Robots with a pulse or Engaged employees?

There is a Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Chaplin is portrayed as a factory worker employed on an assembly line. There, he is subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a malfunctioning “feeding machine” and an accelerating assembly line where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery. He finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos.

From early history prior to the industrial revolution, it seems that humans took responsibility for their lives, made decisions favourable or not, but took ownership for those decisions.

The industrial age through to the manufacturing age introduced the division of labour and specialisation. It was a time when one or a few individuals made decisions, the often-heard phrase “you were hired to work not to think” stripped workers of their most valuable and liberating asset  – the human brain. Most workers were destined to become mere “a robots with a pulse”. The  Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times, provides a glimpse of the role of the employee through those ages.

Now, in the information age and moving into the digital age, we expect people to keep up, to make decisions, to think for themselves, to innovate and lead; but the pattern of behaviour created over time will not allow for this.

How do we create work environments that encourage thinking, where people take ownership and responsibility for their deliverables and decisions, where people solution focused  and there are opportunities and leadership possibilities? A more relevant question would be: Why do we need to have these changes in the work environment?

From an organisational point of view, it is vital that we have solution focused thinkers in the workspace. Many individuals’ collective actions and behaviour create the culture of the organisation and ultimately impact on the all-important bottom line. Gone are the days when a few senior leaders could make a decision and see the results of that decision as planned. Firstly, a few people may not have all the answers, nor have the capacity to do so and secondly, the workforce makes these decisions a reality or not through the collective behaviour and actions of people. Do you often wonder as a manager or leader why plans and decisions do not transpire into results?

From an individual perspective, we have always made decisions. It’s part of our make-up. If we don’t re-programme our brain we will be left behind amongst those that allow others to drive us in our personal and professional lives while remaining in the passenger seat with little or no say. When we reach our destination we, wonder how we had arrived and how life has passed us by without an active role and choice in designing it.

What you could consider as an individual: – 

Have awareness of your patterns of thinking and behaviour. What do you do and say? What reaction and result do you get from this. If the behaviour or programme is not working, consider an alternative and observe the results.

You spend over 70% of your life at work – choose the work you do that puts you in flow. Where your passion and energy is ignited. Motivated people are healthier, happier and more engaged. We don’t have all the answers, seek information and collaborate with people around you. Be with people who support and empower, not those that pull you down. Take responsibility and make decisions, be a leader in your space. Seek feedback from friends, family and colleagues – continuously learn, grow and improve in all that you do. Build relations don’t break them.

What do high performing organisation do?

  • Encourage thinking – give people permission to innovate and be creative.
  • Learn from mistakes – continuously improve
  • Coach people – ask questions from people – peers, subordinates and managers to discover solutions to problems and challenges
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities and decision making authority – support people in decision making
  • Recognise and appreciate people for their contribution
  • Create trust in the work environment by being human

Bring back the human being into the workplace – a thinking person is healthy, happy, engaged and high performing.

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