Re-imagining the workplace: Touching hearts to make brains thrive

Division of labour

There is no substitute for division of labour and delegation in the workplace.

It is important for any leader to understand that workers are human beings who have lived experiences and are still seeking, consciously or unconsciously the meaning of life. If work is to make sense and for businesses to thrive, the human resource must be understood the way finance, engineering and other elements of business are understood if not even more.

Business thrives if work and profitability are not viewed as an end but as a means to an end and the end being the meaning of life, thriving and real human gratification. To reduce a human being to a worker and view them as just needing to work and make money is to rob one’s business of the potential the human resource holds and brings to the workplace.

Most leaders think it’s a waste time to invest time in first understanding the human resource and developing it. It is not considered part of top and bottom line. This robs the business and the people working for it because they do not get to explore their humanity by using work as something to make them understand themselves and reach good life heights.

Some of the most important elements of this practice of understanding people in business are the issues of division of labour and delegation. Division of labour in its simplest terms means the sharing of jobs, duties and tasks to make light work. When this happens based on the understanding that work is to make human beings understand themselves and thrive in business and for themselves, then there are technicalities that need to be understood and applied.

The richness of a person’s job will demonstrate to any person who is interested in understanding this interesting subject that the person doing them job is fully engaged as a whole person. This is about job enrichment as a technique to make work more meaningful. There are elements of job enrichment this article wishes to explore that include amongst other things, decision making, recognition, self-expression, and responsibility.

It does not matter which job an employee does, but what it is important is to make decision making a part of the person’s day to day operation. A toilet cleaner, for example should make decisions about their work station which is the toilet. They should decide what time they need to clean the toilets based on the working times and the needs of the business.

One realises that the toilet cleaner is a serious business person because their job contributes to the running of the business and should be taken seriously and be given that recognition it deserves. They must decide what time they need to close their toilets for cleaning and make announcements about such business decisions they make and if fellow workers really want to enter a space of gratitude, they will know that the toilet cleaner is an important team player and express that gratitude whenever they get a chance to. That gives the toilet cleaner a sense of meaning and participation.

All jobs have a thread of decision making and when the employee is given a chance and room to decide they feel good and more of a human being and what happens technically is that science and nature take over without us even thinking about it. When the person feels good, a scientific process happens inside them and they secrete happy hormones such as dopamine that make them think clearly and come up with quality ideas. The opposite is true for the sad worker who feels useless. They secrete stress hormones such as cortisol and the quality of their thoughts is poor and retrogressive. This person becomes a liability to themselves and to the employer but when one observes closely, they will see that it is the system of the workplace and the careless use of the human resource that have created that calibre and quality of employees. They might have come with such shortcomings from their background but if leadership and management know what they are doing, the process of working becomes rehabilitative and rewarding. The employee who comes from a suppressive background where they were never encouraged to think, make decisions and apply themselves will be receptive to the promptings of a well-crafted working method and grow in the process becoming an asset to the company they work for.

When a company takes its time to show recognition to its people, they touch an important part and need of a human being. A sense of meaning and importance hits the employee and they feel invited to do more and participate even more. This, again does not have to be based on which job we are talking about because ultimately as we have established, all jobs are important. The job or portfolio does not have to be treated in comparison to another or based on seniority or superiority but just because it is a job and it’s important. Serious organizations will be deliberate about recognising performance and rewarding it. They do not leave such an important thing to chance but make a conscious effort to touch hearts so that brains thrive. When human beings in the workplace are robbed of this, they wither and start deteriorating and nothing spectacular is to be expected from such an employee.

While it is true that we are by our nature, social beings who want to belong, it is not correct to think that that’s all a human being is, even in the workplace. A human being has a need for self-expression and autonomy. They will not thrive in the workplace when their way of working only recognises them as playing in teams and working with others. The crafting and designing of jobs by such specialists should consider giving that human resource room to express their uniqueness and apply themselves that way. A left footed player has a position in a soccer team and the process of playing allows them to play the way they know and enjoy how. If this was to be ignored and the player forced to play like everyone else, they would not thrive and the team would not benefit from them. It is important to design work in such a manner that the uniqueness of a person is invited to come out. They must dance the way that makes them feel unique. We already established the bio-chemical benefits of such an exercise and of course the benefits accrued by the business when an employee is allowed to feel good.

These are some of the elements of job designing when a company considers division of labour and delegation. As a leader, one wants to think about parts of their work they wish to delegate to their juniors. This should not be about abdicating work but delegating quality work that makes an employee feel good because it is important and business prudent to think about how our employees feel.

Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu’s training is in human resources training, development and transformation, behavioural change, applied drama, personal mastery and mental fitness. He works for a Zimbabwean company as head of human capital, while also doing a PhD with Wits University where he looks at violent strikes in the South African workplace as a researcher. Ndlovu worked as a human resources manager for several blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe and still takes keen interest in the affairs of people and performance management. He can be contacted on [email protected]

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