Today, there are so many aspects of Human Resource management that we never had to consider before. Not because HR Managers weren’t thinking about them. But because of the way we in Africa had decided to structure and run our businesses.
We favoured hierarchies. We respected old age and male gender. We believed staff were there to be managed, not led. Our leaders favoured despotism over democracy. This ‘kind of’ worked, because there were far fewer salaried jobs in Africa than there were millions of people hungry for them.
Now old habits need to be broken. In the modern workplace getting real productivity out of employees is a two-way street. A collaboration, not a coercion. A dialogue, not a diktat.
We live in consumer societies where the customer is very quick to pick up on a lack of alignment between what your business promises and the ability of your staff to deliver it.
If you are an employer, consider how your people might respond to these four questions:
- Do you enjoy what you do at work, and understand how your contribution makes a difference?
- Do you feel part of a team, where you are valued and respected?
- Do you feel secure in your job? Does it give you financial reassurance?
- Do you feel concerned about your health? Can you properly balance work and leisure time?
The last question talks to Wellness. As a change practitioner, I should tell you that the most productive transformations we are making inside company cultures revolve around it. In this we are guided by psychologists. But our interventions aren’t clinical. We educate staff about poor sleep, anxiety and depression. We suggest strategies to improve their lot, and encourage managers to be watchful for symptoms of stress. We use meditation to recharge energy levels during the working day. We work to adjust shift patterns, to rebalance Management’s priorities to favour productivity over dumb attendance.
The first impact we see is on staff happiness. The simple fact that an employer is prepared to consider your Wellbeing gives any employee a morale boost.
The second impact is on socialisation. When people begin to take an interest in each other as human beings again. When they feel they have permission to spend time with family and to go out with friends after work instead of scurrying home to hide. These two changes then begin to improve work ethic and productivity. With hope restored, employees can direct genuine enthusiasm both towards routine work and to development projects.
Ergo, the enterprise begins to get more done. And, perhaps most important of all, customers begin to notice a difference.