Archive for December, 2012

Building a new psychological contract between employees and their employers

December 7, 2012

Building a new psychological contract needs a nuanced understanding of perceptions and motivations of employees.

A CIPD paper on leading cultural change in the public sector talks about the need for a new psychological contract between employees and their employers. There is significant need on the part of employers to take time to understand the values and perception of their employees. It is easy to make significant assumptions on a public sector ethos underwriting employee’s beliefs as they relate to their employers. That kind of thinking supports internal messaging around ‘sustainable services for our communities’ and ‘customer focused organisations’. These messages are important markers for changing times but there is a danger that such messaging isolates a significant proportion of the workforce.

At The Campaign Company we spend time looking at the gap in values between local authorities and their communities. What we often find is opposite value sets between decision makers and significant sections of the community. Those opposite values lead to conflicting perceptions of the same issue. This has been clear in our work on value for money, volunteering and community cohesion. In these examples messages developed by local authorities were initially incongruent with the values and perceptions of key audiences. Developing organisation that can recognise the values gaps through insight has transformed their capacity and ability to respond effectively. Values drive motivation, if you understand values you can develop messages that appeal to people’s motives.

Understanding this in the context of organisational culture change is equally important if we are to set a new psychological contract. Developing insight into perceptions and values will provide organisations the evidence to take intelligent decisions. This is strengthened by developing the skills needed by managers to effect a cultural change. Plans and metrics will only go so far, the ability of managers to implement them effectively will depend on the human relations to drive the change. That needs a set of skills that are loosely called emotional intelligence and range from empathy to assertiveness. Leading effective change will depend ultimately on the ability of managers to deal with the collateral of values clashing. Developing these skills will provide the tools to create an environment over the next several years where the psychological contract can be effectively reset.

Graeme Wilson is the Chief Executive Director at the The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

The Campaign Company works with councils to understand their communities and motivate people to change. They use this values approach to develop an understanding of how a target audience sees the world, as well as a variety of other innovative approaches, including social network analysis.