Why is flourishing important in the workplace?
The workplace of the 21st Century differs from workplaces in previous centuries. Developments in technology have paved the way for any number of changes, including globalisation, the rise of the knowledge worker, and the creation of more niche markets.
Development created a changed work reality
The result is high competition and a strong focus on customising products and services to individual needs. According to Prof Ian Rothmann, director of Optentia Research Focus Area on the Vaal Triangle Campus of North-West University, some of the changes affecting individuals and organisations include the following:
- Due to technological developments, large numbers of employees work offsite. Employers often expect employees to be available beyond working hours. Therefore, employees might find it difficult to escape from job demands.
- Employees are less likely to have full-time contracts and life-long job security is no longer guaranteed by organisations. Many employees prefer contingent work because it provides independence challenges, and opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills.
- Employees want empowerment, involvement, and participation. Employees are expected to master the tasks of a specific job, but they also need personal and interpersonal competence, which they can transfer from one job to another.
- Jobs require computer literacy and well-educated employees. However, many individuals in industrialised and developing countries are functionally illiterate and lack basic skills in reading writing and mathematics.
- Globalisation resulted in shifting jobs to places with lower labour costs and competition – an international pool of immigrant workers employed by multinational organisations, and an increase in cross-cultural contacts.
- Globalisation and developments in information technology, mass media and transport have led to more exposure from people in one culture to the way of life of people in other cultures. As a consequence, organisations have to become more sensitive to differences in cultures, languages, backgrounds and expectations.
How should organisations adapt?
To keep up with fast-paced systems, organisations have to rely more on creativity and innovation, and capitalise on the intellectual and personal strengths of their employees. In turn, this requires an organisational structure that allows for more communication and flexibility, task designs that take advantage of human capital and an organisational strategy that gives the company a unique, competitive edge.
It is not only a matter of getting employees to do their work, but rather how to get them to do good work, or their best work. Organisations need their employees to be creative, which require employees to be motivated and to put their all into their work.
But how can an organisation foster that when work-life balance and burnout are becoming more of a concern? How can businesses and groups capitalise on their diversity?
These questions have in common in that they are trying to go beyond fixing problems and into promoting excellence. It is because of this perspective that the business world needs to turn to the branch of psychology that deals with human potential, flourishing and human strengths.
Given the increasing demand experienced by employees and organisations, and a greater need for knowledge work, innovation and creativity, organisations have to find ways to enable their employees to do and be their best.
Because of positive psychology’s unique focus on flourishing, it will become an essential contributor to the success of individuals and organisations.
*The mission of the Optentia Research Focus Area, located on NWU’s Vaal Triangle Campus (Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng), is to develop and organise knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential, with specific interest in the African context. The research programme utilises the inputs from various disciplines in the social sciences, including Psychology, Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology, Educational Sciences, Employment Relations, and Social Work. Visit Optentia’s website for more information on their research and projects: www.optentia.co.za