Port Sunlight and William Lever, Social Philanthropist…………..should be compulsory reading for HR professionals
Excellent blog with spot on commentary
Yesterday I paid a second visit to Port Sunlight village and visited the museum and one of the workers cottages. The museum is small but well worth a visit if you are the least bit interested in our industrial heritage. As is the workers cottage next door, preserved and showing the living conditions the workers enjoyed.
The museum tells the story of William Lever and his vision in creating this village for workers at his Sunlight Soap factory. The displays explore how the village developed, from the working conditions to the charming architecture and lively social scene. The museum is packed with nostalgia, from vintage soap packaging to the story Ringo Starr’s first performance with the Beatles, which took place in Port Sunlight in 1962. Through film shows, interactives, models and an array of intriguing artefacts you can discover the tale of this inspirational village.
Port Sunlight is arguably the…
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Life satisfaction for both men and women has risen for the 5th year in a row according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which started the National Wellbeing study in 2011.
Women have been consistently happier the past but the ONS now finds higher anxiety levels among women. More than 1 in 5 said they were so worried about something that it was causing them distress.
Women are known to have larger social or friendship groups then men but rather the alleviating their worries that may actually be contributing to it by giving them more people to worry about (and let’s not mention the pernicious effects of Facebook and other social media).
The experts think that the stress of combining a job with childcare and domestic chores may be taking its toll. Add to that the fact that as the population ages more women end up looking after their elderly parents.
A psychiatrist who has seen women patients struggling to juggle their responsibilities says “Equality in the workplace has undoubtedly been a very good thing but it has left women facing the more negative aspects of corporate life like high levels of alcohol consumption, stress, fewer hours to run a home and raise a family, and potentially an unhealthy diet“.
Recently men have got healthier as women adopted their bad habits at work. So while life satisfaction rose last year – aligned with the economy, earnings, job prospects, and crime levels – there was no increase in happiness or a drop in anxiety levels.
The statisticians think that last year’s general election, the EU referendum and the immigration crisis could have unsettled the public. “It’s possible that the lack of improvement in three of the four personal weep-being measures this year could be associated with the uncertainty surrounding governance, the economy and global security“.
Nevertheless people living in Northern Ireland are the happiest in the UK for the fifth consecutive year and despite years of violence during the troubles there is greater social cohesion there withy people knowing their neighbours and feeling part of the community.
Aaron Kay at Fuqua Management School of Business at Duke University, Carolina, thinks leaders should worry less about empowerment and equality.
He says “In organisations there is a move to become flat but that is not always the best thingy you want to keep employees working hard”.
“People may say that they want to work in an egalitarian workplace but sometimes they actually function better in a hierarchy” regardless of where they sit in the organisation.
It’s not just that a hierarchy offers more chance of promotion – although some staff will appreciate seeing a ladder to climb – but that hierarchies offer staff a sense of order and structure which they like.
When times are turbulent and external circumstances reduce their sense of control preference for hierarchies increases. Kay says “People seek out guidance and leaders” And a hierarchy helps them feel that they are in a safe, stable environment … where they can predict the outcome of their behaviours.
His research also suggests that a strong hierarchy helps people feel that they are being more effective in tackling long-term goals. “If you lead an organisation where you need employees to work on long-term projects, committed to long-term goals, it’s tempting to think that if you give them autonomy they will be more interested and it will drive the right behaviour”.
But as he points out long-term goals are hard to achieve and people need to forgo immediate reward to focus on something way off in the future. They have to trust the system. Having a clear structure and a hierarchy reassures employees that things won’t change before they complete the task.
Hierarchy might also be better for complex tasks where each person needs to complete their part exactly as it is specified. This doesn’t necessarily mean managers should adopt a directive or autocratic approach. Employees obviously like to know where they stand but managers shouldn’t lord it over them and be open to new ideas.
Other experts disagree. One said ‘it’s naive to think that structures always work the way they were intended“. In some organisations employees feel that although there is a structure and the rules are fair, they are not always applied fairly.
It seems to depend on whether or not you can trust the leaders and managers to be fair and whether or not the rules change as you are working.
See also my earlier post on hierarchical management.