People’s Search for Love – at Work Too!

I began writing this article on the verge of the sad announcement of the death of Steve Jobs, and continued writing after reading his gripping and inspiring commencement address delivered at Stanford University in 2005. The words are powerful, exciting and relevant to the purpose of this article too, and so I add this selection from it below:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on”.

In the 196th issue of “Status Magazine” (the Israeli Journal for Strategic Management Thought) I published an article that was called “Searching for Meaning at Work”. Four years later, I find myself exploring again what people are looking for at work, and maybe this time the answer is even bolder: people are looking for love at work! Not romance (although many couples did meet at work), I mean Love in a much broader sense – love that causes people to bind their destiny with their profession, organization, team etc. Dr. Beverly Kaye, a friend and colleague from the United States, has written a book with her partner, Sharon Jordan-Evans, on the subject in 2002 – “Love Them or Lose Them”, I love the book (!) and inspired by it I chose to write this paper on “Talent Management”. For what is “Talent Management” if not focusing on: searching, identifying, recruiting, integrating, nurturing and keeping the people you love – those with whom you want to work, with whom you want to move forward, with whom you want to lead a winning team and a winning organization?

The first thing to ask is, who are the people we love working with: the “Talent” we want to manage? Those you don’t want leaving you? The answer, I believe, is simple, and perhaps because of its simplicity we forgot its essence – “Talents” are primarily people who love what they do, just like artists that are not motivated by money (although they too need to make a living). The artists are motivated by a deep love for their occupation. When working they even often forget to eat and sleep, consumed by their passion for creativity. They are in a state of “FLOW” – a concept (which is also the title of a book) by the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. FLOW is a situation in which one is swept fully and firmly, and focused on how to succeed – and in this situation, according to the author, an individual is happy.

When I interview job applicants for our firm – I am primarily looking for people who really want to work with us. Those who choose us as a default option are disqualified up front! Only those who really want to fully engage in what we do and love working with us and learning from us – are considered proper candidates. It’s easy to ”fall in love” with such people and therefore very easy to return their love and keep them with us. After all, that is the goal of Talent Management – Making them want to stay with you when you want them!

This task is seemingly an easy one; weren’t we meant for love? But apparently love is one of those emotions we tend to suppress with the years. In most jobs the organizational culture does not encourage open expression of what one loves to do, with who one loves working, what could make them happy at work. This is a legacy of the industrial age, where people were not perceived as “talent” but just as another screw in the assembly line. Work was mostly tedious manual labor and the level of knowledge required to perform it successfully was low. Moreover, the competition for jobs was greater than the competition for workers. But today we live in an entirely different world. A world of tough competition not only for customers but also for ”talent” – the people who are ”soul players”, who enjoy their work, like their customers and are happy to serve them and keep them. Such people will remain with us, if we treat them, as we expect them to treat our customers – with love!

As with customers – first you need a deep understanding of the real needs of the people who love working for you, just as it is important to know the needs of your child and spouse. The irony is that we often fail even at this early stage. We simply do not dare to ask – what your needs are, what’s bothering you, what unresolved problems do you have, what are your doubts, what do you like, what do you prefer and what do you love? “Love Strategy” at work means – listening, getting genuinely interested in your employees. This is the beginning of true love at work – and workers can distinguish quickly between true love and “management tactics.”

The importance of building good relationships at work and loving what you do is not just a cliché. Findings of a research at Tel Aviv University based on data collected from a survey among 800 working individuals over 20 years between 1988 and 2008 revealed some striking insights. The purpose of the study was to examine whether stress at work can predict future mortality. This follows previous studies which found that people suffering from problems at work tend to develop various health problems more frequently than others. Apparently, a supportive work environment not only makes a day job more pleasant and increases production, but may also prolong life. The study claims that poor relationships with colleagues raise the risk of mortality significantly, whereas a practical and emotionally supportive and friendly environment and sense of control significantly reduces it.

Hence, finding love and support at work is healthier for the body and soul as well. My warm recommendation for all managers: Make it your business to create an organizational environment that encourages love, and keep the “talents” aboard as long as you can hold them in this competitive world of “head-hunting”. A loved employee who spends his time engaged with assignments and colleagues he or she loves will stay with your organization for longer and will withstand even the temptations of your competitors!

Posted in English.

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