The observation, the criticism
The idea of human management is a proposal based on a critique of traditional human resource management. According to Laurent Taskin, managing people as resources, as factors of production, no longer works, nor is it acceptable. There are alternatives that allow work to be organised and employees to be managed differently.
“As Pierre-Yves Gomez says, the financialisation of management has made workers invisible. It is imperative to adopt a more qualitative approach,” explains Laurent Taskin.
The way HR is still practiced today in many organisations is obsolete. In fact, in 2021, we are still applying methods that were designed to respond to issues identified in the 1970s. It is clear that expectations and the environment have changed since then.
For Laurent Ledoux, these ‘old recipes’ do not work any more today than they did 40 years ago. It is just that the gap between the practice of organisations and what employees express in terms of their expectations is more marked now.
The same applies to the conception of the human being which is still conveyed in academic curricula and Human Resources Management (HRM) practices: according to a phenomenological study mentioned by Laurent Taskin, in the 9 main HRM manuals most widely distributed, the human being is considered as an economic variable which must be exploited to the full in order to contribute to the economic growth of the company.
In these manuals, the individual, whose sole objective is to maximise his or her personal interests, is reduced to being calculating and opportunistic. An opportunism that should be limited and controlled by a rigid hierarchical framework, such as the one found in “classic” organisations.
To change managerial practices, Laurent Taskin suggests adopting another vision of the human being in the organisation.
“We can consider humans as reflective beings who capitalise on experience and are capable of defining the rules of the game and the quality criteria of their work. This is why human management must, among other things, produce recognition”, says Laurent Taskin.
According to this approach, the object of human management is real work, which is the fruit of a threefold experience: objective (results, skills, space, time, etc.), collective (collaboration, identification with the group, etc.) and subjective (meaning and nonsense, recognition and denial of recognition, gift of self, etc.).
“What we have been talking about for the last 5 to 10 years is to rediscover solidarity at work, benevolence and a working community. We cannot respond to these issues by only starting with the individual and his or her needs, we need to rethink the organisation of work and management systems. The question of professional, social and organisational identities is essential in order to respond to the need for meaning and recognition of employees”, stresses Laurent Taskin.
Are collaborative organisations more human?
Every organisation, whether traditional or collaborative, experiences discomfort and tension between employees. How do you respond to this?
“On the one hand, we have to recognise that, whatever the form of collaboration, there will always be friction between people. On the other hand, there are certain mechanisms that ensure that any tensions that arise are resolved as quickly and easily as possible. In collaborative governance, it is assumed that there are always tensions between people (not necessarily tense situations, but rather points that need to be clarified or resolved) and/or between the roles they play. It is therefore a question of equipping employees with the best possible tools to resolve these tensions, such as Non Violent Communication, for example,” explains Laurent Ledoux.
For Laurent Taskin, it is clear that collaboration is not an option, it has to be organised and therefore managed: “Companies are working communities, and the quality of collaboration in these communities has really been undermined over the last year. We realise that at a distance, the relationship with work becomes unravelled and purely transactional. We need “more” management to recreate collaboration. This means focusing on concrete, real work and reconnecting managers to what gives meaning to the work of their teams, to what they do, to what they give”.
First and foremost, the organisation’s top management must reflect on the role of the human being. Although this approach creates reluctance because it seems too philosophical at a time of heightened pragmatism, it is nevertheless fundamental. Without a real rethink, there can be no transformation, no new approach to collaboration and management.
Will the covid crisis really change the way organisations are run?
“Tomorrow the physical distance from the work group will be greater. In terms of individual quality of life, this may at first sight seem more comfortable, but tomorrow’s telework will no longer be limited to one day a week when one chooses isolation to better concentrate. If certain criteria, such as the absence of work-related travel, are perceived as a clear improvement in quality of life, the duplication of professional life at home is not necessarily synonymous with quality, whether because of interruptions, hyperconnection or the background fatigue that sets in. This profoundly questions the ways in which working communities function: on the one hand, employees want to work from home for their own comfort and, on the other hand, they also want to be with their colleagues. Companies will therefore have to rethink the working community, with a physical presence, but organised differently,” says Laurent Taskin.
Faced with this observation, Laurent Ledoux explains that, in his interactions with leaders of public and private organisations, he is witnessing not only a radical change in their managerial practices, but also an evolution in the way they look at the world.
In his view, care must be taken to ensure that collaborative governance is not instrumentalised and stripped of its substance, as has been the case with Lean Management, which in many cases has been reduced to a cost-cutting tool.
“Collaboration is not possible without a change of perspective on people. The crisis we are going through is an opportunity to thoroughly review our ways of working together. Since the first lockdown, there has been an upsurge in requests to organise remote collaboration, while giving meaning to joint work and not just with IT tools! For many organisations, teleworking has enabled them to move away from the traditional hierarchical dynamic and into mechanisms that are more human and collaborative,” concludes Laurent Ledoux.
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