In a recent cover story, Fortune magazine
reports a "growing quest for spiritual renewal in the
workplace" and describes "a counter culture bubbling
up all over corporate America that wants to bridge the traditional
divide between spirituality and work." The article describes
a group of middle aged business men meeting to explore how
to spend more time "working from their souls" and
quotes a Harvard Business School research fellow who follows
the topic and agrees; "spirituality in the workplace
A new urgency
The new, more introspective trend may in part be a natural
reaction to the booming, possessions-oriented 90's. Fortune
quotes one successful executive as saying, "You get to
the top of the ladder and find that maybe it's leaning against
the wrong building." Now, with the added shocks of September
11 and additional rounds of downsizing, the need to integrate
what I do at work with a larger purpose that has personal
meaning has taken on a new urgency, even among the twenties
and thirties crowd who have never known anything but good
A practical solution
How should we as HR professionals respond? Is there a practical
and acceptable way HR organizations can help people "bridge
the divide between spirituality and work"? And should
we even be trying to help people work "from their souls"?
We believe the answer to these questions is "Yes".
Why? Because the need to address this "exploding"
issue may be impossible, or impractical to ignore. And because
there are some there are some very concrete ways to cope with
these challenges. We've been developing techniques to help
people bring their souls to work for over twenty years - and
we've been implementing these programs in the toughest corporate
environments. Invariably, the firms have benefited at the
bottom line. These proven techniques have been used to help
people who have been downsized as well as for building increased
performance and job satisfaction among the rest of the workforce.
Through our work, we've been able to tap into and enable the
higher aspirations of employees in Fortune 500 companies without
setting off alarms. At GE's no-nonsense corporate headquarters
we introduced inner-needs focused career and performance development
programs that were so successful GE exported them to its businesses
Part of this practical approach has included the development
of models articulating what competencies distinguish successful
people with tools for developing them. Our research competency-based
tool kits have been applied successfully across a full range
of large Fortune 500 companies and small organizations, for
profit and non-profit.
From the beginning, we believed that it's a myth that there
has to be an irreparable split between spirituality and productivity
at work. We have always found that the myth disappeared, or
never came up, if we used a language that addressed both dimensions
- and if the tools and techniques we proposed clearly enhanced
both. It also helped that we based our action proposals not
on theory, but on practical lessons from the trenches. Our
research team has interviewed over 5000 people in large and
small organizations worldwide.
Your Soul at Work
We think people should work with their spiritual advisors
to define "soul" in their own specific terms. Instead,
we focus on a specialized definition that most people, no
matter what their unique spiritual beliefs, can apply practically
to their work lives.
For career purposes your soul is the inner you -the center
of your being. It's that part of you that knows your deepest
needs and aspirations and that's the source of your energy.
If you leave your soul at home and have no time for it later,
your job won't be very fulfilling.
We've discovered most people's souls want four things at
work. They want to:
love their jobs and find jobs they love
succeed in their work
navigate successfully through predictable life stage transitions
tie their work to a higher life purpose that has personal
meaning for them.
We've learned that, to be effective, we have to address all
four in our career and life planning process. To do this at
a practical level we've developed a "taking charge"
process that leads people through an integrated roadmap of
discovery and decision.
This includes providing tools that help them find jobs they
love; teaching them what non-technical work behaviors research
shows are critical to success in most career specialties;
helping them update their plans through successive life stage
transitions and supporting their need to put it all in the
context of a higher life purpose.
"Soul at work" need not be an oxymoron. Companies
that foster employees' personal and spiritual growth find
it makes them tremendously more productive. HR's role in such
a company is to provide an enabling environment and the practical
tools to encourage continuous growth and learning.
While each person must navigate his or her unique career
and life journeys, a time-tested, research-proven process
with tools can help them plot the course much more effectively
in directions they really want to go.
Your Soul at Work outlines our "taking
charge" process and contains a step-by-step Career and
Life Workbook with the exercises, tools, and checklists we
use in our practice.