I WAS AT ONE TIME THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF RESOURCES IN A LARGE
COMPLEX ORGANISATION. FINANCE, IT, PERSONNEL AND TRAINING FELL WITHIN
MY REMIT. THIS LINE MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENT REFLECTED THE THINKING AT
THAT TIME THAT THE PEOPLE WHO WORKED IN AN ORGANISATION WERE RESOURCES
IN THE SAME WAY AS MONEY, EQUIPMENT, BUILDINGS AND INFORMATION. IN ONE
SENSE THIS WAS POSITIVE AS IT PLACED A VALUE ON EMPLOYEES, IT
RECOGNISED THAT TO GET THINGS DONE YOU NEEDED TO THINK ABOUT HOW TO
USE PEOPLE EFFECTIVELY. UNFORTUNATELY THIS LED SOME TO TREAT STAFF
LIKE EQUIPMENT AND BUILDINGS TO BE MOVED AROUND AS AND WHERE NEEDED,
TO BE REPLACED OR DISCARDED, TO HAVE A CHANGE OF USE OR TO BE RENTED
OUT/ OUTSOURCED AS SENIOR MANAGEMENT SAW FIT .
This human resource was to be frequently reorganised, resulting in
redeployments and redundancies, people were required to be a flexible
resource. The management style all to often reflected this view,
managers did not feel the need to consult or inspire they instructed.
In the extremely form it resulted in zero contract hours where the
employee was used as and when necessary and was not entitled to
holiday or sick pay. The coronavirus crisis has shown people are not
just another resource.
During this crisis we have identified groups of people as, “essential
or key workers”. Whilst the majority of us have stayed safe at home in
Lock Down they have continued to work caring for the sick, delivering
food, medication and other essentials, emptying the rubbish bins,
stocking the shelves doing the tasks that have kept life going. These
are not the best paid jobs or in normal times the most well regarded.
If people were just a resource why would poorly paid care staff
continue to work in residential and nursing homes for older people
when the risk of catching the deadly virus is so high. Why even when
protective clothing was not provided did they still turn up for work.
The same is true of hospital doctors, nurses and paramedics. The
answer is simple equipment can not be motivated, a building can not
feel valued, Information can not show empathy.
In a classic episode of the comedy Faulty Towers, John Cleese is
running late for a rendezvous, his car won’t start. He turns the
ignition repeatedly but the engine won’t start. He try’s again and
again. He offers encouraging words but still it won’t start. He
attempts to bribe it with the promise of a wash and polish even a full
service if it just starts this one time. It won’t. Having pleaded and
cajoled to no avail he starts to abuse it , calling it a useless pile
of scrape. Now in a rage he jumps out the car and kicks the tyres,
gabs a fallen branch from a nearby tree and starts beating the bonnet
all the while shouting that he is going to show it who is boss.
This completely over the top reaction is funny because we have all at
some time pleaded with a malfunctioning piece of equipment even though
we all know that pieces of equipment don’t respond to bribes, abuse or
the urgency of the situation. Buildings, equipment and information can
not be self less, they can not show empathy, they can not feel valued,
they don’t care but people do.
I don’t know whether the out come of the coronavirus crisis will
result in nurses and carers being better paid or more value being
placed on jobs previously considered semi skilled but it should make
all managers rethink the mantra employees are just another resource.