Is a Happy Worker a Productive Worker?

I network with a lot of people as part of scraping together a living, and they tend to mainly come from the HR and IT spaces. These numerous conversations only go towards reinforcing my original theme around the need for rebranding KM…

What is becoming clearer and clearer is that the larger classical developed western organisational world of working (with my sincere apologies to those immediately feeling excluded when they may not be working in this arena – but hopefully you will still learn something from reading on) is going through a massive transformation which they have very little control over (or sometimes proper understanding of): this transformation, triggered by huge advances in technology is having large ripple-effects on how we work, literally and figuratively speaking. This covers everything from our physical working environment (transitioning from permanent office fixtures to more hot-spotting / remote-working) to team members (from fixed functional organisational set-ups to more dynamic and agile mixed project-based specialist teaming) to technologies (multiple applications providing similar solutions which are constantly evolving while personal interactions with devices is rapidly-evolving whereby daily use of augmented reality (AR) and voice activation (VA), amongst other disruptors, is not so far-fetched anymore)… Taking all this change into account and how it impacts on anyone who still needs to deliver on daily work is a difficult – and usually negative conversation.

Gallup tracks this fascinating employee engagement perspective which opens up some frankly scary reading (scary for employers, that is; their findings make ready sense for those who have experienced classical western organisational environments); they suggest around 85% of the global workforce is not engaged in their work! Obviously the reasons amongst these are very widespread – and while some of these cannot be ‘fixed’ per se by the employer, there are certainly ways and means which can help enhance and reduce these at a team and individual level (organisationally, this is a different beast). But it doesn’t have to be this way!

My belief is that we need to (re-)focus on the human intellectual component when it comes to daily work: this means looking at how we as individuals work. The emotional and conscientious connection which a worker makes with his or her work can only really be enabled when that person is properly intellectually engaged (which then enables mental, emotional, sensory and physical engagement) – something which takes a combination of interventions. Funny enough, most of these interventions borrow from the suite of Knowledge Management practices!

I’m talking about looking at how one works by adopting the four key pillars as with KM: we look at people, content, processes (and equipment), and technologies as key influencers – and disruptors. This means then putting on an ‘intellectual’ lens when examining how these four key factors impact on how one carries out his or her work: examining these through this lens will not only immediately understand how the individual is approaching and executing his or her task, but also helps raise awareness at the supervisor / manager level around what facilitates this exercise, what current distractions are apparent, and what can potentially help overcome or avoid these disruptions. Adopting this mindset not only shines light on more effective ways of working (= innovation?), but then opens up the up-/down-/sideways-reporting components which enables greater flow of understanding and communication – effectively allowing for better knowledge-sharing. I will go into more detail around each of these four components and interventions in my next postings – but I have seen this approach work (without having recognised it for what it was at the time). And this was accomplished while not having waving the ‘KM’ hat, but rather in adopting an operational improvement approach with a focus on the worker’s individual needs and challenges! Simplistic? Perhaps. Call me naïve and a throw-back, but at the end of the day, I still do believe in that old mantra: a happy worker is a productive worker… and which worker is not more happy than when intellectually engaged?

1 Comment so far

Patrick, I’m looking forward to your elaboration on how the four pillars engage workers intellectually. I’m particularly interested to see where the interventions overlap with KM’s.

Posted on August 31, 2017 at 08:42 PM | Comment permalink

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