Staff Retention – for the benefit of whom?

In the HR Industry it is our philosophy, that we work with people in the center. But what it really means and how we interpret this, can be answered in various ways. However, it is difficult to get around the fact that it is the common idea that dominates the employment market to “retain” employees, because how can the HR function have mankind and its freedom in the center, when you also want to retain him or her? In itself, retention is a word that associates with anything but personal freedom and more like an unequal distribution of power. As part of our considerations about the employment relationship, we constantly adjust what should characterize the work life and the relationship between the employee and company. Do we expect the relationship to be characterized by love and meaningfulness? And what could the problems even be about having a more existential relationship with your employees and your workplace? In this post we discuss how emotions increasingly gets involved with the work you do, and what the advantages and disadvantages may be when your work life integrates a more existential phenomenon. 


The recruitment: People or profiles?
The degree of emotional involvement in one’s job has changed over time. We see a growing tendency for many business leaders to believe that love, passion, and affection should be present in the working relationship. This new course also makes its mark on recruitment, including the emotional involvement in the work. It has a fertile ground in the idea that the company consists of people and not just employees. People make up the company’s DNA and are therefore central to the company’s future success. Good people lead to good results, and it is not necessarily the person with the long CV that can help the company. Maybe it is the one, that possesses the human and existential qualities that fit into the company and the phase in which the company is in.  Competences are not necessarily co-created and possessed in advance by a candidate, and in recruitment interviews where a more existential and emotional approach is taken, and general philosophical questions are asked. Here is it recognized that the employee is a human being with a complex profile, that is not only based on education, skills, and experience.

Emotions stay with you on the job
The difference between our identity at work and in our spare time depends on the company, the leader type, and the individual employee. There is a difference between whether privacy is only discussed in the canteen over lunch, or whether emotional life is being dispensed constantly at work, as it has become popular to incorporate emotions at the workplace. Many HR professionals have conversations with their colleagues on an ongoing basis to be updated with how their employees are feeling, and therefore to stimulate their human intelligence. Here, staff development interviews are replaced with the so-called Meaningfulness Conversations. The purpose is to find out what makes sense in the employee’s life and how the job can contribute to this, thereby making your work life embedded with the purpose of life. However, when profiles are recruited on this idea of emotional integrity and meaningfulness, we run the risk that the lack of distinction between people at work and in their spare time means, that we don’t know who we really are, when we are not working. 


Bring out the emotions: Emotional efficiency
The psychologist Svend Brinkmann problematizes the tendency for the existential phenomena such as love, affection, and spirituality to become productive forces. These are now, according to the popular psychologist, mistakenly used to secure companies financial profits and growth, and turn into a form of “emotional capitalism.” He worries that the market will consume everything in your life, which can be dangerous. Especially when you see it in the light of the tendency to work and spare time overlap because of the increasing flexibility on the work market. All of this seems to relate to the discussion about the view of the employee. As employees are increasingly recruited from an “overall view”, it can be explained why the human qualities have come more into focus, and the academic ones have taken a step back. The risk of emotions being invested in the job may be, that if you sense that you are underperforming at work, you can feel like a failure in life in general. You can get the feeling that you can’t perform in your spare time and in the social spheres that are outside the actual work life. 


Terminations can be uplifting
It is not everybody that shares Brinkmann’s concern about how the market is risking consuming the whole everyday life. Some employees will see the potential for greater emotional engagement, as it allows you to get to know yourself in a work context – and reflect deeply on what you really want, and what is important to one’s life. At the same time, as a company with this existential view of human beings, one can choose to see the termination as a good sign. If an employee can’t live out his/her full potential in their current position, it can be argued for that it is better for both parts that the employee moves on to something else. This insight is important to realize for both company and employee. In this case, the business helped the candidate to realize what he/she wants to work with, and that should be seen as a great success.


Live to work or work to live?
It is obvious that we increasingly reflect about ourselves and our role in the world. It has clearly also left its mark on our working life. For those companies that integrate emotions in the relationship between the company and the person, it is about employing people rather than profiles. Companies that operate from a more classic perspective on the employee, and who struggle to stay updated on the employee’s individual desire to live out their potential in the company, are likely to find inspiration from newer approaches. But is it useful to know “the dangers” by forging too deep emotional bonds in the workplace when it comes with a prize? Companies must bear in mind that they risk using the employee’s emotions as an efficiency tool, and as an instrument of retention, for the sake of retention. At the end of the day, we don’t want to feel that we are losing the meaning of life if we quit, lose our jobs, or for some other reason don’t work for a while. We must never have retention as a goal. There must be a meaning to everything, shouldn’t there? 

This post has taken inspiration from the article in Børsen about the recruitment process, 8/11/18, and Svend Brinkmann’s column from Politiken, 19/11/18. 


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