Energy Shortage?

energyBlack-out

In Belgium, a possible local shortage of electricity (an organized “black-out”) is menacing many companies, individuals and families, spread over 6 areas in the country. Because of this news, all actors have become fully aware of the risk of running out of light, electricity and even some basic infrastructure. The temporary closing of two nuclear power plants, suddenly made the people aware of their dependency of electricity and gas. Awareness is the first and necessary step for starting an effective change process.
Now consider this question: How do you prepare yourself for such an energy black-out?

  1. Personally: You gather relevant information. You foresee some nice candles and blankets in the house. You’re turning off some devices to save energy, … .
  2. The people around you: You inform your family. You share some best practices with your neighbours. You talk about the upcoming problem with your friends (maybe they can give you some advice too).
  3. “The house” : You consider structural measures to improve your energy consumption. You need to ask some questions. Is my house energy-proof? What are the alternatives? How can I gain some sustainable energy instead of wasting it? You can ask for a temporary energy advisor/coach who coaches you.
solar panels
(C) Franky242 on freedigitalphotos.net

Personal and Company Energy Level

Now back to business: What about your personal energy level? Do you feel still comfortable?  Are there enough provisions to go through the next reorganization within your company? And what about the general energy level of your colleagues? Are they aware? Are they pro-actively taking actions?
What can we as (HR) business professionals learn from the above phenomenon? Just consider the same question: what do you do to prepare yourself for not falling out of energy?

  1. Personally. You are individually responsible for driving your career. Sometimes you go fast and you’re using plenty of fuel. Sometimes you slow down a bit. Compare your long-term employability to the weather seasons. They also come in cycles. Your career goes from spring to summer, and from autumn to winter. And then spring starts again. Each season requires a different energy level. In what season is your career now?
  1. The people around you: As HR professional, you help to increase the skills and development of the mindset of the leaders in your company to become real people managers. They are the (energy) coach of their team. They should be aware of the long term employability of their team members. Leaders who are investing in the professional and personal development of their employees, are taking care of the structural energy level of them. They focus on the strengths of their people and are succeeding in discovering the unfold potential.
  1. “The house”: In order to anchor the structural energy level of the whole company, HR should also contribute to design “an energy-saving company structure” (just like the construction of a passive house). The result should be a sustainable collaboration culture, that is adaptable to multiple changes (both inside as externally driven). This means that organization structures should be sufficiently flexible. It also means that we don’t depend on function descriptions but mostly act based on roles and projects rather than on departments. And most of all, it means that there is trust within the company.

energy scale
How does your company rate on this energy scale?

 
Each house in Belgium that is for rent or sale on the real estate market must have an energy performance certificate.
How does your company should score on such a scale? Think about it. And manage your energy.

Are you a 70-20-10 Development Leader ?

boatA new development model?

70:20:10 is a framework for development, developed in 2002 by Charles Jennings. He is a global and creative expert on development solutions. The basis of this model is research that covers 5 decades.  It’s a strategic model for learning and development. The basis of the model is that to develop, people need to be (1) aware of a current or future need and (2) feel motivated to do something about that need. Awareness comes from experience. It can come from feedback, mistakes, watching other people’s reactions, failing, feeling not being up to a task. Experience is the single most important source for development.
According to the model, development comes

  • 70% from experience: on-the-job,  tasks and problem, tough challenges.
  • 20% from feedback and coaching: social, informal learning, feedback from people (often the manager).
  • 10% from formal learning: courses, reading.

 

Development
The 70:20:10 Learning Pyramid

It’s not about the exact numbers.  The numbers can vary depending on the company or the industry. It’s about the idea. This model of development goes beyond the classroom and formal training. It promotes the workplace as a place of development. That is extremely important.

Why now ?

The idea behind 70:20:10 are not new. So why is the model relevant today? Organizations understand that formal training alone won’t make the difference. To understand the limitations of the 10%’ is one thing. Implementing a development strategy with the 70% and 20% is another. This model offers a truly integrated and holistic approach for development. And as organisations are facing new challenges, they need to leave old paradigms behind and adopt new ones. This requires new ways of development. This requires faster learning. This evolution requires radical changes in the development landscape. And that’s why the 70:20:10 offers an attractive framework for development
Just a few examples of how learning is evolving.
Learning Paradigms

The development leader

70:20:10 provides a framework to both HR and leaders. A leader might already use the 70:20:10. But there is always room for improvement. The framework can help leaders to adopt various development roles.

  1. Development through stretching assignments (70%)

    Experience is the true teacher. A leader can shape experience. 
People learn the job on the job.
    Increased business speed makes learning on the job vital. To stay ahead people need to learn faster, better and smarter. People learn to do a tough job by doing it. A Stretching assignment stimulates development. It pulls people out of their comfort zone. Small mistakes and errors must be tolerated, encouraged and celebrated !

    The only thing worse than learning from experience, is not learning from it.

    It’s all about matching the right experience to the employee’s development stage.
 If managers know the work environment and the employee they can match the (stretching) experience to the employee. Learning on the job is no longer exclusively individual. The best way to solve complex problems is to collaborate.
    Managers should stimulate peer-learning. Everyone faces the future together. Partnership and pro-active collaboration are key. to learn and to reach common goals faster.

  2. Development through Community Learning (20%)

    Learning is social. People learn with and through others. Effective leaders urge their people to “buddy up” on projects. They can motivate to shadow others and to learn from peers. They can foster collaboration beyond silos. They can stimulate learning through common goals. And last they can invite people to take part in professional networks inside or outside the organization.
    People tend to learn well in an environment that encourages conversation.
    Leaders play an important role in launching and nurturing professional communities. They can ask an engaged employee to even start a community. Learning communities are self steering. Members share professional interest and have similar responsibilities. Sharing best practices and ideas is crucial for development.

  3. Development through coaching (20%)

    Managers do not need to be the best teachers. They need to be great coaches.
    Coaching aims at providing many things like:

    • Individual attention and personal support
    • Improved communication among team members
    • Discovery and development of potential
    • Acceleration and maintenance of positive changes
    • Peek performance from people and teams

    Coaching is not always one-on-one. Managers can also coach teams. Team coaching is right when dealing with real organizational challenges; or when there are complex work issues . The leader should ask reflective questions and listen. He or she encourages the team to take action and to solve the problem.

  4. Development through overall Learning Improvement

    Formal learning (10%)  still has its merits. Leaders boost the impact of formal learning by doing one single thing: Setting clear expectations before the training takes place. This increases  the impact of training immensely. It also makes it much more sustainable. 
Clear expectations will make learning more meaningful for the employee. People are naturally motivated to do things they find meaningful. They will walk the “extra mile”. They will take pride in demonstrating what they’ve learned at work.

Conclusion.

Leaders are responsible for developing their people. They spend time on this. They gain time through developing more delegation opportunities. Leaders prepare employees for the daily challenges. They make them more resilient for change. They give them the right opportunities to leave their comfort zone. This is priceless.
70:20:10 is a very interesting model. It brings development into the business and into the workplace. The line manager becomes the driver of people development. Development is no longer the domain of HR alone.
By working together, you can apply the 70. Or you can judge that the 20 is the right approach. Or you can apply both of them together. If you become aware of this, you can become even more pro-active in people development.
You could e.g. simply put the 70:20:10 pyramid on a wall in a meeting room. You can have regular conversations with your people about how to make it come “alive”. You could then coach your people. You can check if they need further 70% or 20% and how to organize this.
That would be truly sustainable. Much more than simply sending them to a training. So are you a 70:20:10 development leader?

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Employability. What we can learn from the Rolling Stones.

Saturday June 29th was a day to remember. That day I took my 15 year old daughter to a Rolling Stones concert. Actually she went along because Triggerfinger played at the same festival. But we stayed (of course) until the Stones played their last note. Both of us were in awe. And seeing how Mick Jagger moved on stage made me owner how he did that. How did he develop this level of employability?
At a certain moment Mick Jagger mentioned the death of Bobby Womack. Bobby Womack wrote songs for the Stones and they played one of his earlier songs in tribute. Casually Mick Jagger mentioned that this was a song they brought in 1964. My daughter looked up to me (I am taller than she is) and she startled: but that’s 50 years ago. And I thought: this is employability in practice.

50 years of career

How many people have a career of 50 years? Few. Most people in Europe retire long before that. People do not see the use of having long careers. Why is that? Because work is something that you need to keep as short as possible to be able to enjoy life. Retirement is seen as a sort of return on investment. You work hard to have a pension? Isn’t that bizarre?
What if we would change that accepted point of view into: you work (as hard as needed) because it is fun. Because it keeps you alive? Because it provides meaning? Why do the Stones perform at higher age? For the money? For the status? Frankly, I don’t care. But the fact is that they do. After 50 years they are on stage. And I can tell you that I haven’t seen many 70-year-old people do what they do. He was on stage like of he were 30 years younger. And that puzzles me. Because somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to remember to have read about this guy’s life. It wasn’t the healthiest of ways to lead a life. So how did he make his career sustainable?

Sustainable employability

In short, sustainable employability is the capacity to work tomorrow, or next week. Someone who is employable sustainably is able to create value for his employer or customer today and in the foreseeable future. There are three components in that: health, competence and engagement. Poor health makes it less likely to work on a longer term. Having obsolete competencies will not enable someone to work longer. And lacking drive to do something kills the longevity of your work ability. So working on those 3 is key to long-term, sustainable employability.
I don’t know if the Stones have worked deliberately on all  three of them. But what I do know is that have kept their engagement to perform over all those years. What I do know is that they still have the competencies to perform in a changed world. That their music has kept its vibrance and energy. And that there still is an audience for their music, even when that music is half a century old. This might be luck, but I don’t think it is.
A sustainability Environment
I did not mean to write sustainable environment. There are some environments that kill sustainable employability. These are environments that have following characteristics:

  • There is no way to acquire new skills.
  • The desired behaviour is defined by hierarchy.
  • There is no openness for new insights, new ideas, …
  • The personal goals are irrelevant.
  • There is no longer term perspective
  • Leadership is of the diminishing kind.
  • Personal development is not stimulated as the focus lies on process efficiency.
  • There is no room for decision-making. Actions are pre-programmed or subject to hierarchical approval.

And I could go on. The Stones have created for themselves an environment where they could thrive. Today they choose what they do. they can afford to do so. What would happen if you could afford to do so yourself? What choice do you have?

There is always something you can do

Sustainable employability is your own responsibility. There is no point in waiting for someone to nudge you forward. You have to do it on your own. And part of that is looking for people who can help you to develop. And before you say that you cannot do anything: yes there is something you can do. You can start to think. Let me ask some questions:

  1. How likely is it that you will be able to work in one company or industry? Not likely.
  2. How likely is it that what you’ve learnt at the start of your career, is still valid today? Not likely.
  3. How likely is is that the job you hold will exist in its current form 10 years from now? Not likely.
  4. How likely is it that you can build a career without changing profession? This is less and less likely.

So you need to do something yourself. And there is always something you can do.

  1. You can hope that you will reach your retirement age without trouble.
  2. You can run away and find something else to do.
  3. Or you can work on your employability whilst doing your job.

And whatever you decide to do, it’s your decision. The thing is that at least is a decision. And if you take it you’re active about it. I am sure the members of the Rolling Stones did not always take decision deliberately, or wisely. But that’s not so bad. Fact is that they are still on stage. And seeing them is not saddening. It’s rejoicing. The Rolling Stones are exemplary to people who will need to work longer. They are inspirational for companies that are faced with an ageing workforce.
They show that it is possible to deliver quality at a later age and that stereotypes of the ageing process need not be true.
So think about your personal employability. Look at the Stones and ask yourself: how can I do what they do?
 
 

Put the H back into HR – the case for personalized HR

HRM should enable people to be successful, whatever that success may be. But to to that we need to evolve towards  “personalized” HR. Personalization stands for adapting certain practices to personal needs and strengths of employees.  I am not talking about ideosyncratic deals about salary but rather on finding ways that help people to have personal success in their careers, their lives, … depending on their own priorities. Personalization means that there is no judgment whatsoever about the goals one should be pursuing. There are no normative expectations about how to fulfill one’s life even though HR might still be inclined to call upon people to “unleash their full potential” and make it available to the company and to society. This missionary man approach is counterproductive because it starts from an external and normative point of view. HR should start at the individual level.
What sort of HR is “personalized HR”? Shall companies have to give in on every wish and desire an individual employee has? Is it the end of collective bargaining? Shall there be no regulations at all? What is the future of an HR that no longer focuses on compliance and control but rather on enabling people to lead their lives and structure their careers in a way that they see fit?

Empathy

A personalized way of doing HR is in the first place an empathic HR. There are three aspects to empathy. First, it means that you can understand the motives, feelings and desires of another person. Second, it means that you can show that you understand and act upon that understanding.
Imagine that your employee enters the room and you already know what he’s going to ask. More, you’ve prepared your answer and you are able to come up with a solution that is exactly what the employee wants. He did not even have to ask the question and he leaves the conversation with an answer. This is not about telepathy; it’s about knowing what drives your employees, what they need. Imagine an employee that has a loved one that is ill and needs special care. If that is the priority of the day, you should enable him or her to do just that. There are laws in many European countries that allow people to take leave of absence for care taking purposes, but you should not allow someone to take leave of absence because of a law. Imagine that your answer would be “I understand your problem, but anayway, I cannot stop you from taking leave of absence because there is the law”. Or that you’d say : “I’m sorry, but your demand comes at a bad time. I’d rather you’d finish your work”. You would have ruined the day, you would have ruined the relationship. Instead, if you would answer “I’m sorry to hear it and I feel for you. If there’s anything we can do to help you, just say it” you might have given an answer that creates connection.

Humanity

Now is that so special? Isn’t that the decent thing to say? Yes it is. It is mere kindness. A personalised way of HR is a humane HR. It puts the “H” back into the equation. Is this a new form of paternalism? I don’t think so. Philips and Taylor (2009) have stated in their essay “on kindness” that over the past centuries, human kindness has been banned from society (and also from business) and has been reserved as a feminine trait that is reserved to the mother-child relation. In a masculine and competitive  world kindness did not have its place. Nevertheless, as a person you can feel your impact when you are kind to someone else. It shows that you can make a difference and it even makes you feel good. But you can only be kind if you have empathy.

Reciprocity

Personalized HR is not only humane and empathic. It’s also reciprocal. It would be paternalistic to think you know what’s best for the other. You simply don’t. Even if you think the person is taking the wrong decision, you should not judge. Of course you can offer advice or you can create conditions for someone to take the best decision possible, but you cannot decide. And therefore a personalized HR is a mature HR, built on partnership and trust. The reciprocity is also about the contribution you expect from other people. People are working in your company to contribute, perform. That is an essential part of personalized HR.

Help

Help! HR is growing soft? Talking about kindness is not something you do a lot in a business context. So are we losing our business acumen ? Have we gone totally soft? Are we as hrchitects condemned to the periphery if we talk about kindness instead of about costs, process efficiency, KPIs ?
First, it’s not because you base your actions upon your empathic understanding of an individual employee’s situation that you will do literally anything without limits for that person. Second, maturity of the relation means that there is balance and equality. And that balance is constructed around the idea of contribution. Equality means that the contribution of all has the same intrinsic value, everyone plays his or her part. You will provide personalized solutions as long as there is a return, not in order to have a return. Third, even if you are looking for personalized answers, you will do this in a collective context. Because apart from empathy, humanity and reciprocity, there is a fourth more collective element that is still missing. And that element is justice.

Justice

Following Rawls’s (1990) Theory of Justice, you can define justice as fairness. Being fair is the cornerstone of a personalized HR. You will not adapt your system of justice to a personal grievance or preference. It’s justice that makes sure that the personalization of HR does not lead to centrifugal forces. If people feel that they are treated fairly, even when treated differently, then people will understand and accept. Why? Because justice reassures, creates predictability (procedural justice) and creates trust.
Justice in itself is value-based. And by providing values you give people guidelines for behavior. It’s not the law that makes you behave, it’s the values behind the laws that are important. So the values express a collective understanding on how someone should behave and what is expected as contribution. And those values are the basis of any culture and any system of justice. And finally, justice is one of the preconditions for engagement.

Conclusion

So there are 4 criteria for a personalized HR : empathy, reciprocity, humanity and justice. If we can integrate these elements in our “H ” approach we can create a company where people really come first. People will feel treated as a person and they will be convinced that they can realize their “mission” within your company.
Would love to hear other ideas on this.
 
See also these blogs
I-Deals: you deal for I-deals
I-deals a risky deal ?
On Kindness
 
 

I-deal, you deal for I-deals.

Personalization of people management practices is the way forward in a world that has become increasingly challenging for individuals and their families. People are looking for meaningful activities and a sense of purpose. Work is one important way to achieve that personal fulfilment. But it’s also a role in life that is competing with other societal roles, like parenthood, community membership and citizenship. Increasingly we see people looking for better ways to cope with that complexity and fragmentation. Companies can help people to lead the lives that they choose by adapting processes and practices to individual needs and possibilities. I call that the personalization of companies and people management practices.
Major Objections
In our quest to personalize the management of people in organizations we are always struggling with two limiting factors, or major objections. These are the conflict of personalization with the need for efficiency and the conflict with the collective tradition of labour relations.
Indeed, if you adapt your organisation and processes to individual needs, you could loose the economies of scale as you will be offering solutions that deviate from standard ones. This requires attention, specific follow-up, and so this may be a source of error and of extra effort.
Moreover adapting practices to individual needs and possibilities creates differences in treatment. Our collective tradition to labour relations is oriented towards equal treatment as it complies more with our sense of justice and fairness. Making exceptions creates precedents and precedents are something both unions and employers do not like. Trade unions still focus too much on the collective entitlement. According to this principle precedents open the right to others to do and receive just the same as the colleague for which the precedent has been created.
These two objections may be paralyzing. Nevertheless there is strong evidence that the one-fits-all approach is no longer the way how to handle things. And there are solutions to individualize practices and at the same time manage them. These solutions are mass customization and I-deals.
Mass customization
A first solution is mass customization. Mass customization adapts processes and practices to individual needs, whilst maintaining a degree of industrial efficiency. The term is widely used in the automotive industry where the manufacturing of cars needs to be efficient (standardised) and customized (adaptive).
The automotive industry can build a car model with a limited number of options which can be combined in a number of ways. The combination of the options give people suficient choice so that the car has been customized to the specific needs of the buyer.
You can adopt that very principle in people management practices as well. You can offer variations in job content, career speed, time of work, place of work, health packages, salary packages, development, … The offer is standardized and the employee can make decisions within a standardized framework. If this is well done, you can cover many individual needs, without creating precedents as these solutions are accessible to all employees. An excellent source of inspiration is the book on mass career customization by Benko & Weisberg (2007).
Mass customization exceeds the traditional notion of cafeteria plans, which are usually focussed on exchanging a wage component for something else (a company car, a parking space, holidays, pension, …). Cafeteria plans may be one element of mass customization.
I-deals
But if mass customization is not sufficient, it is still possible to introduce I-deals. I-deals or idiosyncratic deals are individual agreements between an employer and an individual employee that deviate from the usual framework. The agreement is tailor-made and negotiated directly by the employee. Usually the deviation concerns one element of the agreement but it’s also possible that a totally new agreement is negotiated between the employer and the employee. It’s crucial that there is a benefit for both the employee and the employer. (after Rousseau, 2005).
And what are these benefits?
1. You can use i-deals to attract and hire people that bring specific talents to the organization. This is relatively difficult because the person you hired has not proven that he’s worth it. Most HR-managers will try to postpone the individual treatment for some time (the probation period). But think of it. Why would a company not hire someone who needs a specific time schedule when it is at the same time willing to offer the same schedule to current employees?
2. I-deals are a powerful tool for retention. People face different challenges in their lives and sometimes they need to quit their job in order to solve that challenge. Making changes in the deal you have with that employee can help that employee to stay in the company.
3. You can use i-deals to have people working longer. As people will need to work longe rand retire at a later age, these i-deals can provide a solution to enable people to do this (Bal e.a. 2012).
4. I-deals that are related to time and place of work may help people to find a balance between the different roles they have in their life (Hornung e.a., 2008)
5. I-deals that are related to development have a positive impact on employee engagement (Hornung e.a., 2008)
6. I-deals can provide ways to manage the consequences of health issues or even prevent them by offering ways of work that reduce stress and eventually may decrease the chances for burn-out. I-deals are indeed ways of regulating your work and put people in command of their lives.
No secrets
A company should consider these benefits when proceding with I-deals. But there is one condition: there should be no secrets. Being secretive about I-deals might give people the impression of favouritism or even corruption (I do this for you if you do this for me). To avoid negative perceptions one should not treat i-deals in a secretive manner. The more secretive they are, the more i-deals will have a negative impact on the corporate climate. So I-deals should be public. And for this reason I am reluctant to include salary negotiations into the construction of an I-deal. Like I said on the HR square conference in june 2011, I-deals should focus on helping people to get on with their llives.
The legal environment
In Belgium and Europe there are many laws and agreements that enable people to flexibilize. Examples are laws that give parents the right to leave of absence after the birth of a child, flexibility to take care of relatives in case of illness, sabbatical leave, …
You could say that the legislator has provided a framework on national level that is similar to the mass customization on corporate level. And some employers limit their offer to that. This is not going to be enough in the future. The legislator cannot provide laws that foresee all solutions to all challenges that a person encounters in his or her life. Moreover, the legislation is not differentiating enough between those who need it and those who do not. To me, the legislator should not push forward in providing such means of mass customization. The company and the employees should take over.
Labour relations and collective bargaining
The social partners can still play their role not by maximizing the mass customization or by extending individual solutions to collective ones, but by providing a framework that fits the needs of the company and that becomes a competitive advantage to that company. It should be less a matter of entitlement but more of empowerment. And unions should understand and accept that collective bargaining is limited to an optimal level.
Since I-deals are oriented towards solving individualised solutions, unions could be happy to support those since they are in the interest of the people they claim to represent. The fact that people do not ask unions to do so and are perfectly capable of negotiating a deal for themselves is only a political problem. Indeed, I-deals should not be negotiated by unions, but by the employees themselves. The collective approach that unions have, is still valid, but only for the base deal which is the common denominator for all employees.
I can only say that i-deals should not be a threat to the system. They are an enrichment. And they enable companies to find ways to tackle current problems and help employees to be employable, regardless of the issues they might have with mobility, family, ambitions, … Surely this win-win is in the interest of everyone.
Back to the idea of justice
Many HR people will shiver when reading this. I-deals are usually reserved for senior executives, but not for the other employees. The question that arises is how you can have an i-deal for one person and refuse it for the other. How can you avoid feelings of injustice, jealousy? Is it not easier to offer the same to everyone and differentiate according to objective criteria like job grades, function, … How to avoid precedents and pollution of the social climate? How to avoid frictions with unions who will make demands to proliferate the individual advantages?
These questions are legitimate and the reluctance to go ahead is understandble. People do like to compare themselves and are very sensitive to unequal treatment.
But let me ask a simple question.
What is more unjust? Treating people with different needs in the same manner or encompassing individual differences into corporate policy? Can we deny that there is a diverse labour force of men and women, with different abilities, needs, religions, cultures? How can we ask of people to adapt to a mould, a one-fits-all?
The management of diversity requires personalization. Let’s take the example of people with a physical or mental limitation? How can we integrate people that have less abilities into a regular working environment. Is it not so that we can only do this by adapting the environment to the physical and mental possibilities of the employee? I argue that the industrialized approach to people practices makes it difficult to allow for diversity.
You might think it is outrageous to use the example of people with an impairment to make a case for personalisation, but think about it. It starts with our tolerance for differences between people and our willingness to include people. To do that, you need to flexibilize.
And there are many other examples. Adapting the job when capacities weaken with age. Or like single moms and dads who need more flexibility in the weeks they take care of their kids. Or young people who want to focus on their development and are eager to get education. Or the elderly employee who might want to reduce working time. Or Someone in the mid-career who might need a break. The stressed manager wants to cut down on responsibilities. Someone who lives far away might want to work at home. The new employee who might be not as talented for some tasks of the function he was hired for might require an adapted program. All these examples and many more can be covered by i-deals as far as the mass customized solutions do not suffice.
We adapt to individual differences because we think it’s right but also because the company might benefit from this.
I-deals are not meant for everyone in a company. Why not? A first reason is that many individual needs can be covered by the mass customized solutions that the legislator or the company offer. A second reason is much more sensitive because we link i-deals to the contribution someone has made, currently makes and will make to the objectives of the company.
A company will be reluctant to offer individualised solutions to someone who does not contribute to the results of a company. There needs to be a balance between the empathy that is offered by i-deals, the idea of justice, the contribution of an individual and the humanity of a company. I have written about that elsewhere.
Why should a company offer an i-deal to someone who does not cut it? Is it unfair to offer an i-deal to an engaged employee and not to a someone who does not contribute? I think it is not unfair. The reciprocity of the relationship between employee and employer is a vital element of the psychological contract. Offering an i-deal should be in the interest of both. And that’s why we should offer i-deals to people who add value for the company. Only then a company has an interest to add value to a person’s life by offering solutions that help him make the right choices.
I am convinced that offering an i-deal to a disengaged employee who does not contribute, will have no positive effect on this employee’s engagement. More, it will create collateral damage as the peers of that employee will see it as unfair that someone with less contribution receives flexible treatment anyway.
Focussing on reciprocity is fair. And so it is just. We can accept unequal treatment under the condition that the unequal treatment is to the benefit of the collective (Rawls, 1990). If e.g. an i-deal can make sure that the employee stays and shares his competences with the colleagues, the colleagues benefit from that as well. I realize this will be a balancing act, because the i-deal should be such that there are no or few disadvantages to the team. And if there are, the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages.
I can accept the argument that even when something is fair, it might be perceived as unjust. Indeed, people are “victims” of social comparison which can lead to strange and irrational behaviour and decisions. Let’s for now assume that we see an I-deal as act of fairness to one person, and not as an act of unfairness to another person. In this sense you could see I-deals as a kind of helping behaviour towards someone who needs it (or could use it).
I-deal, you deal for i-deals
I-deals. Everybody does it. And everybody has done it for a long time. And if the HR department will not allow it, individual leaders will look for solutions without asking. A good leader finds solutions to solve the problems that prevent him of moving ahead.
For HR I-deals are a way to flexibilize practices and to stimulate the evolution of the HR profession itself.
Today, in an individualized world, i-deals offer a way of thinking out of the box and forging an alliance with your employees. If you take care of them, they will take care of you.
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Some reading material
Bal, P.M., de Jong, S.B., Jansen, P.G.W. & Bakker, A. (2012). Motivating Employees to Work Beyond Retirement: A Multi-Level Study of the Role of I-Deals and Unit Climate. Journal of Management STudies, 49 (2), 306-331.
Benko, C. & Weisberg, A.C. (2007). Mass Career Customization. Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce. Boston, Harvard Business School Press.
Hornung, S, Rousseau, D.M. & Glaser, J. (2008). Creating flexible work arrangements through idiosyncratic deals. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93 (3), pp. 655-664.
Poelmans, S.A.Y. & Caligiuri, P. (2008). Harmonizing Work, Family and Personal Life.Cambrigde, Cambridge University Press.
Rawls, J. (1990). A Theory of Justice.
Rousseau, D.M. (2005). I-deals, idiosyncratic deals Employees Bargain for themselves. New York: M. E. Sharpe.
Rousseau, DM., Ho, V. & Greenberg, J. (2006). I-deals: idiosyncratic terms in employment relationships. Academy of Management Review, 31 (4), pp. 977-994.