<p>Business culture is often built upon the idea that humans are resources meant for the fulfillment of corporate purposes. That is, workers should be happy just to have jobs — and if not, they will be persuaded by HR programs that attract, reward, satisfy, develop, promote, empower, involve, recognize, retain, engage, balance or strengthen them. Yes, that's the theory. But history proves otherwise. <br /><br />First, employers lack the power to control how people think or feel — and therefore how they perform or manage their careers. Second, workers will not be content in a situation where they are expected to fulfill only others’ purposes. Only when workers decide they are content to work somewhere and stay there can employers hire them, make them satisfied and engaged, and even try to retain them. That's reality.<br /><br />Workers’ control over their feelings toward managing their career is referred to as career contentment. This emotion enables them to function independently of their company’s actions: They will stay in a job and remain productive despite less-than-satisfying conditions, or they may leave a job despite strong efforts to retain them. Career contentment has been overlooked as the source of workers’ motivation, natural engagement and resilience to have and enjoy their work despite extenuating circumstances.<br /><br />Corporations were first created in Sweden during the 1600s to fulfill human purposes, and we forget how the U.S. was founded on that same principle. For 100 years following the American Revolution, corporations were banned to protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Those early Americans would not be content with anything less. Would you?<br /><br />That was the mindset until the Civil War, when the only corporations permitted to exist were those chartered by state legislatures to fulfill human purposes, including building roads, canals and bridges. When those jobs were done, the corporations were dissolved. But with that war came a flurry of government procurement contracts and lobbying efforts to ease the control over corporations so they could pursue those contracts.<br /><br />In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad that corporations have the same rights as individuals under the 14th Amendment. It didn't matter that corporations were more powerful than any one individual or that the assets of a corporation could be protected from the misdeeds of its leaders. That decision opened the door for railroad tycoons and robber barons to exploit the inalienable rights of workers to pursue their own purposes. <br /><br />Six decades after that ruling, Justice William O. Douglas wrote that it was the biggest legal blunder of the century, compromising the intent of our founding fathers to protect citizens from abuse by corporations. It's been more than 200 years since the American Revolution, and employers still don't get it. They're still trying to control workers by making them satisfied and engaged, even as they simultaneously make them dissatisfied and disengaged by layoffs, eliminating jobs and reducing wages and benefits. There is an alternative.<br /><br />CLOs: It’s time to lead the next revolution. Don't expect that 79 million millennials will be content with the same treatment their parents and grandparents received. Starting now, improve productivity and retention by teaching organizations how to capitalize on workers’ control over their career contentment. <br /><br />Here are four steps for building a truly worker-centric operation.<br /><br /><strong>1. Stop wasting resources by trying to fix the same problems every year.</strong> The issue is not that workers are dissatisfied, but that workers are never satisfied. We forgot to teach them how to be content with their career without complaining about conditions that can't always be made satisfying. <br /><br /><strong>2. Implement training that changes the job satisfaction paradigm.</strong> Shift from causing workers to expect that employers are responsible for making them happy, which is impossible, to teaching them how to recognize their career contentment and leverage it to draw strength from the virtues of working — not for just the transient rewards, but for the sake of the work itself. <br /><br /><strong>3. Teach leaders how to make work meaningful.</strong> As opposed to making workers temporarily satisfied and artificially engaged, leaders should capitalize on the motivation, natural engagement and resilience derived from employees being able to pursue and fulfill their own purposes. This requires that managers learn how to identify and merge individual purposes with the purposes of the organization.<br /><br /><strong>4. Expand existing performance management systems. </strong>Integrate new competencies that develop workers’ potential for career contentment and reduce their dependence on employers to make them satisfied or engaged.</p>
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