For many managers and leaders, the pandemic has brought several realizations: first, that traditional ways of managing will no longer apply in the future of work.
Second, that work, in essence, is a partnership and not a domination, and third, to ensure responsible management, certain values will become indispensable in the future of work. This third realization is at the heart of this article. What values will become sine qua non for responsible management post-COVID and in the future of work?
This issue was discussed during the CKCRLE webinar hosted by the Christopher Kolade Center for Research in Leadership and Ethics (CKCRLE). The lecturers, who had over 100 years of combined private and public sector experience, were members of the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) class at Lagos Business School.
Transformation and disruption are part of economic and business life and have already manifested themselves in the form of economic downturns, inflations, stock market crashes, wars, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic is akin to these disruptions so far in that it has caused a change in ways of doing things, perhaps a lot more. This has accelerated the digital transformation of most (if not all) organizations as organizations have been forced to move their processes online.
It has also propelled research into responsible work and management, as new models of work empower both employees and their employers. Now more than ever, employees and employers have many more choices when it comes to employment.
Barriers to talent acquisition, such as geography, distance, and time that previously existed, have been removed by new work models. As employers face the challenge of employee retention, employees also face the challenge of AI-induced layoff.
Researchers say that in the future of work, certain values will be needed for organizations to thrive and operate effectively. However, before discussing these values, it will be helpful for readers to understand what we mean by responsible labor management.
Responsible labor management
Work management simply means how we get things done in a work environment. How we do things effectively and efficiently. How we get things done in a way that ensures alignment with organizational goals.
Responsible management, on the other hand, means how we do things in a way that is not only effective and efficient, but also sustainable and ethical. These three components are considered the pillars of responsible management: Efficiency; Sustainability; and Ethical Conduct.
Being efficient means maximizing resources in the best possible way and reducing waste as much as you can. Whether it is a waste of human resources, a waste of time or a waste of material resources.
Being sustainable means ensuring that continuity is assured. Pay attention to the triple bottom line, i.e. people, planet and profit. People are the human resource of an organization and are essential in any organization.
Ensuring that the human resource develops is essential for the growth and continuity of the organization. The planet is where our business operates and also sustains us (the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe), so it’s essential that we protect the planet while conducting our activities. And finally make sure the business is profitable.
The third pillar of responsible management emphasizes organizations acting in a morally sound manner. Leaders and managers have a responsibility to lead the organizational culture, as such, much of this pillar objective rests with them.
Research has shown that when leaders act ethically, employees are more likely to do the same. Researchers also claim that ethical values create a strong culture of trust in an organization.
Values needed post-COVID
Many of the new work models that now exist and will exist will require significant trust and loyalty from both employer and employee. Take, for example, the Work from Home (WFH) model.
The employer must have confidence that the employee will fulfill his role at home. Likewise, the burden of loyalty rests with the employee. Be loyal enough to 1. Do the work without physical supervision, 2. Not disclose company information to third parties, and 3. Work sincerely for the growth and development of the organization.
Five main values are thus identified as essential for responsible post-COVID management, these are – Empathy, Mutual Respect, Honesty, Equity and Humility.
Empathy: Research has shown that empathy in the workplace is positively correlated with job performance. Compassion and the ability to connect with others are essential skills in our personal and professional lives. Empathy at work is a crucial element of effective leadership. It improves human relations in general and leads to more effective communication and beneficial results in the workplace.
The importance of empathy was emphasized at the height of the pandemic. Remote work has put a lot of psychological pressure on people, as the lines between work and home have become blurred. People became overworked, stressed and exhausted. The lack of social interaction further compounded these difficulties.
The relief one would have gotten from a conversation with a colleague was no longer there and this led to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness for many. The transition from the euphoria of working from home to the despair of living at work was rapid and many suffered mental health problems because of it.
Leaders and managers, facing similar challenges, were called upon to be more sensitive to the needs of their workers and increased attention to mental health was encouraged.
Managers must maintain this post-COVID as workers are now more aware of their rights and needs as employees. Gone are the days of toxicity thriving in the workplace, employees are now more likely to call out terrible bosses over their actions that could jeopardize the organization’s image.
Mutual Respect: Employees at all seniority levels should understand the value of respect in the workplace. Respect in the workplace is a crucial element in creating a positive work environment.
Employees feel valued for their accomplishments, abilities, and characteristics when there is mutual respect in the workplace. Employees who are respected and treated with respect contribute to a positive work culture in which they are fulfilled, loyal, engaged and motivated to perform at their best.
As stated earlier, new forms of work will require employee loyalty, mutual respect between employees and employers will engender such feelings of loyalty and commitment to the organization.
Honesty: If honesty is not a guiding principle in every part of a company’s work process, it is nearly impossible for that organization to establish trust. Honesty in the workplace strongly promotes a sense of trust and security among employees and is crucial for the development of the organization.
Indeed, honesty breeds honesty, as stated earlier, managers and leaders set the tone for organizational culture, so if you want your employees to be honest, you need to be equally honest and transparent. If employees know they can trust their leaders to do the right thing, they also strive to do the right thing.
Another component of honesty is transparency and accountability. Being clear in your relationships is essential for leadership and management. This gives employees confidence and proof that their leaders are acting with them and with the organization.
Fairness: Researchers say employees who feel they are treated fairly at work are more likely to trust their boss, like their job, and be committed to their employer. Fairness in an organization involves respecting and advancing the human rights of all employees in the organization and avoiding any form of undeserved bias or favoritism.
Fair treatment at work is a central determinant of employee well-being, productivity and organizational performance. Employees who believe they are treated fairly are more likely to be loyal to their employer and trust management decisions.
Humility: Humility is an important value for managers in the new world of work. Humility in the workplace encompasses many of the values previously highlighted, namely empathy, respect and honesty.
This includes being open to criticism and constructive feedback, as well as respecting and acknowledging the responsibilities and contributions of others. Demonstrating humility as a manager creates a domino effect as employees also act with humility, which facilitates healthy collaboration, boosts employee morale, encourages open communication, fosters helpful behaviors and supports a working relationship healthy.
In conclusion, these values, when properly harnessed, will foster trust and loyalty in the organization. Both of these will be essential for growth, sustainability and productivity in the future of work.
This article is based on a presentation from the Lagos Business School (LBS) Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) class, hosted by the Christopher Kolade Center for Research in Leadership and Ethics (CKCRLE), Lagos Business School.
Baderinwa is the research assistant of the Christopher Kolade Center for Research in Leadership and Ethics (CKCRLE) at LBS