100 per cent human at work is how to win tomorrow

As a CEO of a company whose average employee age is 28, I'm learning that we need to encourage people to find balance a from an early age

21 Mar 2018 . 4,998 Views

I have a peer at work. His name is Joe Ogutu, and he’s our Director for Strategy and Innovation. Last year Joe and I agreed that we would check up on each other every morning to see whether we had performed our micro action.

We were each to ensure that the other did not look at his device – no e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc. within 30 minutes of going to bed or waking up. Later we agreed on different micro actions; mine was to write at least five words in my daily journal each night, whilst his was to take micro rests during his work day.

Of course it’s almost meaningless to write just five words, but it’s a sufficiently small commitment to not be too daunting and I usually end up handwriting two or three pages. Journaling helps me distill the important elements, thoughts and emotions of the day, and helps me keep things in perspective.

Micro-rests help Joe create deliberate punctuation marks during the course of his incredibly busy day.

It’s our way of helping each other find and maintain that delicate balance that eludes so many of us as we go through the motions of busy lives that are increasingly ruled by things seemingly outside our influence.

We’re all working harder chasing success in its various forms, but we’re doing it all at the expense of the one thing that makes it all matter: balance.

A while ago I was invited to join the B Team, a not-for-profit initiative formed by international business and civil society leaders to advocate for a better way of doing business for the wellbeing of people and planet. Our goal is to persuade CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs to lead their companies and sectors in a more sustainable direction. We want to demonstrate that doing what’s best for people and the planet is ultimately also best for business.

There is no business argument for a world that continues to consume and produce itself into oblivion. We need an economic system that does a better job of extending prosperity to all, reducing inequality, and preserving the planet for future generations.

This is why the B Team is encouraging business leaders to commit to participating in three anchor initiatives: Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; Governance & Transparency; 100% Human at Work.

Whilst at Safaricom we aim to address all three anchor initiatives, I have personally chosen to co-chair a working group on 100% Human at Work with my fellow B Team Leader, Sharan Burrows, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

As the CEO of a company whose average employee age is 28 years old, I’m learning more and more that we need to encourage people to find balance from an early age. In my experience, employees are more inclined to contribute towards their employers’ success when they enjoy a sense of balance between personal and professional desires.

An employee who feels that his desire to grow and succeed is supported, is more likely to be invested in the performance of the company and dig in to help achieve its goals.

Gone are the days when a nice salary was enough to build loyalty. Today’s workforce demands more. They want to work in organisations with an established esprit de corps. They want to know that they are worth more than the hours they put in; more than just cogs in a wheel.

Happy employees are better decision makers, more effective managers and become better leaders, and that results in happy customers and better business performance. This has made employee satisfaction a critical function of the leadership team, and this is where 100% Human begins.

So how can we humanise the workplace? Here are some tips that I believe can make more companies 100% Human if adopted by business leaders:

  • Recognise that employees are human beings, and need to be treated as such. Leave days, flexible working and the freedom to switch off after work are a small investment to make in the team that ensures your success. It feels good to go home knowing that you’re allowed to rest.
  • Create a more joyous and purposeful experience in the workplace. We spend more time at work than we do with our families these days, so at the very least we should enjoy being there.
  • Invest in personal and professional growth and help people develop into the best versions of themselves.
  • Focus on relationships, encourage open communication and learn to listen. Members of staff who feel appreciated and respected are more likely to be loyal, to work harder and weather the storms with you.

These are just some of the things we’re doing at Safaricom as we aim to become 100% Human at Work.

We encourage people to spend time doing things they enjoy away from work, and have even gone as far as to include Thrive goals in our performance management process. These goals range from the seemingly mundane, such as sleeping for at least seven hours each night, drinking more water or reading one book a month, to those that require more commitment, such as taking up a sport or learning a new skill.

I’m proud to say that since we launched this initiative last year, about 70 per cent of my colleagues have engaged in an activity that goes beyond the workplace. People are learning that it’s OK to make time for themselves; they’re learning to enjoy simple things again and in that way are thriving at work. One of them has even fulfilled his ambition to write and publish a book over a three month period as part of his micro-action commitment.

Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. In fact we probably don’t get it right most of the time. But we certainly are in a better place than we were a couple of years ago and we definitely know what our destination looks like.

Work should be as fulfilling as it is about sustainable business growth, and fulfillment in the workplace begins with becoming more human, engaging team members, motivating them towards a shared collective purpose and looking beyond the bottom-line. That is how to win tomorrow.

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