There’s lot of research which show that healthy and motivated employees are an essential resource in working life. This holds true in private businesses as well as in public services. As Kathleen Davis, associate editor at Entrepreneur.com, points out in her recent article (see here):
Happy, satisfied employees are a key ingredient to a successful company
There’s also an excellent infographic in the article describing among other things the main factors of employee performance. They are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. I see them also as the main factors of work-related well-being – I argue that business and worker’s well-being are not contradictory concepts but linked together. Autonomous masters of their work have also a purpose and perform their tasks extraordinarily well.
Now we come to human resources development (HRD) which is the framework for helping employees develop their personal and organizational skills, knowledge, and abilities. This traditional perspective restricts the role of HRD to developing employees and the actual task is distributed to HR-professionals. This way of organizing work activities comes from the industrial age and still in many organizations people are managed with concepts developed at the beginning of the 20th century in the spirit of Taylorism. This approach is characterized by strict definitions of tasks and organizing people into hierarchical departments. This goes for HRD as well.
Nowadays knowledge and know-how have come more and more important factors in businesses and working life. At the same time in organizational level capabilities such as competence, speed, flexibility and innovativeness are becoming more and more important. To put it short, learning organizations generate and act on new knowledge. To bring about innovations and flexibility, organizations need to rethink their learning processes and orchestrate new ways of learning. Recent research in learning sciences emphasize collaborative learning, shared regulation and shared metacognition (see e.g. Järvelä, Hurme & Järvenoja 2011 here). Another perspective comes from Shaupp and Ahonen (in Finnish, see here), who noticed in two separate action research programs in Finnish companies that organizations need to create models for learning that combine the efforts of experts, employees, management and supervision of work into a structured collaborative learning process. They call it the learning laboratory where the role of HR-professionals is to provide the organization theoretical tools for analyzing its development and current challenges of learning.
As for learning and work-related well-being, opportunities to have an influence to one’s work is a major factor that provides motivation, motive, and purpose to working life. In my work I frequently meet employees who have come frustrated and de-motivated in their work just because they’ve been deprived of influence. It’s all too common that this has led to a situation where also their health problems have become more complicated. There’s recent research (Hakanen & Schauffeli, 2012) indicating that engagement in work predicts happiness, health and well-being. And – as Kathleen Davis in citation above argues – happy and healthy employees are a crucial resource in any company or public sector organization.
To emphasize the importance of learning in working life I include here an interview of Harvard Business School professors David Garvin and Amy Edmondson. They argue that changes in working life are so rapid that:
If your rate of learning isn’t greater than that rate of change, you are going to fall behind.
For HR-professionals, there should be a major role in providing organizations possibilities and methods of – collaborative – learning.
Hakanen, J.J. & Schaufeli, W.B. (2012). Do burnout and work engagement predict depressive symptoms and life satisfaction?A three-wave seven-year prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 141, 415 – 424.
Järvelä, S., Hurme, T.-R., & Järvenoja, H. (2011). Self-regulation and motivation in CSCL environments In S. Ludvigsen, A. Lund & R. Säljö (Eds.), Learning in social practices: ICT and new artifacts-transformation of social and cultural practices. Pergamon.