Can human resources be managed through a complexity viewpoint?

Maslow's Pyramid. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons
Maslow’s Pyramid. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

Motivation is considered by human resources experts as the result of the interaction of the individual and the situation. Motivation, in the business environment, can be defined as the desire to make a great effort to reach the aims of the organization, conditioned to the possibility of satisfying some kind of individual need. With this definition there are three important factors to consider. They are effort, organizational aims, and individual needs.

Looking at the first sentence we can see how motivation as fragility is a function of an internal property and the effect of the environment.

In classic psychology, we can find Maslow’s theory of hierarchical needs. For Maslow, people have different kind of needs, physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-realization. The first ones have the higher priority, and the last one has the lower priority. People would get motivated from the possibility to cover these needs.

People with unsatisfied needs at the base of the pyramid are easily motivated with the money required to get food, and the required things to survive, however highly estimated people would not be easily motivated. They are only motivated by the task that let them get self-realization or in other words to become all that they can become. Although this theory is old, it can be useful to analyze in an easy way some aspects of this discussion.

Motivation is only possible if the organization can provide a solution to some of these needs to people, and of course, in a structured way. An organization that provides a way to self-realization of an employee but it does not cover safety requirements, like a salary to have a house, could not expect that the employee is motivated.

In complexity terms, the way as the organization manages the human resources can contribute to get motivated people. If the organization contributes to satisfy the personal needs of the employees in the proper order, motivation is increases and the complexity of management would be lower. If the organization follows a different order the complexity of management would be increased.

Going a step farther, an organization is a set of people with different satisfied needs, and different people would have different level of requirements to get motivated. A young man with an internship probably is interested in being independent. He will need a salary to rent an apartment to cover both physiological and safety requirements. However, an employee that has got public acknowledgement of his work (maximum esteem) in only interested in high part of the pyramid related to self-realization.

A human resources department that standardizes the procedures of management of people, considering that all people is equal and it does not analyze well this kind of things can be increasing the complexity of the company. In a situation of economic growth with a flexible labor market the company could become very fragile. On the other hand, this way of management can contribute to standardize the people at the company, because finally all the people at the company would have similar level of motivation because only that kind of people stay.

This kind of management can be good for companies where knowledge and information is not a competitive advantage; however, where knowledge and information is a competitive advantage it could be a total disaster because it would be a fast way to move all the knowledge out of the company.

Through a complexity analysis we can evaluate if our actions and policies of human resources are contributing to increase or to decrease complexity because salaries, number of employees and the rotation level of the staff, for instance, can be variables easily measurable and introduced in a complexity analysis of the business. The result would say to us if these ones are the more contributing or the less contributing to the complexity of the business.

Complexity analysis opens a good door to human resources management because you cannot manage what you cannot measure, and the effect on complexity of human resorces management can be measured.


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