Human-centric models of management key to ongoing success
When organisations allow employees to take time from their work to compassionately tend to, and care for, the suffering of colleagues, a number of positive individual and team-based outcomes ensue.
While NSW health and community sector organisations are streamlining human resource management processes, such as recruitment, performance management and workplace training to enhance employee productivity and retention – our research is showing organisational compassion as another pathway.
It supports a trend where many notable corporate organisations are replacing fixed, bureaucratic processes with more agile, human-centric ones. The reason is that, as knowledge work is the key driver of innovation in our economy, and the best capital to deliver knowledge are humans, these kinds of organisations are quickly realising that human-centric models of management are key to ongoing success.
Through a systems management perspective, the very "human" concept of compassion seems wasteful. This is because noticing, empathising with, making sense of and responding to a colleague’s suffering (how we define the process of organisational compassion) may be considered an indulgent and time-consuming process that detracts from immediate work duties.
However, it is for good reason the concept of organisational compassion, while still emerging, is touted as being the "next big thing".
Humans are key to delivering knowledge work – arguably the engine room of developed economies.
A facet of being human, however unfortunate, is suffering. All humans, through their life will face suffering (though some more than others).
Such suffering can be of a personal nature, such as a relationship breakdown, of challenges associated with caring for family members; it can also be health-related, or created unintentionally as a result of a human-made or natural disaster.
Indeed, as the population density around Australia’s corporate and regional centres increases, the human and business effect of disasters that are generated through climate change are becoming more prominent.
By its nature, human suffering does not fit neatly into a streamlined organisational system for managing employees. We have things such as sick leave and bereavement leave and many organisations also provide employee assistance programs that include counselling and support for individual’s personal and health challenges.
What our research is showing, is that when organisations, in addition to providing these kinds of system-level support for their employees, also legitimise human-centred compassion as part of the daily operations of their organisation, it yields considerable benefits in enhanced wellbeing, psychological safety, resilience and reduces the likelihood of workplace bullying.
The challenge for corporate Australia is to move away from purely a systems-focused management
style; where employee’s time at work is segmented across a number of component tasks, in addition
to scheduled lunch breaks (if they still happen). Moving forward, opportunity exists to adopt a more
flexible, human-centric model, whereupon employees have autonomy to support, and even address,
the suffering of colleagues as part of their job.
Our nascent body of research is highlighting that such flexible, human-centric models of management may indeed yield economic and social benefits that outweigh the cost, and exceed a purely efficiency-driven management style.