Just as the ethic of charity obligates the rich to help the poor survive, so ought the ethic of business obligate employers to help employees become more human.
The troubling gap between what we know in our hearts to be human versus the degrading human condition in which we find ourselves is frightening. Despite thousands of years of effort to close this gap, the powerful forces at its source continue to evade us and seem out of our control.
Based on the extent to which we do not fully understand the human condition, we must not understand ourselves or each other, either. For this reason, it behooves all of us to make it our business to study human nature in order to better develop ourselves and better serve our customers.
Given the state of the human condition in the modern era, innovation is sorely lacking in the human skills domain. According to an Infosys article, “Learning to Be More Human: A Skills Mandate for 2020,” the organizations that recognize the need to support and invest in thought leadership in the human skills domain will usher in the research, societal discourse and paradigm shifts required for making the world of business more human.
Given the tectonic shift and accompanying narrative emerging in the resource-rich commercial/industrial space, perhaps business is the appropriate new context in which the human condition can be better understood and continuously improved. Interestingly, religious traditions including Judaism tell us that when a person approaches the heavenly gates, the first question he or she is asked is, “Were you ethical in your business dealings?”
Customer service is intrinsically paradoxical; it is both selfless and selfish at the same time. Exceptional service requires exceptional servers who serve the customer first at all times. By doing so, the provider is served as well. Exceptional human skills do not come naturally; they require the server to authentically improve his or her own character, an act of self-development that is impossible to impose on an employee. For this reason, the 2020 mandate for human skills cannot be mandated; instead, it must be a vision, evangelized by leadership, to which the organization aspires.
In order for an organization to succeed in the human skills arena, leaders must initially acquire the human skills, lead by example and know how to successfully invite others to do the same. This type of leadership cannot be achieved organically at first, because no one in the organization has the new skills yet required to transform the organization – otherwise, they would have already done it. The skills must be brought in from the outside. The leader who initiates a cultural transformation must operate outside the box and have the courage to carve out a brand new path for all to follow.
Human skills development requires highly skilled teachers, not highly energetic motivational speakers. Society inundates us with gurus whose offerings sound compelling, but, unfortunately, their practices do not lead to lasting human changes in the ethical and moral fabric of our culture. Hopefully, the emerging demand for human skills in the workplace is coming from our culture, and our business leaders will take the baton and run with it.