The Compassionate Organization

The (organizational behavior) times, they are a changing.
In the past, employees went to work for organizations in an implicit agreement that they would provide their skills for fair pay. If they performed well, they would be rewarded with a modicum of job security and perhaps career advancement. Those days of one employer per career are long gone. In today’s “contract” economy, workers change jobs between eight to ten times by the time they reach 35 years old.
The Mature workers and Baby Boomers who first introduced the American workplace to mass layoffs in the 1980s when they were in their 30s and 40s, are now leaving the workplace by the tens of thousands every day.
This mass exodus of the Mature workforce and Baby Boomers coincides with Millennial workers taking over roles of increasing importance within organizations. The sheer number of Millennials now entering the workforce will fill the void being left by Matures and Boomers. Estimates are Millennials will constitute 75-80% of the American workforce by 2020. Meanwhile, organizations have been “flattening out” their management ranks as they cast off layers of middle management in the past few decades.
With this huge transfer in the balance of power from older to younger American workers, Millennials bring with them into the workplace a new set of organizational values, beliefs about work, and a set of ethics and expectations about appropriate organizational behavior.
These newly minted professionals witnessed first-hand just how poorly their parents and grandparents were treated by the organizations they had committed to during the great American Recession of 2007-2009. Adding insult to injury came the mortgage foreclosure disaster with millions of Americans being cast out of their homes.
Millennials have been demanding that the organizations they work for (and buy from) share their values, practice probity or the possession of a moral compass, and must care for the environment. Sustainability’s explosive growth in recent years is proof that Millennials desire to protect the planet.
Further, Millennials want their ideas to not only be solicited by the organizations they commit to, but also implemented. They want their work to have meaning, and they want to be able to make an IMPACT to the organizations they work for and society as a whole NOW.
They do not expect to have to wait years “putting in their time” before they can make a difference. They seek out those organizations that offer them the most meaningful and appealing work-life balance options. Goodbye and fond farewell to the 20th Century command-control pyramid-shaped organization. Gone is the Corporation whose sole purpose for existence is the pursuit of profit at any and all costs. Welcome to the new “compassionate organization” that is required for lasting competitive success in the 21st Century.
And while it may take global banks, financial institutions, petroleum companies, gun manufacturers, tobacco companies, and other less than ethically based institutions some time to discover this phenomenon and adapt to the new reality of the compassionate organization, the landscape is ALREADY changing and quickly.
Global trends will further expedite the shift to a more ethical, cause-based socially conscious organization. Trends like global competition, social media, the sharing economy, a pervasive “war” for top talent, sustainability, rapid idea diffusion through the Web, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the near constant rate of technological innovation the old ways of focusing on maximizing profit and treating employees like assets akin to photocopiers with limbs. The profit above all else mantra and Greed is Good mindset no longer serves as a viable lasting competitive business model.
Many of the foundational underpinnings of this kinder, more caring organization have been in place for some time. Compassionate organizations can be identified by the type of flexible work arrangements they offer to their employees. These caring organizations put employees first every day by allowing their people to work where and when they feel they are most productive, give them time off to solve their organization’s (and society’s) problems, come up with innovative new products and services, solve problems and architect their OWN work as they see fit.
These compassionate organizations are re-aligning their organizations by removing 20th Century pyramid-shaped command and control organizations. In its place, leaner, less hierarchical flatter MATRIX organizations with self-directed/self-managed work teams are forming in lieu of traditional management structures.
The new compassionate organization encourages its employees to pursue outside interests and achieve self-actualization through community engagement, volunteer work and giving back to their communities. Need examples? Following is merely a short list of compassionate organizations who comprise an enlightened employer ‘Hall of Fame’:
Edward Jones
Whole Foods
W.L. Gore
Johnson & Johnson
For a more comprehensive list of these compassionate organizations, check out the Fortune 100 best companies to work for.
Ethical Organizations are MORE Profitable.
Need proof that there is a growing global trend afoot as for-profit companies shift their focus from pure profit maximization to more ethical and compassionate behaviors?
The Ethisphere Institute has been researching the financial performance of ethical organizations for over a decade now. Their research has uncovered an amazing phenomenon. Organizations globally that perform the most “ethically” consistently outperform financially their less ethical competitors across all industries and countries.
Think this is a fluke? Think again! Compassionate organizations are ideally positioned to unleash their people’s untapped potential for lasting competitive advantage.
Be on the look out for my upcoming book “The Compassionate Organization.”
Here’s to your continued success in 2017
– Ethan