Balancing Spirituality and Work
These sunset watchers aren't members of a group. They don't even necessarily know each other. They're just individuals who work at the same company and who feel compelled to "download" as one of them calls it, taking a moment of silence at the end of their workday to transition to the next phase of their day—going home.
"I've always been drawn to sunrises and sunsets. It's a form of meditation and helps me to get my head together as to what has transpired [during the day]," says Mary Ann Vlahac, director of marketing research for People's Bank, who says she's a pagan and has practiced the Wicca tradition—a form of ancient earth magic.
Vlahac discovered, quite by accident, that others, like her, also want to get in touch with their spirituality at work. She had wandered into a conference room one day while trying to follow the setting sun and found other people already there.
Since then, Vlahac says she has found kindred spirits—and a way to unwind after her workday. "It's just a form of bringing together the end of the day and collecting our thoughts, as well as letting them go, so that when we go home, we're the people we were when we came in the door." She also quips: "This just may be the coffee break of the 21st century!"
Vlahac is but one of many individuals in the United States and, in fact, throughout the world, who are beginning to express their spirituality at work. While that may seem amazing and even shocking to some, the idea has been stirring throughout the business world for the past several years. For years, employers compartmentalized workers, carefully separating business concerns from personal identities. But productivity waned because people's personal lives do affect their work. That's why companies increasingly have added work-and-family programs and a variety of other benefits aimed at helping employees achieve balanced lives. So when they're at work, they're more focused. This focus on personal problems, combined with organizations' valiant efforts to value diversity, have caused workers to wonder why they can't express other parts of themselves, such as their personal missions, vision and values, while on the job.
But it isn't just employees who don't want to leave their values at the door. Managers and corporate officers are wondering too, because many feel they aren't doing enough to promote job satisfaction among their employees. For example, when Menlo Park, California-based Robert Half International Inc. surveyed CEO concerns late last year, it found that senior U.S. executives believe that CEOs should spend more than one-third of their time building the morale of their troops. "Promoting job satisfaction and reducing employee turnover are viewed as top priorities for corporate leaders, especially in the wake of the recent recession," says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half, in a recent statement. Messmer suggests senior-level managers should avoid pitting employees against one another in unhealthy competition and should maintain open lines of communication at all levels. As companies have downsized, restructured and reorganized themselves into oblivion, they've been left with skeleton crews who, quite literally, feel lifeless, tired and sucked dry. Managers struggle to manage work forces with little energy, creativity or commitment. In short, people have largely been disembodied from their spirits and left feeling less than whole, less than human. And there seems to be no end in sight. According to a study of 1,800 CEOs, CFOs and senior HR managers in Japan, North America and Europe, by Washington, D.C.-based Watson Wyatt Worldwide, more than one-third expect their restructuring activities to continue, and almost as many expect their restructuring activities to accelerate.
Despite the fact that fewer people are doing more work, managers still demand everything they used to demand, and more. Employees increasingly are saying, "I've had enough" and "What does it all mean?" In a world where companies no longer commit to workers for life and vice versa, what's left to consummate the bonding process? Money? Medical insurance? Perks? Sorry. Even those don't have the pull they used to. Studies show that the perks of the past have given over to such workplace offerings as flextime and longer vacations so people can spend more time in activities away from work. A 1994 study by Hewitt Associates LLC in Lincolnshire, Illinois indicates employees value paid time more than pensions, 401(k) plans, dental benefits and life insurance. Baby boomers and others are finding the give-me-more '80s didn't satisfy their longings for fulfillment. They're looking for more satisfying pursuits, and to retain these workers, you may have to figure out how to engage more than just their minds.
Articles on things spiritual have flooded the popular business press for months. And books such as "Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership" and "The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America" have been on bestseller lists for weeks.
Obviously, spiritual themes may be a more comfortable topic in our homes than at our desks. But maybe that's because of our American workplace taboos. "One of the challenges of bringing spiritual formation into the workplace is that [spirituality is] hard to measure," says Shelly Paul, spiritual formation manager for World Vision International in Monrovia, California. "The dominant culture seems to value what can be counted. If it cannot be categorized, systematized and counted, then it doesn't have value. Perhaps spiritual development is an area where we need to leave space for ambiguity and agree that spirituality can't be talked about in the same way we talk about other elements of the workplace. If we try to squeeze spirituality into our existing molds to validate it, we may squeeze out the very gifts—including challenging our paradigms—which spirituality in the workplace can give us."
The spirituality-at-work movement asks more questions than it answers. But one thing is certain. Something spiritual is creeping into the workplace, and it seems to be gearing up to be more than a trend. This may be the birth of a business revolution based on centuries-old concepts, revised to fit today's work force. You need to know how it's shaping up so that you can interpret it for yourself, your fellow employees and the company you serve.
Defining spirituality in the workplace is like capturing an angel—it's ethereal and beautiful, but perplexing.
The term spirituality means many things to many people. Webster's defines spirituality as: of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit; of or relating to sacred matters; ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal; concerned with religious values; of, related to, or joined in spirit.
Even the dictionary definition is cryptic. And translating it to the workplace is even trickier. Those who are encircled in the spirit-at-work movement often have trouble defining it themselves.
"Sometimes, it's much easier to say what it's not, than to say what it is," explains Ann Bass Perle, an HR consultant based in Spokane, Washington, interested in the spirituality-at-work concept. "It's not about religion. It's not about converting people. It's not about making people believe a belief system or a thought system or a religious system. It's about knowing that we're all spiritual beings having a human experience. It's about knowing that every person has within him or herself a level of truth and integrity, and that we all have our own divine power."
Perle gets to the heart of what spirituality may mean—the view that people are more than just mind and body; they're also spirits with unique and individual gifts. Perle, who's the founding minister of the Spokane Pathways Church, has worked in HR for the past 23 years. In her own personal search, Perle says she realized there was something missing in her life and her work over the past several years, which led her to founding the church. But she says that at a deeper level, she's always known spirituality was part of the answer to what was missing in her life—and her work—and suspects the same is true for others.
Indeed, a worldwide survey completed three years ago confirms the view that people are striving for congruence in their lives and meaning in their work. The "International Workplace Values Survey," found that more than two-thirds (69%) of the respondents expressed a desire to become part of "a formal organization to further new thinking and humanistic values in the workplace." The study, co-sponsored by The Compass Group, a Silicon Valley-based research group, "The New Leaders" business newsletter in San Francisco and the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito, California, also found an average of 55% of the 1,200 respondents from 18 countries had experienced what they called a "personal transformation" during the years from 1985 to 1990. More than 70% of the them reported they either meditated or prayed. And surprisingly, spiritual development ranked ahead of physical development in order of importance.
In fact, after completing the study, one of its authors concluded that innovative companies of the future will offer sanctuaries of introspection for employees, such as meditation rooms, prayer rooms or contemplation gardens. That's already happening. Alex Pattakos, president of Creative Learning Technologies in Boise, Idaho, mentions that he helped one company, Donato's Pizza in Ohio, install what's called "the N.E.S.T." (Naturally Enhanced Sound Transmission). The N.E.S.T. was created by Bio-Innergy Systems Inc. in Delaware, Ohio. "Without calling it meditation or introspection or reflection, people sit in this machine, listen to music, read a book or just close their eyes and take a stress-relief break. It's there to promote creativity enhancement and improve worker performance," he adds. "It helps to slow down the little voices inside that are chattering."
Most of the people leading the spirit-at-work paradigm shift, or at least those nudging it along, say spirituality at work isn't about believing in a particular religion, although many expressions of spirituality at work stem from various religious traditions—from the Jewish faith to Hinduism to Christianity. It's about taking a broader, more global view of the spiritual dimension which may, for some, encompass their religious beliefs. For example, the spiritual concepts of balance, trust, harmony, communication, values, mission, honesty and cooperation come from religious traditions, but aren't the sole by-product of any one of them.
Another reason spirituality at work is difficult to pin down: people resist being proselytized toward any particular belief system, especially at work. Most people are leery of talking about spirituality at work because they immediately think it means religion. And religious discussions can border on harassment. So can religious symbols. According to a Personnel Journal survey, 40% of human resources managers say their companies prohibit employees from bringing to work or wearing spiritual symbols or artifacts. Whether the law supports such policies is unclear.
Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended) states that you can't discriminate against applicants or employees because of religion, but neither must you accommodate all their religious practices if it would interfere with the normal conduct of the business. What Title VII does require is that employers (other than nonprofit religious organizations) make reasonable efforts to accommodate its applicants' and employees' religious beliefs. Which means, if an employee has to have Saturdays off because his or her religion requires it, you should think twice about making that employee work on a Saturday.
Even with laws in place, examples of religious harassment still abound. Because of the traditional red flags that have gone up around religion, many business managers are wary about crossing the fine line between accommodating religious beliefs and encouraging individuals to make decisions at work based on those ideals. But increasingly, workers are beginning to push for common ground.
"There are just a lot of people who are saying, especially after [the recession of the] '80s, that organizations have been acting as if people were only something that cost something, not something with souls and spirits. It was so dehumanizing, and I think that affected so many people," explains Judith A. Neal, an associate management professor at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, and publisher of the "Spirit at Work" newsletter. "People are saying, 'that's enough. We're more than just a cost to the organization. We have spirits. We have souls. We have dreams. We want a life that's meaningful. We want to contribute to society. We want to feel good about what we do.'"
In the end, there may not be a single definition of what it means to bring spirituality into the workplace. In fact, there may be as many definitions as there are people and companies. Even the experts say there really are no answers. Spirituality can encompass all of these definitions, and perhaps none of them. Martin Rutte, a leader of the spirituality-at-work movement and president of Livelihood Inc. in Santa Fe, New Mexico, says it's about spirituality at work as the question, not as the answer.
Spirituality is creeping into the workplace and workgroups.
One way spirituality is finding a voice in the workplace is through workgroups. For example, Richard Barrett, a principal urban transport specialist for the World Bank in Washington, D.C., started a Spiritual Unfoldment Society two years ago at his company, which employs 6,000 people worldwide. Every Wednesday at lunch-time, 50 to 80 people meet to discuss a variety of spiritual topics ranging from attaining soul consciousness to reincarnation. Barrett says the group especially focuses on coping with the work environment by having a larger perspective on life. The society has grown from just a few people to more than 500, and includes people from other nearby companies.
Barrett says he has been re-focusing his own work life from one that is just a job to more of a personal mission. As a result, he now works only three days a week in the office. The other two days, he's writing his second book on the topic of spirituality and business life. "I want to move the concept of values and spirituality into the business community," says Barrett. "If we're ever going to live a sustainable life on this planet, it's the workplace that's going to create that, because nation states are no longer in control of the world economy," he says. "Business is in control. And unless we can shift the business world to a new value system, we've lost it."
He thinks it's important to let employees talk about their lives from their deepest sense of self. "You can't get a proper understanding of life until you take the soul perspective," he says, claiming there's a scientific basis for his viewpoint. Just as the physical world is multidimensional—having forces and energies beyond our human senses—there's also a dimension of consciousness we rarely tap into. It's this dimension in which the soul resides, says Barrett. It's much like TV signals that we can't perceive with touch, smell or sight, but which exist nonetheless.
Barrett thinks this spiritual perspective is already causing a shift in workplace values. The shift that he, and others, envision is the move from fear to cooperation. "Fear is one of the great destroyers of community, particularly community in the workplace. It stops us from becoming all we can be," he says. "We need to design workplaces that eliminate fear." The fear he speaks of isn't just fear of physical violence, but the fear that comes from not being able to speak up and the fear of what other people might think. "This isn't an atmosphere conducive to liberating the intuition and creativity that can come from a deeper level—a level we can only reach when there's no fear around," adds Barrett.
In fact, a U.S. workplace-values survey co-sponsored by "Industry Week" magazine and "The New Leaders" found there's a significant gap between what employees value and want in the workplace—motivation techniques based on caring—and the way corporations choose to motivate their work forces—through fear. The study, published in May 1994, also found workers value a more humanistic atmosphere than their employers provide and favor a work environment that allows them to express their feelings. Their employers, however, generally still want them to keep their feelings to themselves.
Others in the spirituality movement agree removing fear can help companies achieve peak performance. "As you implement these new values—leaving behind competition, promoting cooperation, making people equal and allowing them to live in a fear-free environment—you'll engage not only people's intuition and creativity; you'll also engage their ownership of the organization," says Barrett.
From there, he says, people will begin to work for the common good instead of the what's-in-it-for-me? model. Workers will begin to move from the it's-just-a-job perspective to the this-is-my-mission view of their work. "It's the difference between getting and giving," he says. Employers will help employees better understand where their personal visions coincide with their companies', creating passion about work and improving productivity, efficiency and the bottom line, says Barrett. When people find their personal visions don't match their companies', they'll self-select out of the organization and work elsewhere. And when companies need to lay people off, it will be based on a holistic view of company goals, not just an automatic approach to cost-cutting.
Barrett sees the shifting of corporate values arising from two distinct camps: top-down and bottom-up. "What I'm trying to do here at World Bank is develop the bottom-up model," he adds. It has taken hold. One workgroup at the World Bank has embraced the spirituality-at-work concept and become more cohesive. Surinder Deol, a continuous learning specialist in the company's corporate HR department, says his workteam allows team members to talk about their personal and spiritual values along with business matters.
Deol's team, which includes individual contributors from various HR specialties, set new ground rules for themselves from the start. But Deol credits the team's manager, Helen Vasquez, with supporting the group's interest in laying their values on the table when talking about business issues.
From the first meetings, team members tended to speak from the heart, says Deol. "When you want to express yourself deeply about certain things, it comes out—you can't hide it," he explains. They regularly tell stories, share poems and even meditate as a group. Their unusually nonsecular orientation developed gradually. "In our case, nobody objected," says Deol, who practices the Sikh religion, an offshoot of Hinduism, but who has studied many other religions.
Deol says he wasn't able to discuss such things in the last team he was on. "In that team, there was little trust, recognition of one's self or openness," he says. "The managers felt spirituality was something you left at home. When you go to the office, you work by a different set of rules." Ultimately, he found his former team wasn't cohesive.
"In my new team, we bring our spiritual and ethical values with us. We cherish them and want to talk about them," he says. "We find everything at a spiritual dimension because whatever we do affects the people for whom we are working. It's resulted in a strong sense of shared values, which has been a very powerful tool."
In fact, his team went on a retreat to discuss the values they wanted to espouse, and determined three core values: trust, integrity and building positive relationships, which to them means recognition of and caring for people in their business and domestic lives.
But, managers traditionally haven't agreed that workers should share of themselves in such an intimate way, even though the desire for a more open management style by workers and managers was documented in the "Industry Week" survey. It found that although it's politically correct to value a more open, more candid management style, industrial managers overwhelmingly say their companies are still secretive. Employees want to speak out on how to make their work better and more productive. They want true empowerment.
While empowerment has been a popular business practice, and has for the most part been successful in bringing more shared power into organizations, applying such spiritual principles as trust and cooperation to the workplace takes empowerment to another level. "[Spirituality] goes beyond empowerment. It's not just giving people decision-making authority; it's allowing people to live their values at work," says Pattakos, who is also president of Renaissance Business Associates (RBA), Inc. based in Boise, Idaho. RBA is a non-profit, international, educational network started in 1983 with the goal of valuing and enhancing integrity and ethics in the workplace. It seeks not just to humanize the workplace, but also to tap into and unleash the human spirit at work in a non-religious and non-dogmatic way. "It gets back to the business side of to what extent managers and supervisors really trust employees, and to what extent the people working together trust each other," says Pattakos. "That's a big piece of the whole notion of spirit at work."
He adds that it's particularly difficult to be soulful in large organizations, because they traditionally are driven by profit at the expense of humanistic factors. As workers, customers, business partners and communities begin to expect corporations to live up to higher standards, standards that go well beyond what's mandated, businesses will have to figure out how to satisfy those standards or risk the continuous loss of personnel and, ultimately, their livelihood.
"The most important perspective that we must develop when working in organizations is understanding how to see the system as part of a whole. It's the ability to see that we're not separate islands, that we can't do it all alone," says Pattakos. He adds: "If you [rise above], you'll see that most companies, governments, communities and families are interrelated. If you take the soulful view: we all are one."
Companies take a soulful approach to business.
Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (VanCity), Canada's largest savings credit union with $4 billion in assets, is one organization that looks at its business as interdependent with, not separate from, its business community.
Its focus is on ethics. "We have defined ethics as striking a balance between the competing needs and voices and values that businesses are confronted with every day," says Pieter van Gils, manager of community-economics development for VanCity. His responsibility is to find new products, services and programs that enhance VanCity's social role in the 30 communities that it serves all over Canada.
VanCity saw its origins in the cooperative movement that was started more than 100 years ago to link financial responsibility with social change, economic self-reliance, social justice and environmental responsibility. Ethics are so important to VanCity, it started giving other organizations ethics awards last year. "Ethics are about balancing day-to-day decision making," says van Gils. "If you want to look after your company's interests, your employees and the community, and you want to look after your professional standards and the environment, then you want to look after what's happening on a larger scale in the world," explains van Gils. "Taking all these things into consideration and trying to balance them is difficult and often requires a radical commitment."
For example, the credit union has an annual community-consultation process in which it asks for ideas from the communities it serves about how to better serve them. Money is then invested into projects to support some of those needs. VanCity was also one of the first financial institutions to offer an ethical mutual fund.
On the home front, VanCity implemented a "Living Well" program four years ago. The Living Well program offers rewards to employees when they reach certain preset wellness incentive levels. Employees earn wellness points (on the honor system) by making healthy lifestyle choices and participating in the fun things in life. For example, employees receive points for activities such as knitting, hugging, meditating and composting kitchen waste. Workers are encouraged to take a holistic approach to their lives, rather than just focusing on healthy habits. "When we hire people, we say you have to realize that you're working for VanCity, that we are a community financial institution and feel that as an institution, we hire people who make balanced decisions—people who look not only for profit, but who look for ways to strengthen the community in general," he says.
Van Gils says eventually he would like to see workers be able to discuss shared values, then actually talk about religion in the workplace, although his company isn't there yet. "In general, the thrust should be to make explicit what has been implicit, because people bring their religion into their decision making anyway. They should be allowed to talk about it, rather than just leave it out," he says. Maybe it just comes down to semantics. "If you define spirituality as bringing values into the workplace, I would say, yes, we do, and that message does come strongly from all sides, from the top as well as from the people on the front line."
Although there aren't many companies yet that profess at the top of the organization to be motivated by a higher source, there are a few. Tom's of Maine Inc. based in Kennebunk, Maine, is one of them. Tom Chappell (pronounced chapel, as in a church) and his wife Kate started their small, personal-care products company back in 1970. From the start, they dedicated themselves to producing innovative, natural products, such as toothpaste, de-odorant and soaps, in a caring and creative work environment. They were committed to building a successful business with a healthy profit margin, but weren't willing to sacrifice their personal values for profit.
They haven't. With Episcopal beliefs in tow, and a deep respect for the planet and its resources, the Chappells have instilled a set of holistic values into their company, which are expressed by their mission statement. It says their company commits to "respect, value, and serve not only our customers, but also our co-workers, owners, agents, suppliers, and our community; we will be concerned about and contribute to their well-being, and we will operate with integrity so as to be deserving of their trust."
Their vision is to create a balance between responsibility, goodness and profitability. And the latter goal hasn't been at the expense of the former. Tom's is the country's leading manufacturer of natural personal products with sales of more than $5 million and a 4% share of the toothpaste market in such places as Boston and San Francisco.
While values have always been important to Tom Chappell, he faced a personal crisis in 1986 which led him to Harvard Divinity School looking for purpose, meaning and direction. What he found was that his business was his mission. He returned to the business with a renewed spirit and a deeper sense that God, for him, was the answer. After receiving a master's degree in theology in 1991, he wrote a book: "The Soul of a Business: Managing for Profit and the Common Good," which outlines his perspective on managing an organization spiritually, without sacrificing revenue or retained earnings.
Tom's, which employs 80 people, values teamwork and places an emphasis on creativity, which it says comes from a spiritual place. "A key to our creativity is encouraging people to let their imaginations rip," Chappell writes. "I try to give a new idea a chance before beating it down with reasons why it could fail. Key to our success is holding that creativity accountable. No one is allowed to do any old thing at Tom's and charge it to 'creativity.' Dreams and visions are one thing; outrageous fantasy and silly whims are quite another. After all, every company is accountable in the marketplace, at the bottom line." Chappell makes a good point. While we may be spiritual beings having a human experience, we have to feed our hungry bodies as well as our souls.
Going toward the light: How HR professionals feel about spirituality at work.
As yet, HR, as a profession, isn't pushing the envelope on spirituality at work. Yet, according to the Personnel Journal survey, most HR managers think the spirituality concept has merit. In fact, 70% of the respondents say they think spirituality does have a place at work.
Most personnel professionals, however, aren't yet sure how spirituality fits into the corporate picture or how it can enhance employee development. However, some have seen the benefits of spirituality in their personal lives and think that it might also translate into a better working environment. For example, Alyce Dana, a corporate recruiter for Circon, ACMI in Stamford, Connecticut, says, "When you talk about spirituality, to my mind, it's the inspirational force behind our morals. That translates into our integrity, ethics and honesty on the job, how we treat people and hold meetings, etc. It always comes back to, 'do I make honest decisions? Am I making them through ethics and integrity, or am I making them through personal greed?' I always try to base my decisions on that moral priority. And our morals and ethics translate back to spirituality."
On the personal side, Dana says that she meditates, often during her workday, to get her thoughts back on the right track. "Sometimes I [meditate] when someone's talking to me and I don't want to react to what they're saying in an angry or emotional way," she explains. "I try to focus on what the real issue is that we need to resolve and I will reach out in my thoughts for a calm space." Other times, she drives to a park and meditates in her car at lunch time. "I try to re-center and focus back on my reality as a spiritual person. I pray for the support from my higher power to carry me through the day and help me focus on what's good and true."
While Dana sees the personal benefits of incorporating spirituality into her own work life, she's unsure how she could translate some of those benefits back to the rest of the organization into terms that are acceptable and workable.
For direction on how a focus on spirituality can help cement relationships within an organization and improve such HR goals as higher productivity and increased morale, it may be helpful to consider the example of World Vision International.
World Vision is a non-profit organization whose goal is to serve needy people in all parts of the world. It provides long-term, transformational development and emergency relief to suffering people, and also seeks to promote justice and public awareness about these needs. The organization raised more than $282 million dollars in donations last year to benefit more than 5,200 projects in such countries as Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Although World Vision has been operating for 45 years and is organized around a Christian belief system, it only just created an office of spiritual formation within the HR department a little more than two years ago.
The organization has always been concerned with the spiritual development of its staff, which now includes 500 employees in the United States and 6,000 people in 100 countries outside the United States. But, senior management felt the company needed to be taken to a deeper level spiritually and needed to commit energy and resources toward that end. "What we're really trying to do is move the organization to more of a sense of who we are," says Paul, World Vision's spiritual-formation manager. Paul, who trained as a spiritual director with the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese and who is Native American, sees her role as twofold: 1) helping employees discern what God is saying to them in their individual lives and 2) helping employees discern how they're responding to this connection with God.
"As we have encouraged the spiritual development of our staff, we recognized that the most effective and fulfilled employee is one whose personal goals are aligned with the goals of the community in which he or she is employed," says Paul. "Spiritually, we can speak of this in terms of values—that is, the most effective and fulfilled employee is one whose personal values are aligned with the values of his or her organization or community."
Paul says an approach to spiritual development based on values is the most effective way to align people with a corporate mission. She cites the work of author Brian Hall, a professor at Santa Clara University in California, who has outlined a spiritual-development approach to values based on four premises: 1) values are an important component of behavior, and they can be identified and measured, 2) values are described through words, 3) values are developed in stages and 4) values are modified and shaped by circumstances.
Employees at World Vision are nurtured along the spiritual path toward a better understanding of their own values and the company's values through weekly chapel meetings, morning devotions, group retreats and individual sessions with the spiritual-formation manager, if people feel they need personal direction.
"Allowing employees time to enhance their own spiritual quests benefits the company in many ways," says Rebecca Pribus, vice president of HR for World Vision. "It increases employees' energy levels. They seem to have a more positive attitude and a higher creativity level. We also have seen dramatic changes in their mental, emotional and physical health." For example, Paul reports that since the implementation of a spiritual-formation office, the company has experienced fewer spiritual-harassment cases; fewer disability, stress and workers' compensation claims; increased fund-raising activities; and an increased congruence between its core values and the expression of those values.
Fulfilling a company's mission is a lofty order, especially when the weight of a firm's work-force retention and development goals falls on the shoulders of human resources managers. "You can only have so many waves of downsizing and reengineering before it affects even the best HR manager," says Pattakos.
If you've been immersed in the latest business paradigm—the learning-organization concept—you've already been faced with trying to translate a somewhat nebulous concept into concrete application. "The real key to a learning organization—if you really get down deep—is a spiritual core. It's the learning core. It's the ability to express one's self completely." It requires a lot of creativity, a lot of true grit, and a lot of tools and techniques to get people engaged in meaningful dialogue.
"If HR managers are able to focus on bringing out the best communication styles and the best shared meaning, that not only builds a learning organization, but that also builds personnel management's capacity, too," says Pattakos. "It's not enough anymore for people to be only in the head. We've got to be in the heart, too. But we can't just be in the heart, because then we just have a bunch of touchy-feely personnel managers running around." He adds: "To the extent that we can bridge the intuitive, feeling and soulful essence of who we are as human beings, with the personnel tools such as statistical-process control, training agendas, demands for performance and metrics, then we have true personnel management. You can't build a learning organization unless you get to the soul."
It's perhaps best summed up by Lewis Brown Griggs, CEO of San Francisco-based Griggs Productions, Inc. and co-author of "Valuing: New Tools For a New Reality." Griggs, who originally went into HR because of a near-death experience, says, "From the entire universe down to each particle of matter, we all belong to the whole. And if we can see that, that we really are spiritually connected to one another, needing each other to be as diverse as we can be and giving each other those gifts, then we aren't only tolerating other people's diversity, we're allowing ourselves to be all we can be. So when we go back up into that white light, God's not going to ask, 'Why weren't you a better person?' or 'Why didn't you fulfill your mission?'"
Those ultimately are the questions we all must answer for ourselves. In the end, the sun rises and the sun sets, and what you do in between makes all the difference.
Personnel Journal, September 1995, Vol. 74, No. 9, pp. 60-76.