and adapt to such changes in order to achieve and maintain success. If there’s anything that we can learn from these things, it’s that shifting our perceptions and strategies, and embracing disruption can lead to transformational results that we seek.
For the Presencing Institute’s Otto Scharmer, the global crises and unprecedented changes we currently face can be framed in three major divides namely the ecological divide, the social divide, and the spiritual-cultural divide. The ecological divide speaks of the disconnect between self and nature. The way we treat our environment has long-lasting effects be it on the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food we eat. The social divide, the disconnect between self and other, speaks of the gap between social classes. Inequality, poverty, and violence continue to plague our societies because opportunities are not equal. The spiritual-cultural divide, which is the disconnect between self and self, is a reflection of the disconnect between our current self and our emerging future self. It speaks of the way we deal with our innermost self, thoughts, and feelings. Burnout, depression, and other mental health issues are manifestations of the spiritual-cultural divide. These three divides represent the massive failures of our institutions – we have created results that nobody really wanted. Thus, we need to change the way we view and face these challenges. We need to change towards a more humane and sustainable world that values every individual.
From Ego-system to Eco-system
How then should we shift our outdated economic and business thinking into contemporary practices that consider everyone’s well-being? Scharmer offered quite an interesting and informative article regarding this by introducing eight institutional innovations that as a set can help businesses run more intelligently across silos and boundaries. It seems that shifting our economic logic from an ego-system to eco-system awareness is the key create an economy that considers the well-being of all. From nature, entrepreneurship, money, technology, leadership, consumption, governance, and ownership, reinventing our processes and concepts, and encouraging collaboration in these vital areas can redefine the business environment and change the way individuals treat life and business on a fundamental level.
U.Lab, a hybrid massive open online course (MOOC) platform run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (M.I.T.), recently offered two social innovation-focused programs – Leading Awareness-based Systems Change and How to Sense and Actualize the Future. The two programs offered unique insights on collaboration, co-creation, and succeeding in the emergent future. The programs’ introductory film says it all – a business cannot continue to run the way it goes and there’s a need to bring sustainability principles on core values of a business. True enough, what we need in this disruptive age is to create a profound innovation. We need new ways to connect to the more genuine aspects of our self and encourage consciousness in the way we manage things. Perhaps you would also agree that today’s businesses need to integrate personal and ethical values into their system to help make it more sustainable.
Futhermore, the edX-U.Lab course “Transforming Business, Society and Self” that Scharmer hosted is highly recommended. The course presented his Theory U framework and offered excellent and effective community practices that will really make you think deeply about how you can resolve the different divides.
Following U.Lab since its inception, it has brought a great first impression on a personal level. The courses offered new and authentic insights – leaving old business principles and gearing towards a fresh and spontaneous approach that really fuel growth and competitiveness. It’s actually quite idealistic but this approach will surely revolutionize today’s markets. These programs strengthen our individual capacities and the capabilities of organizations in responding to disruptive challenges through an innovation ecosystem.
Today’s emerging approaches are life-changing. Often we’re so consumed of the challenges the world brings that we somehow forget the very essence of our human existence. We forget about the people around us and focus so much on the problem instead of creating solutions. Understanding the concept of Theory U will make you realize that today’s challenges can be solved by allowing our current and best future self to listen with each other. It’s as simple as listening to others, listening with your heart and mind wide open, co-evolving, co-creating, and allowing inspiration and common will to emerge.
Patrick Roupin is an expert in innovation, design, strategy & entrepreneurship.
Ashrefunisa Shaik is an expert in organizational transformation & sustainability.