Why should organisations foster stewardship in employees?
Every organisation has huge potential to gain from the societal intelligence of its employees, however this requires an organisational culture that fosters such reflections. Research by Professor Amy Wrzesniewski reveals employees choose to view their work in any of three ways; they might view it as a ‘job’ with the paycheck as the reward, as a ‘career’ to advance themselves, or as a ‘calling’ because it is fulfilling, contributes to the greater good and adds meaning to their lives. Promoting stewardship encourages employees to explore the meaning of their actions, stimulating their perspective of work as a calling and enhancing their work ethic.
For companies founded from a societal purpose, such encouragement comes naturally. However for the majority ‘business as usual’ means a culture oriented towards profit and growth without sincere attention to the wider consequences. In these organisations, employees who go against the grain become labelled as ‘radicals’ or ‘organisational deviants’. Though a more challenging path to take, it remains a very impactful one.
Stewardship requires a strong commitment to positively contribute to society along with the understanding that even the biggest organisations cannot do this alone.
Companies like Unilever showed this humility by publishing a list of key challenges the company sought help with in realising their Sustainable Living Plan. Instead of relying solely on their R&D department, Unilever recognised the need to look externally for solutions and knew that if they could find them in a timely fashion and get partnerships in place, they’d stand a far better chance of delivering results.