The Human Perspective of Business
Recently the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, talked about the growing number of young people on free school meals leaving school without basic qualifications. This number is increasing and reversing the trend when, for more than a decade, substantial progress was made in reducing the number of children leaving education without substantive qualifications. Why? Support available in schools, such as Learning Mentors, to help children overcome emotional barriers to engagement has reduced due to budget cuts. Our brains have a limited capacity; fill them with day-to-day emotional stuff and there isn’t much scope for being able to focus on learning. For me, there is a direct parallel with adults in the workplace that employers often fail to notice or act upon.
L.I.F.E. – Lifecycle Implications for Engagement
We go to work as individuals, leaving our home, family, pets, hobbies that help define who we are and how we function. They bring meaning to our lives but also their share of ups and downs. Depending on where we are in our life cycle we are presented with additional challenges, for example, the want to become a parent that doesn’t always happen as easily for some people trying to conceive, learning to live with sleep deprivation and the lack of control with newborns, children starting school and re-jiggling life’s routine, parents returning to work and children leaving home. That doesn’t begin to touch the surface of more general worries such as relationship problems, job role and promotion uncertainty, housing issues and so on. When we take a step back, we can see that for many people there are particular moments in their lives where stress, lack of sleep and anxiety can increase. That’s in addition to the unexpected challenges along the way.
Meeting Human Needs to Increase Intelligence
So, how do we expect employees to manage what’s going on for them personally in the workplace? Usually by ‘parking’ their individual needs at the door and adopting ‘work-mode’. All very well in theory but in complete contradiction to how brain’s work. When emotional arousal is high, it hijacks the cognitive brain where we engage our problem solving, rational thinking, planning and communication functions. In other words, our intelligence. Maybe we should be taking a leaf out of those successful schools that had Learning Mentors and help employees deal with emotional barriers so that they are able to engage more productively. This diagram from Joe Griffin at the Human Givens Institute (HGI) shows how, as our emotional needs are met, so our intelligence is more available:
The Critical Role of Leaders
The best leaders take the time to explore life with employees. What’s getting in the way for them this week? What do they need? How can we help? I think of lots of these challenges as blips; given the right support, we get over the hurdles. That support might be as simple as taking the pressure off for a week.
Failing to acknowledge these emotional demands, burying our head in work and continuing regardless, can turn a potential ‘blip’ into something more serious in terms of stress, depression and so on. And then you’re no longer looking at short-term support but longer term absence and significantly increased costs.
A Traffic Light System to Human Needs
Do you know where in the life cycle each of your employees is at? Do you know what other worries and challenges they face? Do you know how much your staff feel they are or aren’t thriving, perhaps on a scale that will move from day-to-day? Have you asked each person in your team how they’re doing in terms of their human needs being met well enough to be able to function well at work? If security, control and status, our most primitive needs, aren’t well met, it is unlikely people will be able to develop good interpersonal skills needed for relationships, communication and team work. When we have privacy, we are able to reflect and create capacity for reasoned thinking. Our brains require time to switch off from an external focus to make sense of what is going on. Leaders need to understand how to help people move up the ladder to achieve a sense of purpose, learning and teamwork. Joe Griffin captures that well here:
Check-in regularly. Ask questions. Listen. Be there. Be human.
For more information about a Human Needs Workplace Audit, L.I.F.E. and how to consider implications and your role, get in touch for a chat. firstname.lastname@example.org