The Human Experience: Decision-Making Processes and Management Practices

The Human Experience is an emerging model in workplace design. It’s equal parts sociology, psychology, organizational behavior and architecture - the intersection of workstyle and lifestyle. Organizations focusing on The Human Experience seek to attract and retain top talent by creating workplace environments that make employees want to come to work, be active participants and perform at an optimal level.

NKF is a leading advocate of this approach. As part of our efforts to promote it we’re offering a series of four blogs highlighting fundamental concepts that shape The Human Experience.

This final installment discusses how an organization’s decision-making processes and management practices drive its ability to manage every facet of The Human Experience.

The Human Experience: Decision-Making Processes and Management Practices

Successful organizations align leadership and workforce expectations, provide transparency into decision-making and cultivate management practices that reinforce the company culture.

Our previous three blogs in this series outlined key, transformational factors defining The Human Experience in the workplace - Diversity and Social Cohesion; Technology, Change & Risk; Sustainability, Health & Wellness.

Transformation is never easy. Successfully fusing these factors, all teeming with policy and process implications, into a unified and consistent organizational culture requires not only leadership at the top but buy-in at every level. This fourth-in-the-series blog examines the critical importance of communication and transparency in gaining that buy-in. We’ll also discuss how current management practices and the managers themselves may need to evolve in the face of the business’ emergent culture.

Increasing decision transparency. Setting expectations.

Mom-and-pop shop or global enterprise; centralized or de-centralized decision-making processes; collaborative or task-driven workplaces; in industries from retail to tech – regardless of such differentiators, virtually all successful organizations share at least two qualities: good communication from a decision-making standpoint and clear role-based expectations. Everyone understands why a particular decision is made and how they’ll be impacted, and everybody knows what they signed up for when they took the job and how much input they should expect to have on any decision.
An individual who accepts a position at a consulting group that will be leveraging and gaining value from his or her expertise will likely, and justifiably, expect to have some say in the decision-making process. Conversely, someone in a task-oriented role, a data entry clerk in a multi-national organization, shouldn’t expect to have much, if any, input. The key from a Human Experience perspective is ensuring that such expectations have been clearly set, communicated and understood.

Just as no universal black-and-white, right-or-wrong model for decision-making exists there is no single mechanism or frequency of communication (e.g. continually updated Intranet, quarterly newsletter, etc.). Each organization is unique; they need to take the temperature of their employees, and factors, like the number of employees, the nature of their work, current technologies and the pace of change within the business need to be considered.

There is, however, a universal desire among people to understand their place in and contribution to the organization, to see how decisions are being made, to know what the company’s performance and plans are and understand how it all affects them. As organizations grow to a certain scale communication gets more difficult, but knowledge-sharing and communications planning is something that every organization can improve upon, and with more transparency comes decisions that are better received and increased workforce loyalty.

Aligning management culture with corporate culture

Ensuring long-term business sustainability requires a willingness to evolve. Perhaps in response to a new generation of employees wanting more flexibility in their schedules a company may begin implementing remote working policies. Or maybe leadership has decided there’s a business case to be made for encouraging innovation or moving to a more collaborative work environment. Cultural change within the business may be large or small in scale, but its ultimate success rests heavily on managers and their willingness to think differently, learn new skills and adjust their management styles. 

Meetings are fundamentally different in a collaborative environment, for example; they cannot be run by one person – everyone needs a voice. Managers at a company that truly wants to ingrain innovation into its culture must learn to not just tolerate but celebrate reasonable, justifiable risk-taking and sometimes even failure. Consistency matters. An organization that encourages its employees to think beyond the ordinary and try something different, but that punishes failure virtually shuts the door on innovation. And even the most well-conceived remote policy will fail unless people feel free to use it, which means managers need to trust more and not judge performance by hours spent in office chairs.
As much as transparency and communication are critical to decision-making and garnering employee buy-in, soft skills - empathy, listening, teamwork, etc. - are increasingly important for people-management in today’s evolving business culture. These skills can be taught, and innovative companies are devoting resources to training managers in them as part of their professional development.
As discussed previously, expectation-setting is critical, as is ongoing support from leadership. Even in the best of circumstances, however, there may be resistance from some managers, or one may even decide to leave the organization. Cultural change is an evolution at every level of the business. We need to acknowledge that transformation takes place over time, that it’s one thing to set a new vision for the company and another thing to make sure everyone, from the workforce to the managers, internalizes the vision and adjusts their mindsets and behaviors accordingly.
Evelyn Lee
Regional Workplace Manager, West Coast Lead 

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