Although he has degrees in science and philosophy, Jason Lauritsen began his career selling copiers and computers. He eventually got into recruiting and headhunting. He became interested in the dynamics between people and their work.
Eventually, he transitioned into corporate HR, which let him go inside the system to really understand power structures and how decision-makers, leaders and CEOs are influenced. Now he works as a speaker, consultant and writer. Here he shares his defining purpose – to make work human.
Interviewer: In your experience, what’s most important when it comes to making work human?
Jason: Shifting mindsets and challenging beliefs. We tend to focus on getting leaders to behave differently so they can create a different experience for the employees who show up every day. However, human behavior is really hard to sustain unless it’s built on a strong foundation.
When it comes to the workplace, if unproductive beliefs aren’t replaced with something more progressive or constructive, it’s common to default back to behaviors that support a poor belief structure.
It’s why we see people attend a leadership development class for a day, change their behavior for two weeks, then fall back into the same routine. There wasn’t a shift in mindset or beliefs.
Interviewer: I’ve heard you speak about the work-as-a-contract model. What are its origins?
Jason: During the industrial revolution, laborers were terribly abused. From this came the rise of labor unions to balance the power between employers and employees. They literally developed a contract, and we’ve never really evolved past that.
Job descriptions, performance appraisals and policy manuals are all based on a work-as-a-contract model that’s designed to make sure the organization gets its money’s worth out of the employee.
Interviewer: How does this model contribute to the workplace challenges you see?
Jason: All of the data we have about employee engagement suggests employees experience work more like a relationship than they do a contract. Relational constructs, like feeling valued, cared for, trusted and a sense of belonging all contribute to employee engagement. These are the reasons we’re motivated to contribute and perform at a high level.
People show up at work with the desire to be treated like they’re in a relationship, but it’s more of a contractual experience. That obviously isn’t successful. Until we get organizations and leaders to understand and think about work as a relationship, we’re going to have the same disconnect.
Interviewer: Don’t you think we’ve known the keys to employee engagement for a long time?
Jason: Broadly, yes. We’ve had the data to support this for a long time, but most employee engagement efforts aren’t effective because the contractual model remains the “operating system.”
If you don’t replace your organization’s operating system at some point, it’s out of date. Because it’s hard and expensive to do a complete overhaul, we play the same game we’ve played for 25 years. We don’t address the root cause.