We’ve been working for the last 24 years on creating a work system that could address most, if not all, of the issues raised in this article Five Ways to Strengthen the Employee-Employer Relationship in 2023 and it has been all about putting people back at the centre of their engagement with their work. It has been a journey not without its challenges and many failures, but as we all know those situations create wonderful learning opportunities. And we find ourselves at the beginning of 2023 as if this is a new start.
The centre of our work system is called Value Exchange. When we first started our experiment (ethosvo.org) it was simply about capturing an individual’s story, their personal mission and feeling happy about the work they wanted to engage with when working with Ethos. We also focussed early on on people’s Wellbeing (permission to make space for proper recovery whatever that entailed) and real flexibility (permission to make space to live one life). As Value Exchange developed further social value became a key focus for the individuals involved, particularly involving what change people wanted to see in the world and how they were going to participate in that change through detailed outcomes and deliverables. Over time, these gained clearer definition and commitment to action. This way of working added to an existing culture which enabled the right environment for this approach to succeed. The current incarnation of how best we express this can be seen in our Behaviour Manifesto where we have captured the things that matter to us most in our work environment. This is how we want to work. This was all very much still inside the bounds of Ethos UNTIL 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having always positioned ourselves as a “Future of Work” organisation and now being 21 years older than when we started, it was time to test our work system for young people, something we’d wanted to do for quite a while, but the subsequent plight of covid for 16-24 year olds who found themselves without opportunities to start their working life saw the start of our Young Leaders initiative. Fast forward 2.5 years and we found ourselves not only having delivered some amazing impact for young people, captured in their stories, each and everyone engaged in our work system but also saw us test Value Exchange outside of Ethos as we worked with a number of organisations who joined our initiative to support young people. It has also seen us adopt and add the practice of Value Recognition which is how we regularly capture the great positive stories which help individuals understand and feel a nice warm glow about what it is they have managed to accomplish and how stories from their working peers make this glow even warmer. This is a very special and motivating event. This has been a transformative experience in many ways.
So here we are in Jan 2023 and we find ourselves ready to enter the next phase of development for this much better way of working – Value Exchange. As already said, in many ways, it feels like a new start. With 24 years of practising, and in particular our last 3 years of applying a young person’s lens to our work system, has bolstered our belief that Value Exchange is an opportunity to really do things differently. Value Exchange offers, amongst others, opportunities to:
- Improve an individual’s agency over their work. What we mean by this is a mindset that all work (volunteering, employment, charitable) should be seen as interactions amongst equals not master-slave but peer-to-peer.
- Help individuals find meaning and purpose through their work
- Help individuals to communicate more effectively
- Help individuals communicate more openly and help remove the need for conflict
- Improve employee engagement
- Improve employee satisfaction
- Better collaboration, particularly across silos/agencies (through understanding of and moderation of one’s self-interest)
- Help remote teams to learn more about each other’s interests
None of these things are easy and many are complex, but I/we really want to help people and their organisations be better places for people to centre work that matters to them.
Always happy to share more info, explore and/or experiment further.