The basic theory of humanism was – to put it very simply – that “man became the focus”. This Renaissance-era movement called for a major change of approach in many areas of life. 2022 is clearly the beginning of modern humanism. Although the basic theory is the same as several hundred years earlier, the practical application of the theory in a technologically impulsive, pandemic-hit era is obviously very different. And if we want to succeed in business, we need to be aware of these differences.
We’ve lost ourselves a bit
Although almost every company pays lip service to the idea, there are very few businesses that have really taken a proper interest, commitment, and humility in human resources over the last decade or so. In most cases, even when the attitude was good, the profit motive or a business challenge immediately pushed people to the background. It is also curious that the managers themselves have very easily given up representing human interests, even though they are human beings. A lot of experts have looked into why it is that when people move into management positions, their attitude to this issue changes drastically. It does not always mean that before, as a simple employee, their attitude was good, and afterwards, as a manager, it somehow went wrong. It often changes in a positive direction. What is certain, however, is that it is very difficult for decision-makers to understand and experience the situation of non-decision-makers, and this leads to inappropriate human decisions, which then cause serious problems at the organisational level. Some people argue that this is because of the selfishness in people, and that those who want to become managers have a higher-than-average selfishness factor. Some say that if you lack emotional intelligence and the empathy that goes with it, you have a serious problem. The point is that there are the correct professional explanations, which clearly show that the majority of organisations were already failing to balance their human resources before the pandemic. And by balance, I mean what should and should not be allowed, what should and should not allow, what should and should not be expected of an employee. If I want to put it simply, you could say, although at different levels, with different intelligence quotients, but by and large, the expectation on an employee was to go to work, wherever it was, do the job, whatever it was, and meet the expectations, whatever they were. But no one really wanted to know the worker as a person, the worker’s real thinking, ideas, perceptions, purpose in life, life path, and so on. Moreover, the worker themself did not want to make a big deal of it, because that would have made them vulnerable. And that’s right, you might say, because obviously, it’s none of an employer’s business what my specific individual, personal goals are, what my way of thinking is, etc. Moreover, I now have rights in this area, so they can’t ask me anything more personal. So, everything is fine as it is. It’s just that we forget that we spend half of an average weekday’s waking hours with the employer and its environment, so we accept that we will be running around unknown in a habitat of the same intensity as our private life. And of course, many people may say that they don’t tell their partner everything at home either, but the immediate response is that you shouldn’t be surprised if the relationship doesn’t work, and even if you realise this after, say, 30 years, it’s too late to reclaim a significant part of your life.
If we keep unravelling this thread, it is quite easy to get to the point that in an environment where we don’t know the real thoughts, challenges, and lives of employees and people, how can we know their real motivation? Well, at the most, from them telling us. Which, of course, is more of a problem. One is that, in many cases, we ourselves do not know our true motivations, because we are driven by the goals of the moment or the failures of the moment to avoid new ones. And these, when expressed as motivation, give us short-term satisfaction. Now, in a relationship or at work, I don’t think – with certain exceptions – that anyone would want to plan for 3-6 months with a short-term motivation that can change at any time. But if we don’t know the real motivation, then unfortunately, we can’t expect more than that. The other problem with motivation communicated in the workplace is that they do not necessarily reflect reality; as we have just explained above that we are not completely honest, nor can we be asked to be. So obviously, we also tend to say something sound in terms of motivation. And then we get into a lose-lose situation, because of course we don’t get what we really want, the employer doesn’t get what we really want, so we’re bound to fail. But who’s crazy enough to say that they wouldn’t work if their child didn’t need money. They would be at home, and doing very well with some hobby, which is, by the way, totally far from work. And I’m just giving a real example for clarity. That is why organisational motivation systems are just as true, just as effective in practice, both at the team and individual level, as the relationship between employer and employee is honest. And why interfere with such a well-established, superficial solution unless you really need the change? Why would the entire management, HR, and employees want to impose drastic changes if everything is going its own way?
The real impact of a pandemic
Yes, but now everything is not going its own way! In fact, almost nothing works the way it did two years ago. And in all this change, in understanding it – and then managing it, of course – man has “unfortunately” become central. The focus has been on honesty between people and with ourselves. One could read from many experts that COVID-19 would bring with it very specific changes in decision-making and mindsets because for people living today – at least in the case of more developed Western societies – it was the first event that invaded people’s private lives. Families, loved ones, friends were lost for many; human life, its happiness and the total “exploitation” of life became an absolute focus for almost everyone! It then follows, in a very direct way, that people do not want to “waste roughly half their waking life” by being at a job they don’t like. And they certainly don’t stay at a job they specifically hate. Obviously, there will always be “needed jobs”, that’s not what we’re talking about. But workers are looking around much more carefully, much less accepting of inappropriate treatment. What’s more, it’s the characters who have hitherto abhorred change who are the most affected, who have quietly put up with whatever has happened to them. The employer didn’t have to look at them very much because they were loyal, they worked hard, and they really were chewed up a thousand times before they changed. It’s just that the same character is the most family-oriented, empathetic, emotional, and they’ve had a very long two years already. The general motivational solutions, the “whatever, it’s been like this, it’ll be fine after this” attitude will disappear. And since many people work for a happier life for their families, if that happiness is now translated into less money for the family but more time together, then there will be a big problem for companies that are so superficially concerned with their employees. Outdated, one-dimensional motivational gimmicks or “pseudo-solutions” will not work, and let’s face it, the HR profession is big on these. This is why CEOs, the real business decision-makers, have problems with this area. Now they will expect real solutions with real results, and “turnover is 30% elsewhere” will no longer be an excuse, because just because most companies don’t know what they are doing does not mean that we cannot!