One of the goals of the new economy is to help nurture sensitive and intelligent human beings who are capable of healthy relationships and of value-adding diligence’s. Thus, the workplace is being reconceptualized as a primary setting for human learning and development. There are three key elements relevant to the task of transforming the workplace: seeing work as relevant to the common good of the society, governing work democratically, and having the possibility of job rotation, enlargement and enrichment.
InPuerto Rico, we all have experienced moments when people harness their energies to the common good, for example in a shared crisis such as the aftermath of a hurricane. There is nothing intrinsically unrealistic about a society in which people are truly dedicating their energies to the common good, particularly if they understand the benefits of behaving in this positive manner. We have work with a few companies in taking a few days each year, during which normal work would stop. At this time, employees at each workplaces create a mission statement, articulating their goals for their workplace, including an analysis of how it was serving the common good. A few weeks ago we facilitate one of these sessions at a mayor pharmaceutical company and the venture received an outstanding ovation on the part of all employees.
On the other hand, the process by which workplaces decide how and what to produce or offer must be shared and democratized. Increasing productivity is far more possible when people get educated to shape the conditions of their work and feel deeply invested in the outcomes. This task can be part of the agenda of occupational safety, health and development teams, aiming at changing the conditions to increase the use of intelligence, creativity, cooperative ability, empathy and sensitivity to improve the quality of work. Democratic designs are important, but they can be hollow unless they are accompanied by a genuine experience of human community and solidarity. The creation of a culture of connectedness and mutual recognition at the workplace is fundamental.
No matter how fulfilling a work task may be, people stuck in it for forty years are likely to reduce their contribution, and will withdraw their creative and emotional energy. For this reason, one of the new predicaments of the new economy is providing the option (not a requirement) for people to experience work rotation (different tasks), enlargement (adding scope and responsibilities) and enrichment (learning new competencies and managing new tools).
It all relates to a strategy for developing respect for work, allowing people to develop other capacities, and this path will increase productivity as they use the fullest being in the world of work. It is about developing a pro work ethic based not on sacrifice, but on seeing work as actions through which we are able to externalize ourselves in the world and act together toward shared goals. No plan for transforming the individual can be separated from a plan to transform institutions, the economy and the society.
Copyright 2000 QBS, Inc.