Rehumanising the Workplace: Putting People Back at the Heart of Work

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Presentation by Doug Shaw of What Goes Around Limited at Workplace Trends 2012 Conference: Wellbeing and Performance, Thursday 25 October 2012, One Bishop's Square, London, E1 6AD

Presentation by Doug Shaw of What Goes Around Limited at Workplace Trends 2012 Conference: Wellbeing and Performance, Thursday 25 October 2012, One Bishop's Square, London, E1 6AD

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  • I was born in England 1965 with a love of the outdoors, a questionable dress sense and an interest in cycling.
  • As I grew up I developed a healthy interest in music and was fortunate that my teenage years collided with the punk movement, which had the double benefit of allowing me to maintain the questionable dress sense thing. My continued my interest in amateur cycling also helped, let’s face it, lycra is not a good look. In 1992 Carole and I married and on New Year’s Eve 2002 Keira Joe came into our lives. I love being a father and a husband more than I can put into words.For too long we have tried to fit people into rigid workplace structures resulting in a dehumanising effect on us. with the growing use of social tools we have a chance to rehumanise work and put people back at the heart of it, not the other way around. And most of this can be achieved conversationally. Face to face and across the social networks. And as the creaters of tomorrow’s workplce I believe that you are well placed placedto take a lead and drive a compelling case for change.
  • Before that though, a brief history lesson. Frederick W Taylor born 1856 died 1915 and believed that workers were incapable of understanding what they were doing. To help us lowly workers to cope he devised four principles of scientific management:1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.3. Provide "Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task“.4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.When what was required was for people to shovel faster,Taylorism ‘worked’. Efficiency, enforcement, control. I think it’s crazy that FWT thought you could enforce cooperation when a dictionary definition of the word is ‘to work or act with another or other persons willingly and agreeably.’
  • And as a result, this is probably how customer service manifested itself back then!But as our service expectations rose, so our willingness to be controlled reduced. Research shows us we seem to be born with a sense of fairness and community and a desire to share. This is backed up for me by some of the output from a recent event I facilitated involving HR and customer service people. Amongst the conversation you hear things like: Make time for creativity, Ask, Listen, Do, Diversity, Balance, Sharing, Management by wandering around, and a belief that you can do ‘this stuff’ regardless of how big your organisation is.
  • Communication – yeah right – folks always say this don’t they. But….who here wants to receive even more email? Perhaps you’d like another newsletter? A magazine? An update from the CEO? Traditional communication generally flows one way, it’s more broadcasting than communicating. And though it may be a good way of disseminating information, it’s pretty lousy for taking feedback.
  • We could have a long debate about this tool versus that tool, what’s hot and what’s not. Last time I checked I counted around 198 social networking sites listed on Wikipedia which says its listings are ‘limited to notable, well-known sites’. Whilst I’m sure all the members of Crunchyroll,Wooxie and Goodwizz would agree with that statement, by the time4 we’ve come to a conclusion – the world has moved on again.What’s more important is to ask yourselves something like, ‘What do we want to achieve with this stuff?’ and then look into what you might need to bring that to life.
  • Most communication is in fact broadcast. Can be a useful way to let folks know what’s going on – and if you have used a conversational method to involve and consult then people will have a better ideas of what is coming and having been a part of the process – more likely to support. And always beware: The opposite of honesty is silence. When you say any questions – and there is silence don’t misinterpret that silence for agreement. Conversational leadership style is powerful. Be it one to one or many to many. World café is a great way to help facilitate big conversations:Clarify purpose and strategic intentExplore critical issues and questionsEngage all key stakeholdersSkillfully use collaborative social technologiesGuide collective intelligence toward effective action
  • Lunch – together. Another overlooked place to converse, recharge, share and learn. We worked with a UK charity and in one office the teams regularly lunched together – as volunteers and customers came to know about this they asked to come along and together the groups formed strong bonds, shared ideas and made work better together.
  • So why isn’t work already better?
  • FearI believe the companies who shut their eyes and ears to the social world risk all kinds of things. They risk the inability to recruit and retain great people who are socially engaged. They risk missing the opportunity to recover from reputational damage. They miss an abundance of feedback. They miss the cocreative power of communities. Isn’t it better to be engaged then have engagement going on around you?For example, I wrote a song for some friends who were frustrated by poor customer experiences delivered by Johnson’s Dry Cleaners. We shared the song with the company and they chose to ignore it, and my friends’ requests for better service. The song was written in January 2011 and has been viewed by a wide network of people and ignored by the company ever since. And yet people still arrive at my blog after searching ‘Johnson’s poor service’ day after day. Whilst I’m sure that the recent closure of our local branch of Johnson’s is a coincidenceI seriously doubt this episode has done Johnson’s any good.I also wrote a song for a friend frustrated by six months of poor service courtesy of Barclaycard. This time things were markedly different. Within 24 hours of the song going live Barclaycard had engaged in a good natured way. They offered to help my friend fix her problem and in doing so uncovered a couple of systemic issues they resolved to prevent the problem recurring. The result? Happy customer, happy company. Everyone makes mistakes – it is how we recover from them that matters. So what’s this got to do with HR? I think it is important for companies to allow and encourage engagement and participation not inside or outside the organisation, but both. Increasingly the edges are blurred and being aware to this brings the chance to build deeper relationships with others who wish to do likewise. And HR should hold the key to this.
  • AuthenticityVulnerabilityOpennessTrust
  • My mum – encouraged me to be myself first and foremost, to have the courage to admit when I’m wrong and to believe in the karma of what goes around. She also encouraged me to tune into the punk movement where I became a first class student at the school of The Clash. Their frontman Joe Strummer believed that ‘without people, you’re nothing’ and looking back, his beliefs helped shaped my views too.Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management who believed in ‘one best way’ to do work has been dead for almost 100 years and yet still, many companies cling to these mechanised beliefs. Joe Strummer said ‘It’s time to put the humanity back into the centre of the ring’, I think he’s right. It’s time to rehumanise the workplace.


  • 1. Rehumanising the WorkplacePutting People Back at the Heart of Work By Doug Shaw – For Workplace Trends 2012
  • 2. F W Taylor• Transfer control from workers to management• Enforce standardization• Enforce working conditions• Enforce cooperation
  • 3. Communication
  • 4. Collective conversations
  • 5. Authenticity:Bringing the real you to work
  • 6. Vulnerability:Being the real you at work
  • 7. Simplicity:Enabling your best work
  • 8. Transparency:Understand whyStart from full disclosureand work backBring the outside in
  • 9. Lunch and Learn
  • 10. Fear
  • 11. The Trust OverlapWhat WhatYou YouSay Do
  • 12. Further Reading
  • 13. WithoutPeopleYou’reNothing
  • 14. Photo CreditsF W Taylor mousetrap masks Update Conversations – UnknownRussian Dolls Sky and Learn - UnknownSpider Coaster Strummer - Unknown
  • 15. Contact Me: 07736 518066 Web: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter