The workplace is in need of care; care for the customers through excellent service delivery, care for investor through commensurate returns on investment and of course care for the employees for creating value for both the customers and the investors.
We can extend that by saying that our political leaders and by extension, leaders across all frontiers must build a country that cares for its people. Our definition of leadership must be service and legacy inclined.
This article is focused on the caring organisation. It explores issues such as diversity, the right of employees, sexual harassment protection and the requirements of the workplace for building an organisation with a human face; a business entity with a soul.
Following a four year research, *Jessica Pryce-Jones in his book Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success stated that “the average person spends more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work”. This is time away from their most treasured relationships. Therefore this adventure of work must be worthy of their investment of time and trade off. This is not just in terms of monetary earnings or returns but also in the quality of experience of the journey, 7 days a week. The opportunity forgone must live up to its expectation.
Work without a doubt is an integral part of our lives, determining our level of prosperity, happiness and fulfilment. It is also a demanding part of our existence and nothing compensates for the demands than the feeling that we are “cared for” by those who are beneficiaries of our sweat, brains and stress. We want to know that not only does what we do matter, the individual in the value creation chain, matters as well.
“The duty of care” is a legal word that describes the obligation required of employers over employees. It means in summary that an employer has certain responsibilities to protect, nurture, and nourish the individual employee in the course of the employment relationship.
One of the factors that underscore the importance of a caring organisation is the imperative of employee commitment in the economic transaction that happens in the workplace. There are two primary assets and instruments of performance that an employee brings to the workplace. These are competence (skills) and commitment (willingness), while competence is readily assessed during the recruitment process, unfortunately, commitment is harder to assess in a way that is sustainable. Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last stated that employee’s commitment cannot be demanded or compelled; it can only be earned and voluntarily offered by them. Unfortunately, an organisation that only focuses on the skills, ability and knowledge of its employees can only succeed thus far; it takes the motivation, confidence and desire of employees for an organisation to achieve sustainable success. This is why organisations must be interested in both and it takes a posture of care to unlock the commitment of employees.
There are many sophisticated ways to define an organisation; a common thread will uncover the workplace as the web of connected relationships. At the top of the list is the relationship between the employer and the employee, followed by that between the employee and other employees, the employee and the customer, the employee and vendors etc.
These relationships are guarded and guided by laws, enacted nationally or locally. These laws are thereafter domesticated and operationalized in the workplace as policies, procedures and processes. A caring organisation must therefore have documented policies that protect the “needs” of its employees. Arbitrariness breeds abuse. This need will encompass situations or individuals that endanger the safety, dignity and humanity of employees; a hostile work environment epitomised by difficult, cruel and predating line managers, arising from the power dynamics in the workplace, which increases the vulnerability of individuals.
These needs also include the need for belonging and nothing helps foster a sense for belonging than group representation; which is the reason that organisations must be deliberate about diversity.
According to the Nigerian population, there are 371 tribes with male representation at 50.6 percent while female population is 49.4 percent. However, the workplace is organised in such a way that one gender and some tribes are not adequately represented as others. For example, according to the June report of the National Labour Force Demographics, the South West has 23.62 percent representation followed by the South- South (18.48 percent); the least is the North East (11.60 percent). This underrepresentation can be understood within historical, cultural and sometimes political context; however, it should not be ignored. It is on this premise that organisations must take cognisance of this balance of representation and invest in initiatives that address diversity of all kinds. There is a business benefit in leveraging the diversity of strength and strength of diversity for business sustainability. This also extends to how women are treated in the workplace and the need to protect the most vulnerable by tuning up the voices of those who champion the #MeToo movement because though its origin was the United States, the issues are universal.
One of the vulnerable categories in our ecosystem is the youth population, young people who are educated but still unemployed, who are passionate about making a difference but find that there is no commensurate infrastructure to make the translation of their dreams to reality an easy passage. Government must organise and execute concrete initiatives and policies around its agenda for the teeming working population including entrepreneurs. We must match the passion of our youth with the commitment of the government. There is an opportunity for corporate Nigeria to invest long term in the development of talent pipeline focusing on bridging the gap between classroom and the world of work. There should be more graduate development programs, internship programmes, career development clubs in secondary schools, adopt a school initiatives, career fairs etc. A quick win is to do away from practices that discriminate against age in recruitment; corporate Nigeria cannot distance itself from the impact of prolong industrial actions by various stakeholders in the tertiary institutions which in turn affect the average age of graduation. The wind of repercussion blowing across the world with the $11 million federal lawsuit settlement payment by Google on account of systematic discrimination practices is on its way to Nigeria sooner than later.
This is how we demonstrate compassion and teach the younger generation about empathy, loyalty, and patriotism beyond the classroom. This is a powerful tool beyond theorisation of the subject. Actions speak louder than words.
Tunde-Success Osideko is Business Leader and Consultant. He has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Ibadan, and an MBA from Anglian Ruskin University United Kingdom. He is an alumnus of IMD Switzerland, Gordon Institute of Business Science South Africa and has attended an Executive Education course at the Harvard Business School Boston. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com