Human-centered approach to work – BusinessWorld Online


(Part 5)

In a sequel to his post on ‘The Great Resignation,’ Hays CEO Alistair Cox wrote that it’s no surprise that the pandemic has left so many people wondering what’s important to them. They began to take a deeper look at their values ​​and what they expect from life. The pandemic has changed all of our lives and thinking deeply about what we want out of life is a natural reaction to it. For those who see human work as a way to be a co-creator of God, this introspection can be a healthy discipline.

One person who reflected very deeply on the ultimate goal of human work was Saint John Paul II who summarized his reflections on this very important subject in his encyclical Laborem exercises (On human labor). It would be useful here to summarize the content of this historical encyclical. He started with the basic premise from the Old Testament: “Man is the image of God in part through the Creator’s mandate to subdue, to rule, the earth. In fulfilling this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe.

Saint John Paul II then distinguishes between work in the objective sense (technology) and work in the subjective sense, that is to say, man as a subject of work. In the objective sense, technology is the ally of the work that human thought and creativity have produced. Technology undoubtedly makes work easier, perfects, accelerates and increases it. It leads to an increase in the quantity of things produced by labor, and in many cases improves their quality. It is also a fact, however, that in some cases technology can cease to be man’s ally and almost become his enemy. This happens when the mechanization of labor supplants it, robbing it of its personal satisfaction and the incentive for creativity and responsibility, when it deprives many workers of their work or when, by exalting the machine, it reduces the man with slave status.

More important, however, for the human being who wonders why he works, it is work in the subjective sense. Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it because as an “image of God” he is a person, a subjective being able to act in a planned and rational way, able to decide for himself and having a tendency to self-actualization. . As a person, therefore, man is the subject of the work. Understood as a process by which man and mankind subdue the earth, work corresponds to the basic biblical concept where throughout the process of work, man manifests and asserts himself as the one who “dominates” and not the one who is dominated.

For those who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, it is very significant that Christ, while being God, has become like us in all things, devoting most of the years of his life on Earth (all 30 years) to work. manual to the carpenter’s bench. This historical fact constitutes in itself the most eloquent “gospel of work”, showing that the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the type of work performed but the fact that the one who does it is a anybody. The sources of the dignity of work are to be sought first in the subjective dimension, not in the objective dimension. In the final analysis, it is always man who is the goal of work, no matter what work is done by man – even though the common value scale classifies him as the simplest “service”, as the most monotonous, if not the most, the most alienating work.

The Great Resignation movement can lead to a “Great Awakening” of many workers that their respective employers, under the banner of a market economy associated with capitalism, have reversed the order established from the beginning by the words of the Book of Genesis: man is treated as an instrument of production, while he – he alone regardless of the type of work he does – must be treated as the actual subject of the work and its true maker and creator. Many workers can still be victims of the error of primitive capitalism which treated man on the same basis as all the material means of production, as an instrument and not in accordance with the true dignity of his work – this is that is, where he is not treated as subject and creator, and for this very reason as the real goal of all production. This awareness on the part of the workers will naturally lead to a massive resignation of workers who could find in the freelance economy of odd jobs a more human environment in which the human person is indeed the ultimate subject of the work and not just a human being. another factor of production, no matter how well remunerated they are.

An example of a possible reform that current employers can consider to retain their valuable employees is offered by Cox in his article “The Great Resignation: Opportunity or Threat?” “Workers will not feel that they are being treated as another cog, a mere factor of production, if the employer focuses its position of the employee experience on” the life experience of the workers. employees ”. The employee will surely feel the center of attention if they are supported by their employer inside and outside of work. Employers must recognize the unmistakable truth that their employees are human beings with families and communities to support, challenges to overcome and that, for them, their work helps them meet their obligations in all areas of their lives. Mr Cox gives examples such as opening up learning and development opportunities for family members, offering more tailored benefits to parents and caregivers, as well as marriage counseling, extra days of wellness support, mid-life reviews for employee health, wealth and careers. , and support for long-term financial planning. In all of these examples, the employer sees the employee not only as a 9 to 5 year old worker, but as someone they care about in all aspects of life, presumably with the idea that someone who receives more from his employer than a simple salary the underpants will give more and will stay longer too.

Another way to show an employee that their employer sees them as a complete human being with different life aspirations is to help employees thrive as potential entrepreneurs. According to the National Bureau of Economic Statistics, the pace of new business applications since the mid-2020s is the highest on record. Ernst and Young found that 65% of Gen Z (centenarians) see themselves owning their business within the next 10 years. These findings, along with the fact that the pandemic has seen an increase in all types of side activities at home (called side husles in the United States) help to argue that employers should be aware of the rise of freelance writers. Even if they still work for their current employer, these employees can already start as “intrapreneurs”. Some of them may become independent contractors rather than permanent employees. It could be beneficial for their employers if their vision and ambition are incorporated into their business first, even if only part-time. If these ‘intrapreneurs’ learn new skills by doing their own side thing and become more talented individuals as a result, it might be a good idea for their current employers to get some of their newly acquired skills, even if not. that for a while. These are indeed very creative ways to take advantage of a possible “big resignation” that could take place when the pandemic is reasonably brought under control.

One-on-one conversations with employees about their well-being and how their work can be redesigned to support their pursuit of happiness and purpose and, why not, their efforts, are also important, Cox says. very useful, according to Mr. Cox. sanctify themselves in their work. During these sessions, managers and employees need to have an authentic dialogue so that they can build common ground that will allow employees to thrive, thus helping the company to rebound strongly in the post-labor economy. pandemic. It would also be advisable to conduct regular “stay interviews” with employees to help understand why your employees are staying with you and why they might consider leaving.

Finally, it is also important to collect, listen to and implement feedback on exit interviews that can open the eyes of the employer to the necessary reforms of the practices that prompted employees to leave.

(To be continued.)

Bernardo M. Villegas holds a doctorate. in Economics from Harvard, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Asia and the Pacific and Visiting Professor at IESE Business School in Barcelona, ​​Spain. He was a member of the Constitutional Commission from 1986.


Maria D. Ervin