4 – It’s time to harness our human drives
In the previous post, we saw how digital age organisations need to be focused on asset building. In this post, we will discover how to turn the untapped potential of our people into value for all stakeholders in the organisation.
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Biz 4.0 model is underpinned by three tenets, one of which is:
Humans have certain anthropological drivers. Smart organisations recognise that to fully engage their people at work, they need to meet cater for these drivers.
The industrial era gave rise to great economic progress because it recognised the power of process and automation. In the perfect scenario, the factory would be fully automated because humans are inherently inefficient. People are prone to tiredness, distraction, illness, boredom and other conditions that can impact operational efficiency. So, it is only with reluctance that industrial era business owners employed people. Most of these people are probably not aware that whilst they have a job title (actually a cog title), they are really a technology placeholder. That is to say, they are employed because at that point in time there was no technology available that could undertake the role, hence the reluctant need for a human.
Thus the majority of people in industrial era organisations (read organisations of typically ten or more years of age) are being underutilised from a cognitive capacity perspective. This leads to both stress and a sense of emptiness for the workers. However, they typically stick with the job because they have a lifestyle to fund.
With the arrival or AI and robotics, many of these technology placeholder roles will disappear.
Whilst this has the potential to be economically devastating, it will at least end the inhumanity of spending a large part of one’s life being a compliant, underutilised and miserable cog.
But the good news is that if we start treating humans as humans in the workplace, we can both harness their full potential and create a more rewarding environment for all. In the course of my work, I have identified nine anthropological drivers that need to be met in the workplace if we are to attract and retain the best talent. And by talent I mean people who can create value over and above technology-driven alternatives.
Meet the Anthro Drivers
These Anthro Drivers (AD) are as follows:
- Work-Life integration.
I have written and spoke extensively on why these AD elements are so important. If you cast your mind back 12,000 years to when your ancestors were hunter gatherers, you will appreciate the importance of these drivers. And keep in mind that human adaptations require around 25,000 years to take root. Thus, we are still wired to be hunter gatherers, despite the fact that we are no longer on the savanna.
In any case, here is a brief rationale for each of them.
- Mobility – We are primarily designed to move. Typically to hunt down food, avoid being food and to approach future mates.
- Sociality – We operate best in a pack. As hunter gatherers, It increased the chances of securing our next meal.
- Work-Life integration – The world doesn’t operate on a nine to five basis. Work-life balance is the preserve of those who do not love what they do professionally.
- Creativity – Creativity enabled us to evolve from using a rock as a weapon to a rocket as a form of transport. Innovative services are fuelled by creative thought.
- Autonomy – We have a tendency to want to put our own signature on our ‘art’. Micromanagement turns it into the boss’s art and thus decouples us from a successful outcome beyond our contractual obligations.
- Curiosity – Experimentation is key to moving forward in a volatile and uncertain world.
- Courage – This is required if we are to break away from the status quo and explore uncharted territory.
- Productivity – We tend to want to have our productivity recognised. Otherwise people feel like labour or horse power, or even merely human resources.
- Spirituality – We need to feel that we are spending a very significant proportion of our lives doing something more than just making the shareholders rich.
My Biz 4.0 book covers these in more detail.
The talent is in the driving seat
Some leaders might take the view that there is no need to pander to the needs of the workforce. Surely as technology takes over more roles, the pool of grateful workers will simply increase? This is very true for those workers who do not step up to the new challenge of turning their cognitive capacity into market-valued innovation.
But these are not the people digital age organisations need.
There is a growing cadre of people who know how to turn their brain power into market value, but this talent pool is not growing in line with market demand.
Consequently, they will call the shots in terms of the relationship with your organisation. What is more, given that they will have plenty of engagement options, they will likely gravitate to organisations that meet their human drives. Not least because that is where they will find other talented individuals with whom they can do great work.
Business transformation is required
Many organisations have already upped their game in respect of talent acquisition, but retention will be an issue if these AD elements are not met. Thus, this is a business transformation issue and not just a matter of talent management.
I would argue that job number one for digital age organisations is to acquire and retain the best talent. Creating environments that are conductive to doing great work is thus required. In my view, digital age talent managers need an appreciation of anthropology.
In the next post, I will focus on the importance of adopting tribal behaviours if we are going to harness our people’s cognitive capacity to navigate the hostile terrain of the digital age.