Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic has created eight pillars for more humanised organisations to guide them through these uncertain times


With all the challenges going on in the world and disruptions caused by the pandemic, resulting in changing work patterns, higher employee turnover and a growing desire for compassionate leadership, how can we support leader clients and their organisations to change how they work and treat their employees, so they become more humanised, survive and thrive?

As part of research published in my book, Humane Capital, 58 global leaders were interviewed to understand their mindset and key strategies used to create more humane organisations. Based on this research, eight pillars of creating humanised organisations emerged from data analysis. These findings are also supported by the latest research I conducted during the pandemic.

The following are the eight pillars, and tips on how to support clients to improve these areas.


  1. Mindset of leaders and employees

The evidence tells us that ultimately a business relies on teams of people, and that any structure ought to support them. Any positive change starts at individual level. Many of the world’s leading organisational and management thinkers, interviewed as part of this research, have come to the same conclusion.

Most organisations are influenced by leaders at the top. It’s not possible to transform culture without transforming its leaders. And leaders’ mindsets a critical role in such transformation.


Make it work

Encourage clients to:

  • Understand the importance of language used when communicating with employees
  • Turn work into a game and make it fun, eg, give people a personal mission and create scorecards that they can use themselves to measure their own productivity and performance
  • Commit to a clear high-level mission/purpose and deeply connect with that purpose


Fatal flaws

  • Showing perfection rather than vulnerability and humility
  • Dismissing the responsibility of each individual to unlock the energy in the organisation. Instead, ask employees, ‘What can you do every day in order for the team to improve and win?’
  • Hiring just on the basis of a CV rather than on the basis of personality, character and cultural fit


  1. Motivation and engagement

It can be postulated that motivation is related to mindset. Engaged employees are strongly motivated to achieve high performance, unlike unengaged employees who will have low levels of performance, passion for work and will lack purpose. This difference between engaged and unengaged employees is well illustrated by David MacLeod, a co-founder of the Engage for Success movement in the UK.

He explains that while top teams need to worry about the overall business strategy, which markets they should be in, which markets they should be out of, whether they have the cash to deliver that strategy, and profitability that makes that strategy realistic, they should also be worrying at the same level about whether their employees understood, were committed to and owned that strategy every bit as much as the top team who felt they were the authors of it. All too often we see talented people who feel disengaged, disempowered and have a relatively poor level of wellbeing.


Make it work

Encourage leader clients to:

  • Allow others to step up as leaders, based upon their expertise and interests on issues and processes
  • Use reflection instead of evaluation
  • Choose values that support a focus on people


Fatal flaws

  • Using hierarchical command and control leadership style
  • Not empowering those employees who create value for customers
  • Not taking action based on feedback from employees


  1. Higher purpose of an organisation

Purpose is essential for harnessing the higher levels of motivation and performance. One of the most important insights into understanding the high-performance culture, however, is to understand the importance of difficult to measure matters such as purpose.

One of the powerful driving forces for engaging people is to find meaning and purpose in the work they’re doing. They then have a sense of meaning when their activities relate to something purposeful and they connect their values and beliefs to what their organisations are doing.


Make it work

  • Have a clear vision, one that can be adjusted on the journey. Repeat this continuously and foster entrepreneurial spirit
  • Focus on shared purpose
  • Ask employees, ‘What inspires you to be the best you can be, every day?


Fatal flaws

  • Showing lack of authenticity around purpose
  • Not articulating clearly what the company stands for and how it makes this world a better place
  • Putting profit above purpose
  1. Values and their alignment between individuals and an organisation

It’s apparent that a sense of purpose without values can encourage people to do the right thing in the wrong way; to take short cuts, perhaps even break the law. Values guide people how to behave in ambiguous, volatile or unexpected situations. They also give people certainty that unethical behaviour won’t be covered up, and that principled behaviour will be supported.


Make it work

  • Build trust
  • Ensure openness and transparency
  • Manage by principles


Fatal flaws

  • Lack of authenticity
  • Neglecting values such as fun, creativity, wellbeing and adventure
  • Assuming trust is given until it is lost
  1. Aligning people and systems

It’s important to align people and systems that support their work. For several decades, since the internet was established, futurists have projected the prospect of prosperity in an information-rich, automated world of smart cars, smart buildings and smart workplaces.

Even before the pandemic, however, mobile technology was having an impact on the way we work. Covid-19 accelerated this process hugely, as lockdowns across the world left millions relying on domestic broadband bandwidth allied with platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and others to allow them to do their work.


Make it work

  • Remove unnecessary bureaucracy
  • Understand the role of technology and how it changes the way of working
  • Ensure that top management have technical expertise


Fatal flaws

  • Lack of transparency of information
  • Not using technology to support meaningful relationships
  • Not removing information processing bottlenecks


  1. Self organisation of employees in communities

An empowered organisation, held together by strong values and a sense of purpose, doesn’t consist of units that are under the strict control of a leader. They flourish with a degree of autonomy for teams and individuals, all but essential to nurture true creativity and innovation. This is facilitated by a sense of teamwork and common purpose.


Make it work

  • Use a trial and error approach
  • Allow self-organisation through empowerment and autonomy
  • Use the wisdom of the crowd


Fatal flaws

  • Fostering lack of responsibility for results
  • Not supporting creation of inclusive groups for collaboration
  • Not allowing experimentation with new ideas


  1. Caring organisational culture

Nurturing and caring for everyone in the organisation is another important pillar for high performing organisations. People should never be seen as mere resources, but as equal associates. A high performing organisation will nurture a sense of purpose for each individual, as well as for the organisation as a whole.

There’ll be an expectation of performance, but based around the needs of the customer, instead of drive to meet arbitrary targets. In return, the organisation should be a safe and creative place, with high levels of trust.

Make it work

  • Establish coaching and mentoring practices
  • Put caring culture at the heart of everything
  • Provide psychological safety and create simple systems for measuring the happiness of employees

Fatal flaws

  • Engaging in one-way communication where employees’ voices aren’t heard
  • Failing to communicate regularly, listen and respond to concerns
  • Lack of consideration of employees’ wellbeing


  1. Organisational learning processes

The most enlightened high performing organisations establish purpose and values, as discussed but also ensure that processes are strong and learning is ongoing, so that the values will outlive any particular group of managers.


Make it work

  • Create conditions for fostering innovation through communication and interactions among employees
  • Support training and development
  • Create collaborative alliances of partners and exchange know-how


Fatal flaws

  • Preventing customer-facing employees making decisions
  • Not providing infrastructure for employees to share ideas and act on them when appropriate
  •  Not providing ongoing real time review and feedback


Supporting leader clients to avoid these pitfalls, and to use the above tips, can help organisations to become more engaging, purposeful and high performing, and most importantly more humanised, spreading the ripples of positive change, so much needed in current times.


  • About the author
    Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is professor of Leadership and Management at Hult International Business School (Ashridge), UK and founder and CEO of Management Shift Solutions Limited

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