A short time after Marisa Harris worked to bring about a successful turnaround of a CIT Group division, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told she had only five months to live.
While crushed, Harris decided she would not be defeated and would apply the same business success principles to her life — which eventually lead to a full recovery.
Harris’ positive personality and results became the muse for Bill Schiemann’s book Fulfillment! Critical Choices: Work, Home, Life.
Through Harris, the author realized that the same three factors required for business success — alignment, capability and engagement — also apply to individual success. Syncing individual and corporate visions can lead to fulfillment, said the human resources thought leader and CEO of Toronto’s Metrus Group, an organizational research and advisory firm specializing in strategic performance measurement, organizational alignment and talent optimization.
“For years, I’ve been looking at strategy on down to the employee, thinking from on top of the organization into the life of employees,” said Schiemann, speaking at a recent Strategic Capability Network (SCN) event in Toronto. “So what if we start looking at the life of employees and really understood their whole life and look at how that intersects the organization?”
“We define fulfillment as achieving one’s dreams and creating a lifestyle that brings exceptional happiness and inner peace.”
Organizations play a role in career and life fulfillment — an enduring quality that includes daily happiness and a long-term, sustainable sense of achieving all you can be, he said.
HR professionals play a role in guiding employees towards achievement, and viewing human capital through this lens can also provide insight into how to attract, develop and retain valuable talent.
Ensuring talent optimization can be viewed as a byproduct of building a workforce of aligned, capable and engaged people, said Schiemann.
“We are doing things in business every day that can be applied to our personal lives, and vice-versa,” he said. “We see fulfillment as being our highest level of engagement.”
“When we’re getting people who are truly being fulfilled in what they’re doing, they become advocates for your organization, so strongly committed to what they’re doing.”
Employers can use an “ACE” (alignment, capabilities, engagement) scorecard to audit their organizations to determine the most fulfilled workers, as well as reasoning for that, said Schiemann.
A likely conclusion will indicate an engagement gap, with many workers only partially engaged, he said. “Those are people we could influence positively.”
Managers need to understand how to engage in their employees’ lives. And how that is conducted depends on the individual employee and her life circumstances.
Every leader deals with a mixed bag of talent, including workers dealing with eldercare or school. It is a weak manager who refuses to accommodate employees and makes blanket decisions that affect all, he said.
“Ninety-nine per cent of people we interview really want fulfillment,” said Schiemann, of his research. “Eighty per cent do not feel they’re there.”
HR can’t do it all, however. To be fulfilled, employees need to have clear goals and the passion to work hard for their dreams.
“Ninety-five per cent of people we interviewed talk about setbacks in their life,” he said. “Your employees are going through incredible amounts of change. Building resilience skills, being willing to take risks, is another key part.”
Fulfillment is highest when individual and company visions, values and goals align, and workers are empowered to bring their passion and creativity to work, said Schiemann.
Life balance is also a constant challenge, and activities need to be measured and allotted appropriately.
“For most people, 40 to 60 hours a week represents about 50 per cent and, for some, two-thirds of their available time after eating, sleeping and hygiene factors,” he said.
“There’s really a science here. Having a vision, having the right values and sticking to your values seem to be very important.”
Human resources has the ability to equip management and workers to face change, said Schiemann.
“I often think about HR as an orchestra conductor,” he said. “HR is in a unique and interesting role here with the ability to bridge this whole area of people’s concerns about fulfillment and the kind of experience and culture with the organization’s goals. They end up being great catalysts to allow this to happen.”
Instruments available include vision, life goals, life maps and a balanced scorecard for employees, as well as nurturing one’s body, taking risks, building a network and sticking to values.
Practically, HR leaders can take a variety of measures to ensure fulfillment is top-of-mind, said Schiemann. They include:
• designing work that engages
• hiring people who align with corporate values
• acculturating, rather than onboarding
• recognizing, rewarding employees according to their preferences
• nurturing employee growth
• fostering ownership thinking
• designing an inclusive culture
• educating leaders on the impact of fulfillment in the workplace.
It’s no secret HR practitioners are working in rapidly changing workplaces, said Bill Schiemann. As contingent work continues to push the limits of traditional employment, HR leaders are seeking appropriate avenues to maintain effectiveness.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things traditionally in organizations that really are based on assumptions that are no longer true,” he said. “It’s important to go back to the fundamentals.”
In the current landscape, organizations that are not adding value simply won’t survive, said Schiemann. Individual departments such as HR should also be mindful as to how they add value, too.
Generational differences and their effect on recruitment and retention are also a challenge, he said.
“One of the biggest disservices we do is think of millennials as a group who are homogenous,” said Schiemann.
HR professionals should be considering the gamut of work possibilities — including remote work — in an effort to design jobs that engage.
“Go back to the drawing board,” he said. “Think about your jobs in new ways.”
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