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    ‘What employees want is to engage in meaningful work’

    SUrveys on the prospect of longer careers in the French pension reform project have highlighted the loss of attractiveness of work for many employees. Various factors explain this dissatisfaction: Low pay, loss of meaning, drudgery, excessive pace, fragmentation of jobs, social injustice and lack of recognition.

    What employees want is to engage in meaningful work, to have the means and time to do it as well as be recognized as competent professionals.

    It is rare for employees to find any indication of social utility in their job description. They mainly find lists of skills. How can you become a “pro” if there is no mention of how to handle work situations?

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    In many companies or organizations, we are witnessing an increase in the number of procedures that are to be applied. While some of these procedures are obviously necessary and have enabled progress (gains in quality and safety, reduction of uncertainty, time savings, etc.), their excessive multiplication and cumbersome nature send a message of mistrust to employees. “What I do is no longer a job,” say many overloaded and discouraged employees.

    Being able to act as a competent professional means having the necessary leeway to adapt or invent ways of deciding and acting according to the specificity of the situations and contexts encountered.

    Procedures cannot replace the ability to understand and interpret a situation. Would it be enough for a nurse to “stick” to the details of a procedure for her to be recognized as competent? When faced with the unexpected and the unprecedented, it is important to take the right initiatives. Shouldn’t management and work organization create the necessary conditions for employees to use their skills?

    Personal ways of taking action

    As a result, employees want appraisal methods that are not limited to measuring deviations from standards. They should value and recognize the relevance of their initiatives and their personal ways of taking action.

    When they review the content of their work positions, employees find a description based solely on the logic of the division of labor, which does not take into account the cooperative relationships that are necessary to carry out their professional activities. The result is growing isolation in the face of the complexity of the situations to be dealt with, the hazards to be managed and the innovation it demands.

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    An employee is less and less competent on his own. He or she must be able to call on the skills of other professionals. If there can be no collective competence without individual competence, there can be no individual competence without collective competence.

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