If the disengagement and stress-levels of our workforce is not enough enough reason for action, there is also a pragmatic and urgent reason to care about this downward trend. The current revolution demands of all our organisations a complete rethink of their business models, services, processes, markets, … . We need courage, vision, creativity, resilience and perseverance to weather this perfect storm. Only people that feel inspired, engaged, recognised and cared for can be expected to be both creative and persistent, to dare to think out of the box, challenge the status quo and experiment their way to innovation and transformation.
Work as an Economic Activity
Nowadays it seems as if the economy is all that matters. We have reached a point where anything that cannot be measured in money is not seen as worth doing, other than as a hobby or a voluntary charity. But while the economic nature of work is real, it ignores what inspires people to do great work.
Work as a Social Activity
Most people are not just working to better themselves, but actually care about others. They care about their families, their colleagues, their communities, their countries, the world. Most people have a need to contribute and a desire to help make the world a better place. Research confirms that the desire to do meaningful work runs deeper than the need to earn a living. People also enjoy their work for the social contacts it gives them. We are a social species, enjoying being with people we care about; people like us that care about the same things we do; people we share dreams, aspirations and goals with.
The Costs of Ignoring the Social Side of Work
The damage done by treating the value, organisation and management of work as a purely economic problem runs much deeper than just making people unhappy with their work. It has eroded the social fabric of society to the point that we have lost sight of the very reason society exists: for the well-being of its people. We have traded well-being for wealth and collaboration for competition.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The convergence of AI, ML, Robotics and IoT provide us with a unique opportunity to finally realise that technology-based utopia that we were once promised. To achieve that, however, we must change the paradigms we have come to live by since the 1st Industrial Revolution began. Technology alone is not going to save us. To really change the underlying causes of many of the problems and challenges facing us all, we have to start by examining and challenging our own beliefs and assumptions about the nature of work, and how we organise and manage it.