This column was inspired by one data from a current Mercer study on talent trends. It states that just before the onset of the pandemics, as many as 98% of business leaders from all over the world planned to change their structures, policies and value system in the direction of creating MORE HUMAN work environments.
Will the current situation slow down this incredible percentage of commitment to moving towards human, or will it accelerate it? Companies are likely to find themselves in both categories; but undoubtedly the future is on the side of the latter. Why?
The more – the more
The depth of the paradox of the modern world has obviously been awakening in us a desire and awareness of the value of more genuine and more human relationships over some time: the more our daily experiences become virtual, the more we want personal contact; the more images on social networks reflect imaginary reality, the more we want to share actual reality; the more artificial intelligence seeps into our lives, the more we want genuine human experiences; the closer we get with metrics to data fundamentalism, the better we understand that true value lies in the human relationship; the more daily pressures escalate, the clearer the limits of capacity become; the deeper the crisis, the greater the awareness of the opportunity it offers; the more our existence is challenged, the clearer it is that we need to move something in order to survive; the more we crave survival, the more innovative we are; the more innovative we are, the wider the horizon of our perspective; the more we see, the more we understand what we really want…
‘The more – the more’ is hence becoming a harbinger of a new consciousness, which has obviously climbed from the level of experience all the way to statistics, which means (in another paradoxical way) that we now have a proof to believe ourselves that we really want more humane experience at work and in our lives.
The quality of interpersonal relations determines the quality of our lives
At the heart of the notion of humanity is undoubtedly RELATIONSHIP. A relationship is a bond between two or more people that is established on different levels, with different intensity and with different purpose. We humans are defined by relationships. Each of us carries into the world our own map of relationships, complements it, and influences with it our own experiences and the experiences of other people with us.
Relationship, however, is also the essence of everything that is fluid, that flows between people in work environments. A relationship is communication, it is collaboration, it is leadership, and it is a building block of trust. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.
This assumption has been confirmed by numerous studies in the fields of longevity, health, and happiness. Among them, this thesis is convincingly confirmed by the longest study on quality of life of all time, conducted by Harvard University for 75 years on a sample of over 700 participants in the study. Why the research is finally completed, we can guess😉; its core is though captured right in the title above.
So if we take into account the fact of length of working era, which occupies, by the way, the most vital part of our lives, as well as the most vital part of the days, it is clear that workplace relationships have a critical impact, not just on productivity, engagement, performance and consequently the success, but also on the quality of our lives as a whole.
Evolution of our relationship towrads work environment
To understand the emergence of the need for everything that lies beneath ‘more human’ work environments, we must also look at the development of employees’ attitudes towards work environments. So, what has changed in merely 250 years of organized work if we take the industrial revolution as a milestone?
I can summarize the most visible changes in two categories: a change in expectations and a change in values.
I am probably not quite wrong in stating that until, almost as recent as the end of the last millennium, people were hoping in exchange for work to be decently paid and have a secure livelihood. Twenty years later, we expect work to fulfil us, our bosses to recognize our hidden and dormant potentials, HR to invest in their development to enable us to clarify our own identity. We go to work aspiring for our growth, contribution to a purposeful endeavour and fulfilments at a much deeper level than they ever occurred – even to our current senior colleagues at work.
Similar time dynamics and ®evolutionary leap are present in the change of values at the forefront of companies’ IDs. It is only since the last economic crisis in 2008, I argue, that the values of organizations have begun to have an increasingly emotional connotation. Never before have companies listed the values, such as: passion, empathy, belonging, authenticity, humility, appreciation, gratitude, happiness or love. Let us take, as an example for understanding the magnitude of the shift, the experience of happiness.
Even in the time of our grandfathers, happiness was only a humble postulation directed at the time of the afterlife. Lifetime was determined by effort and suffering. The more of this, the better the chances of a happy life in the afterlife dimension
Today, however, happiness has become the responsibility of the employer, a cause for a new profession and at the same time a new dilemma for each of us, covered in ever present self-inquiry, could I be happier elsewhere?
Relationships intelligence is entering the ‘hard’ skills category
All these changes, which are undoubtedly major changes in the way we experience ourselves, others, and work, have contributed to elevation of the attention and care for the well-being of employees. Workshops on a healthy lifestyle habits, fruit baskets, meditation and yoga in the workplace, and budgets dedicated solely to ensuring well-being are just a few examples of introduced novelties in recent years.
Although well-intentioned, all of these efforts cannot make up for the simple fact that neither a fruit basket nor hipster-like designed social spaces can make up for diminishing or overlooking the basic human need to be treated as a human. Nor can the outer conditions on their own infuse more humanity amongst employees.
The awareness of what true value is, is unstoppably maturing and is captured in those incredible 98% from the first paragraph. The care for good (working) relationships is clearly saying goodbye to the set of soft skills and moving into the category of hard (leadership) skills.
Let this impetus get the wind in their wings. Let the bitterness of the current experiences of isolation, hardship of persisting, struggle for survival and the insights that are reflected back to us as the truth about what we really want to experience as the human race, give us all the strength to pursue the kind of relationships that will make our (working) lives simply kinder and more joyful.
This time sound accompaniment of Leadership jazz column #7 is a reminder that we have gone far in a short period of human (working) history. So, let’s just not fall back and keep on moving! Enjoy Nina Simone in WORK SONG.