Team Tuesday : Jean-François Labre, Consultant, Talent Management Solutions
This week EPSI introduces you to Jean-François Labre, Consultant, Talent Management Solutions
Q. Jean-François, during your master’s degree, you were interested in organizational learning (OL) and its effects on employee well-being. Do you think there is a connection between these two themes and employer brand?
A. Yes absolutely, because employees want to experience well-being at work, and well-being is a central element to an employer’s brand. Even for jobs carried out under difficult conditions, it is possible to intervene as an organization to make people happy and proud to do their jobs. OL achieves this objective by offering a frame of reference to analyze and select interventions that include all organizational dimensions. OL in general, and well-being more specifically, therefore contributes to the positioning of the employer brand.
We have all been confronted, directly or indirectly, to unhappy or abusive situations at work. The reason there have been so many awareness campaigns in recent years is that workplaces can be susceptible environments for acts of violence to take place, including harassment and intimidation.
Q. In your opinion, where did this violence come from?
A. The sources are multiple, but I believe they all have a common denominator: violence, whether verbal or physical, emerges when we resort to dysfunctional relational mechanisms. This occurs in the workplace because we have the impression that our values or our integrity are threatened. As Sartre said “Hell is other people” and we are all “another’s other”.
Q. So what is the place of OL, well-being, and employer brand in what you are describing?
A. The employer brand is a set of elements that make people want – or not – to join a business. Work doesn’t have to be idyllic to create a strong employer brand. There simply has to be congruence between the expectations that we generate and the experience that we offer, in short, that we deliver what we promise.
The job can be tough, but if I have the support of my supervisor, and they help me to make sense of what I’m experiencing, then I can find the energy to deal with these conditions and thrive, despite the challenges. Conversely, easy work, but carried out under a tyrannic boss, can quickly turn my daily life into hell and cause distress.
OL provides organizations with the paradigm and the tools to ensure a fit between the organization’s values and practices. Indeed, OL is about stimulating the acquisition, dissemination, interpretation, and retrieval of knowledge in organizations. Moreover, OL takes place simultaneously in three spheres: cognitive, procedural, and relational. OL is, therefore, the result not only of people’s intelligence and working methods but also of the group’s mechanism used to make sense of knowledge and work experiences in a particular context.
So if leaders have an ethical sense and feel a moral obligation to employees they will, I hope, have the courage to be agents of positive change. They will then be able to use the four levers of OL – strong learning culture, learning-oriented leadership, learning support, strategic knowledge management – to promote openness, tolerance, security, recognition, and free information flow. However, it can only work if the organization is willing to hear everyone’s voice, no matter how irritating or frustrating at times.
Starting from the point of view that organizations are “legal persons”, I believe that if they are capable of OL, they too are capable of engaging in a process of personal growth and of adopting mechanisms that allow constructive exchanges despite differences in values and opinions.
Q. Isn’t that utopian?
A. Well, it’s a bit like getting in shape. In theory, it’s very easy to get in shape, you just need to get up and move on a regular basis. In practice, it is more difficult, because we are the result of long and complex psychological development. Over the years, we have put in place mechanisms that allow us to function despite our fears, hurts, and uncertainties. Despite the fact these mechanisms are often sub-optimal, they serve a purpose.
In the case of organized groups, like businesses, I like the baseboard heat metaphor to explain how you can change a dynamic. If 20 baseboards are set at 15 degrees in a room, the temperature will remain at 15 degrees. You only need to raise one of them to 21 degrees for the room to become comfortable. In other words, only one element in organizational dynamics, like a leader, needs to stand out from the crowd to bring about structural change and bring a new state.
We have examples of great leaders, like Rosa Park and Nelson Mandela, who have brought about large-scale change, but there is also countless leader acting in the shadows whose names we will never know. It is difficult to assess the contribution of these anonymous leaders, but I am convinced that every change they spurred on translates into collective gains that are greater than their mere sum.
Q. Any final thoughts?
A. It might be a cliché, but I believe the key is to act with integrity, being careful to strike a balance between analysis and action, to avoid false solutions without delaying intervention indefinitely.