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HR Departments Wage “War for Hearts”

Enter Psychological Contract and Community of Practice

A member shared her impressions of the 8th European Quality Conference that took place in Luxemburg beginning October: While public administrations are required to further strengthen their innovative capacity, HR departments start waging the “war for hearts”. This means that they need to recruit “motivated and competent personnel serving the general interest (of the organization and of society) with passion and conviction".

How does that sound to you?

Clearly, the concept of the “psychological contract” pops to mind. This philosophy goes back to the 1960s (Argyris and Schön) and considers qualities like respect, compassion, trust, empathy, fairness, and objectivity as key factors for organizational success. In other words, stability and security are exchanged for loyalty and hard work. Now that the pillars of organizational stability and social security are slowly crumbling, employees who can afford it leave the organization while others face burnout or, even worse, start bullying their colleagues. Leaders are challenged to make up for this development.

But how?

Communicating More Honestly

One participant pointed out the need for a “more honest communications culture”. As a matter of fact, many leaders still stick to theory X patterns. They ignore the need for transparency and try to distort challenging situations by making them look acceptable. Unfortunately, this old-fashioned leadership style is likely to increase fear and suspicion among team members. Misinformation, rumor, wrong perceptions, and uncertainty make employees feel threatened. Lack of motivation and lack of innovation is what the organization will harvest at the end of the day.

Keeping Employees Inspired

Passionate and talented employees need to know what lies ahead. They need to be consulted and at the same time supported in dealing with current and upcoming challenges. Communities of practice (CoP) can help foster a culture and atmosphere where people share their know-how and solutions openly. Actually, the DNA of a CoP carries the values of the psychological contract and can provide a kind of intra-organizational “haven” for employees. Modern leaders and HR professionals long have realized that an organizational culture of trust, mutual respect, and openness is likely to attract people who are talented AND passionate about their work. Some of them have already taken action and actively support the development of CoP. No doubt this approach takes a LOT of courage and trust on the part of leaders.

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