It is one of the oldest and most common complaints – management schools are great at giving good advice to others but themselves rarely practise the management skills they preach. But it can be done. Loick Roche and Sabine Lauria explain how.
Back in 2007 Robert Sutton, professor of management science at the Stanford Engineering School in America and a researcher in the field of evidence-based management, wrote an award-winning if rather explicitly titled book (The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t) explaining how workplace bullying and other misdemeanours can destroy morale and productivity.
No one is suggesting that management school faculty and staff are as bad as that but it is often the case that our industry has a reputation for not ourselves following the organisational advice we so lavishly bestow on others.
If we are to overcome this poor image of our profession, it is vital that we address this issue – and the human resource (HR) department of a school can play a key role.
Most business/management schools and similar institutions have HR departments but their role is often confined to organising occasional training programmes and preparing the odd document for validation committees. HR needs to be much more than that and at Grenoble EM in France we have made a great effort over the past few years to bring HR into the heart of managing the school.
It is an attempt to have a much more proactive organisation in managing people’s expectations and careers and providing greater opportunities for staff mobility. This strategy, it is felt, increases well-being within the organisation, reduces staff turnover and improves overall efficiency. In fact, the school has a very low absentee rate and staff stay for an average of seven years, which is quite high for the sector.
Senior management has tried to set the tone for this. For several years, the motto of the school has been that it is our role to make Grenoble EM “an exceptional place to exercise our profession”. In a healthy working environment, people will naturally want to take on projects and will not need to be controlled. Some estimates even suggest that motivated staff will work three times as hard as demotivated ones.
This is not unique to higher education. Vineet Nayar, vice-chairman and joint managing director of leading India-based IT company HCL, is convinced of this. With a global workforce of 55,000 the company’s motto is “employee first, customer second”.
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