Human Up (again)

The human workplace is getting a lot of interest of late. Let’s be honest,  I haven’t invented this term.  There is a risk that we are jumping on a bandwagon here.  You know what we mean.  Someone starts talking about something at some conference.  People ooooh about it a bit in the audience and on twitter.  People start to blog about it.  Consultancies start to charge for it.  It makes it from the niche to the mainstream and then we all get bored of it and show disdain for it and think that people who are still talking about it and implementing it while we have moved onto the next shiny thing are Just. Not. Cool.

But, all the same, there is something about the concept that sticks with me. That resonates and feels like just maybe, combined with a focus on employee experience, this is the place to put our focus right now.

The Human Workplace is an imprecise term. It is capable of interpretation in more than one way.  For me, a human workplace is one that has people at the centre of their focus.  It is one that does not buy the cliché that people are your greatest asset (said by many, proved by few) but does recognise that people that work for them, are affected by them, are a user of their services, matter.  The human organisation considers how the stuff that we do makes people feel.

It is an organisation that can embrace technology and all that it brings us, whilst retaining what is inherently human. It is an organisation that doesn’t automate the heck out of everything just because it can.  Human organisations have heart.  Emotion isn’t a dirty word in the human organisation.  It is safe to be real.  It is safe to speak out.

From an HR perspective, if that is even a term that fits with the concept of a human workplace, is certainly focused more on people as people and not as resources.

Why is this stuff even important? Why does it matter?

There are plenty of reasons.

There are the traditional arguments to the people first approach. Retention, attraction, motivation, the war for talent (sorry). There is of course the never ending quest for employee engagement.

But it is more than that too.

When organisations aren’t human, when they don’t have heart, when they are not sufficiently people-focused, there are often found deeper and more troubling problems.

Sadly, there are organisations without much heart. We know that.  No matter what the careers website says, many – most – organisations are much more focused on profit and shareholders.  It’s that thing called capitalism.

We have all seen the examples on our news reports or in our Twitter timelines. Companies that are offering sweatshop-like working conditions. Others that still embrace the worst of scientific management principles.  Exploitation of workers remains an issue, today, in the UK.  There are plenty of organisations that are anything but human.

It is not, in my experience, that most organisations set out to be inhuman. Most HR teams don’t create their policies and processes with the aim in mind of forgetting the human touch, or simply not caring about how people feel about their work and experience their organisations.  Many organisations genuinely feel that they put people at the top of the agenda  – but this doesn’t stop them being no-so-human.

It happens not by design but by default or accident.

There is too much bureaucracy. Leaders lose sight of the small stuff.  The policies and the processes get bigger and more complex.

The people get lost along the way.

The way people feel gets lost too.

Let’s take that website cliché, people are our greatest asset – in much the same way that anyone can come up with a generic list of corporate values, anyone can say that their people are their greatest asset. Meaning it and proving it are two very different things.

If people really are your greatest asset, it will show up in everything that you do. It will show up in how people are recruited and inducted.  It will show up in the reward and recognition.  How people are led, the spaces in which people are expected to work in, the way the difficult stuff is dealt with (or not).

It will show up too in the performance review, the policies and procedures, the learning and development on offer. No one needs to be told whether they are valued by their company.  When it is true, they instinctively know that they are – or they are not.  It is cultural.

Not-so-human workplaces are everywhere. Perhaps you even work in one yourself.

So I’m thinking about this stuff. In the practical, not the abstract.  If we want workplaces in which we genuinely place how people feel at the top of the agenda, then there is much that HR can do in the everyday.   Blogs coming up…….

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