Are people resources? Do employees exist for employers and bosses to use? Or are people the top priority for employers to value, nurture, attract and retain? Has the term ‘HR’ or ‘Human Resources’ become associated with commoditising people and treating them as resources to dispose of if required? It feels like we need to make a fundamental shift to valuing people so much more than that.
That’s not to say we don’t need a function to attract, retain, nurture and develop people. We absolutely do, but that function is more human-centred than the view that people are there to be treated clinically and dispensed of when we wish. This is not a mindset shift that’s simply about words we use. Words do matter, but what matters more is how we value people in an organisation.
We would hope, that the days of hiring and firing, and people feeling uncertain are gone. Then I look at how some of the recent tech lay offs have been handled. With employees realising they don’t have a role any more as they can’t log on to laptops or access a building. Imagine how that feels? That toxic way of treating people feels so clinical and cold.
Recruiting and retaining talent in an organisation is already a tough call in an age where people have choices. They have a lot of choices. They want to work in organisations with purpose and with values that resonate with them. And they want to feel like they can belong in an organisation and be themselves.
Instead of feeling like ‘resources’ people are looking for those workplaces that care about them. 49% of people now look for diversity and inclusion in employers. And they want that to be genuine commitments to progress. 82% of people expect employers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of employees. People are looking for those employers who do not treat them like commodities and resources. They want to be treated like people. Nurturing and valuing people is a top priority when people are sizing up employers.
There are leadership styles that lend themselves to this type of approach, and more and more companies are adopting these ways of working. ‘Teal’ ways of working as defined by Frederic Laloux in his book ‘Reinventing Organizations’ is all about enabling people to work in the ways that suit them best. This method empowers people to work towards a common goal, be themselves, and choose ways of working that suit them. Gone are the ’command and control’ restrictions, there are no daily ‘stand up’ meetings for managers to check on what tasks you are working on or how many emails you sent. Instead, people are encouraged to be themselves, learn, to not be afraid of trying things and failing. And crucially, people learn the best ways of working that suit them to deliver on their goals. Working in this way enables people to do what they need to do. In their own way.
What can employers do to help people to feel less like resources and start valuing people as people?
1. Terminology – it is worth looking at the words you use, in job titles, job adverts, role descriptions and working processes. There is no need to get too whacky with job titles so people can’t understand what the role is. Instead, tell people the story of the organisation, and how this role fits with the overall goals. Help people to see how they could belong and be part of the story.
2. Inclusive working – consider how you work. Is there more that you could be to enable different types of people to feel welcome and included? Instead of rigid ways of working to control people, can you enable people to work flexibly, in ways that suit them so that they can deliver on their work in the ways that best suit their style of working? This requires good communication of the top-level goals and objectives. And then allow people the freedom to work out how they can deliver on the goals they need to achieve.
3. Nurturing people – and nurture people to help them perform to their best abilities. Talk to people about their dreams and aspirations. Then you can help people with training, time to work on developing their skills and connect them to other people who can help them too. Mentoring is a brilliant way to do that, or it could be that you help people to gain experience in areas they want to work in so they can develop their skills.
When employees feel valued and nurtured and that their employer cares about them, they care more about their work. People perform at their best when they can be themselves and learn how to deliver on their work in the best way for them. It makes sense from a performance as well as people perspective. Let’s stop considering people to be resources to use, and think about how we can value, nurture, and help people to feel valued at work.
Image source – www.culturacreative.com
Mo Kanjilal is Co-Creator at Watch This Sp_ce, a multi-award-winning diversity and inclusion company. During a career in international technology corporations leading global teams, Mo worked on creating inclusive teams and engaging employees. After working in smaller digital companies on similar initiatives, she co-created Watch This Sp_ce with Allegra Chapman. The company works with a range of organisations in different sectors to help them understand what changes they need to make to create inclusive teams where people are happy, and how to drive those changes and engage people. Mo is also a Charity board Trustee, a Non-Exec Director, a Conference Speaker, and Writer.