#WhatILearned from ISO 27500

The Human-Centred Organization — Rationale and General Principles

Since the proprietary content of ISO 27500 can solely be shared with those who commit to the purchase of a licence, the purpose of this article is to state a few examples of each of the seven principles for how a human-centred organization can be established, along with a few benefits and risks of not doing so. Sprinkled in with the content of ISO 27500 are references to additional literature which Nathan Kolar (Reach Worldwide Consulting Inc.) has integrated.

Conscious businesses expand the conversation from serving solely shareholders, to additional stakeholders as well, such as employees, the environment, the community, investors, and suppliers. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Culture of Health model reflects similar pillars: employee health, environmental health, community health, and consumer health.

What does this represent? The answer, a full spectrum economy where businesses can excel, people can thrive, and nature can flourish.

In terms of nomenclature, conscious businesses and the Culture of Health model reflect the term of business being human-centred. When designing or creating organizations which are human-centred, doing so facilitates optimal well-being and quality of life for employees, minimizes risks, and therefore, can lead to optimal organizational performance. As such, enabling humans to flourish while delivering superior financial results. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Re-humanizing workplaces includes the focus of employee mental health, but more, incorporating HOW work is done. Before a workplace mental health strategy can be embedded into an organization, the organizations policies, procedures, and practices all have to be dissected. These are actually the inputs to lead to the outcome of employee mental health. Doing so adds organizational accountability to the employee mental health focus, so that the focus is not solely employee accountability. The HOW of organizational accountability includes targeting the operating system of an organization, such as the HOW of meetings, authority, purpose, innovation, information, workflows, and resources. More on this in Principle 3 below. As an example of elaborating on meetings, not all meetings are created equal. Explained by Brave New Work, meetings can be generative (let’s make a thing), decision-making (consensus and consent), analysis and strategy (looking at what happened, reflecting, prioritizing), and tactical (we need stuff from each-other). Getting this granular is what is required to then design and embed psychologically safe practices to abide by in an appropriate context for employee mental health, and overall, how to bring out the best in human performance.

That said, the cost or risk of doing nothing? Risks range from compromised social responsibility, poor product design, and a lack of consideration for physical and mental capabilities — affecting safety and well-being — resulting in financial shortcomings. In terms of the potential legal risks, highlighted by Dr. Martin Shain in Tracking The Perfect Legal Storm are 7 major trends: human rights, Law of Torts, workers compensation, occupational health and safety (OHS), the employment contract, employment standards legislation, and Labour Law.

It is the risk of doing nothing that can then particularly lead to subpar relationships with customers who lack trust in organizations who cannot provide their ethical, social, and environmental good (missing or losing customer confidence and loyalty). Trust is paramount for business performance as illustrated by the Edelman Trust Barometer 2019 Report which found high trust companies outperforming their respective sector by an average of 5% between January 2018 and December 2018, according to the measured variable of stock price index.

Businesses are becoming increasingly scrutinized for their social and environmental good. Referenced from Conscious Capitalism, “as we humans progress on our journey toward greater consciousness and higher states of being, organizations will have to adapt and elevate their purposes to remain in harmony with our evolving aspirations and motivations.” Therefore, characteristics of a thriving business in the future of work will include greater attention to their ability to fulfill the triple bottom-line as visualized below by The Vitality Group.

Principles of a human-centred organization:

1) Worker differences as an organizational strength

Rather than the perspective of everyone as a ‘standard person’, human-centred organizations leverage worker capabilities, personalities, and needs, as strengths in the business. It is the products, services, and systems (policies and procedures) of human-centred organizations that account for these differences. Building Stronger Teams is a resource created by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health which includes an Acknowledging Strengths activity.

i) Practical examples include acknowledging differences though an organization’s marketing channels and how practices like annual reports are shared. In addition, job and task design considers worker differences. An example can be Individualized Learning Agendas and Personalized Leadership Development Plans. Mind even advocates for Wellness Action Plans (WAP) that include acknowledging early warning signs of decreasing employee satisfaction/engagement and mental health, and how managerial support can best be done.

2) Usability and accessibility as objectives

To have and keep usability and accessibility as truthful objectives, human-centred organizations seek International Standards (best practices) to vet their products, services, and systems for both internal and customer-facing. Anther vital standard for human-centred organizations is The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003–13/BNQ9700–803/2013).

i) Practical examples include the presence of a senior leadership champion and organizations monitoring themselves to ensure that these objectives remain relevant, such as though the common Managed Systems approach of Plan-Do-Check-Act and inviting worker feedback/participation as illustrated by the initial level (Level 1 — Screening) of the SOBANE approach to risk assessment.

3) A total system approach

Human-centred organizations realize that when the word ‘workers’ are brought up, a comprehensive list of interdependent elements must as well, including equipment, workspace, physical, social, and organizational environment. During change management, a socio technical approach is used during design. McKinsey & Company, who brings client organizations through their Organizational Health Index of 9 organizational outcomes and 37 associated management process, find that by organizations focusing on both performance and health during change, considered as a total system approach, change their odds of success for their change efforts from 30% to 79% (1.8 times more likely to succeed), as shared in Beyond Performance 2.0.

Practical examples include providing workers with choice and control of work leading to outcomes, utilizing lean principles and therefore going about design as iterations rather than classical design on a giant step, and eliminating silos by encouraging interpersonal and interdepartmental communication. Doing such hints at the way or how we work being just as important and the what of our work. Shared in the Brave New Work podcast, employees must know: 1) What are we building, 2) Why are we building it, and 3) What tools will be use. This related to the Operating System Canvas referenced in Brave New Work.

4) Health, safety, and well-being as business priorities

Human-centred organizations most certainly invest on the health, safety, and well-being of their workers, i.e. consciously considering employees as stakeholders. Most effectively, organizations blend their safety and health promotion efforts according to best practices and research of Total Worker Health (TWH), a NIOSH initiative, defined as a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being. The five domains of TWH are: a) physical environment and safety climate, b) organizational policies and culture, c) individual health status, d) work evaluation and experience, and e) home, community and society. As shown in the socio-ecological model, worker well-being is community and society well-being.

i) Practical examples include reward and recognition systems that do not actually value unsafe behaviour, providing training to workers with an emphasis on AMSO (awareness, motivation, skills, and opportunities). Highlighted in Beyond Performance 2.0, the goal is to clearly indicate whether employees are in an opera or in a sports stadium, not to leave them in the middle. In addition, encouragement to think about how policies, procedures, and practices interact with worker health, safety, and well-being is effective.

5) Value personnel and create meaningful work

Workers of human-centred organizations are provided with meaningful work and opportunities to exercise their skills. Further, human-centred organizations also create meaningful tasks for customers who engage with the organization. This principle is related to the psychosocial work environment which has the viewpoint of not only about work itself being important, but how a worker feels about the work to also be important.

i) Practical examples include avoiding an us and them culture, relating to Level Five of Tribal Leadership — ensuring workers understand the whole organization and not just their immediate task, and adequate recognition schemes. For developing a purpose or meaning in work, the acronym HEALING can be followed, as Conscious Capitalism teaches:
(heroic, evolving, aligning, loving, inspiring, natural, galvanizing)

- Is the work heroic enough? Are employees able to really challenging ourselves to have the greatest impact possible?
- Is the work evolutionary? Does it align with the organizations journey as human beings, and how can the organization ensure that it remains relevant and compelling to all stakeholders?
- Does the work strongly align with the satisfaction of stakeholders?
- Is the work rooted in genuine love and care for all the people whose lives the organization touches?
- Is the work inspiring enough? Will it get people out of bed on Monday morning eager to face a new day of making a meaningful difference in the world?
- Is the work in harmony with nature, the nature as a business and the world or surrounding community?
- Is the work galvanizing? Does it have the ‘fierce urgency of now’ to move employees to action?

6) Openness and trustworthiness

Communication is vital, and applies to the utmost for human-centred organizations. Transparency is an action, not solely an idea, and being timely is satisfied. At the same time, communication for human-centred organizations is bi-directional, allowing for customer and employee feedback.

In terms of leadership, a factor connected to openness and trustworthiness in the workplace stated in Your Strategy Needs a Strategy by Boston Consulting Group team members, adaptive leaders lead through setting context rather than goals and trying to control workers. In reality, the question ‘what type of leader are you?’ is the wrong question. Rather, effective leaders lead according to the situation and readiness of the workers. Effective leaders are willing to go through multiple phases and simultaneously a range of styles.

i) A practical example includes human-centred organizations revealing the reasons how an organization is thinking behind certain decisions. Research into this was done by Google during Project Aristotle which indeed found psychological health and safety (to which openness and trustworthiness are inputs for) as a common factor amongst high performing teams In addition, trust within organizations and therefore the positive presence of oxytocin can be satisfied through the acronym TACTILE as told in Conscious Capitalism.

Trust — what does it mean to trust one another individually and the team collectively?
Authenticity — is the respect for diversity of opinions and lifestyles present in the organization?
Caring — what does it mean to care about people in the organization?
Transparency — can employees explain to an outsider how they help the company make money?
Integrity — word is bond
Learning — what is being doe to help frontline employees learn and get better at what they do?
Empowerment — what are the implications on the organizations systems and processes for empowering more frontline employees?

7) Being socially responsible

Being socially responsible is a principle of human-centred organizations, following ISO 26000 and the seven socially responsible factors along the lines of ethical behaviour, accountability to society and the environment, and human rights. B Corps are certainly ahead of the curve in already proving their involvement of organizational practices being vetted as socially responsible. The Ontario Workplace Health Coalition (OWHC) includes Organizational Social Responsibility in their Healthy Workplace Model, shown below. In their healthy habits aspect of the Virgin Pulse platform, “Acting Sustainably” is a topic with a plethora of habits including avoiding printing, charity races, mentoring others, choosing showers, natural light, doing good by volunteering, and skipping plastic.

i) Practical examples include human-centred organization’s taking into account cultural differences, providing workers time to engage in socially responsible activities (volunteering), and offering payroll giving or donation matching. The Fitwel building standard and certification can provide guidance for organizations because of the points in impacting community heath through helping employees and the organization reduce their ecological footprint and maximize their ecological handprint. This is because of how Fitwel takes into account employee transportation to work, indoor air quality, tobacco-free spaces, bathroom cleaning schedules, a water-bottle refilling station, and a fruit and vegetable garden.

Human-centred organizations include an employee mental health focus but are much more, by including the operating system of an organization, balancing organizational and employee accountability, and HOW work is done. This comes down to blending the organization with the non-negotiable intention of the well-being of employees. What can therefore arise, and termed by Conscious Capitalism, is the release of the most powerful form of renewable energy ever discovered on this planet: passionate, empowered, fully engaged, caring, and purposeful human beings.


Nathan Kolar, www.reachworldwide.ca




Nathan helps companies become more productive while simultaneously being humane. #employeehealth #organizationalhealth LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/nathankolar.

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Nathan Kolar

Nathan Kolar

Nathan helps companies become more productive while simultaneously being humane. #employeehealth #organizationalhealth LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/nathankolar.

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