Article (July-2021)


COVID & Aftermath - Can HR develop spirituality in Organisation culture?

Deepanjan Dey

Designation : -   General Manager-HRM

Organization : -  Tata Steel BSL Ltd., Angul, Odisha


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The pandemic has inflicted scar in the lives of the individual sowing to myriad reasons. Apprehension is palpable as job loss, pay cut, unemployment, uncertainty; lackadaisical economy etc has become the order of the day. In an ambiance of pessimism, depression, exasperation all round it is incumbent on HR as the custodian of people to play a major role to instil confidence and keep the morale of its employees high. Innovations and out of box thinking should now become the way of life for an enterprise to survive the onslaught the pandemic has inflicted. Extraordinary situation demands extraordinary solutions. Keeping focus on age old HR practice of employee engagement or experience might not help in present moment of uncertainty to instil confidence and to keep the people engaged. It is where the HR must think out of box to provide a meaningful life to its employees so that they stay focused, and confident. The need of hour is HR should come out of its established cocoon and engage in exploring happiness in the lives of its employees through meaningful interventions. In this connection it may be apposite to refer to the PREMA model for happiness expounded by an American psychologist Martin Seligman who is a leading authority in positive psychology. In the PREMA model P stands for positive emotion which will make people feel good, E for Engagement which will provide a flow, R for relationship which expounds on stable and authentic relationships M for meaning in life for a purposeful living and A for Accomplishment resulting in a satisfaction. Prof Seligman who made extensive research on this subject opined that though all the structure of the model is important for happiness but except M happiness in other structure of this model does not last long. He stressed that M is not transient and will provide permanent and long-lasting happiness in an individual. While describing the nuances of model M, Seligman stresses that finding an answer as to why are we on this earth or doing unselfish work for society at large are the key ingredient that can drive us towards fulfilment and lasting happiness. The need of hour is HR should now precisely focus to drive employees towards this kind of fulfilment, and lasting happiness to overcome the scar the pandemic has inflicted.

Juxtaposition of Maslow hierarchal needs with that of PREMA model will entail that Prof Seligman disagrees with the hierarchical order of Maslow model which propounds that people seek to climb the hierarchy of needs while satisfying the levels below. However, Seligman does see a great deal of overlap between the traits and virtues of the self-actualized individual of Maslow, and his classification of traits and virtues of the happy individual, thereby connecting happiness to actualization. In recent times, the doyen of HR Dr T.V. Rao has articulated spirituality as one of the hats HR should wear to lift the spirits of the employees and society at large. He further stressed upon wearing this hat more often than any other hats HR wears for accomplishment of its work. Spirituality obviously can be one edifice for the structure M, which Prof Seligman stresses for lasting happiness, as spirituality enables us to make an enquiry as to who we are, and what is our purpose in this world. To put it in the words of Gaur Gopal Das the monk and the life coach "we need to understand the hierarchy of connections. Ultimately, we must connect to something above ourselves such as God. This can give us the power to spread happiness and joy of happiness and joy around the world". (P59, Life's Amazing secrets, Gaur Hari Das) Hence, in a period of turmoil, to find a lasting happiness, the present time beckons HR to evolve a spiritual culture in the organisation, to raise the spirit of the employees so that they continue to be engaged and productive.

The unique characteristics that will differentiate a spiritual enterprise from others are its strong sense of purpose, empathy, compassion for others, ethical engagement, employee empowerment, transparency and respecting another viewpoint. In other words, developing a spiritual culture will recognize that employees have both a mind and a spirit to seek and find a meaning and purposes in their work, and desire to connect with other employees and be part of a community. If spirituality is the panacea to find a meaningful life for an employee how does organisation take it forward in their own interest. The way forward appears to be in the following quote of Swami Vivekananda :

"Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy - by one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details." (Vol 1, The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Page 253, 19th Edition)

By divinity Swami Vivekananda meant all those excellences which make us human. By realizing the divinity within, man can immerse wholeheartedly in work. The employee will bring his best to the work while being neutral to rewards or outcomes such as success or failure. It may not be out of place to mention that the Bhagavad Gita also encourages people to perform their work with concentration, skill and finesse. The way to liberation is to perform duties without attachment. In chapter 3 verse 7 it says "yas tvindriyani manasa nimamyarabhate Arjuna karmendriyaih karma yogam asaktah sa visisyate". It means he who controls the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, and without attachment engages the organs of action in the path of work, he is superior. The chapter 2 Verse 47 of Bhagavad Gita says karmany-evadhikaras te maphaleshu Kadachanama karma-phala-hetur bhur ma te sango 'stvakarmani. It means you have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. The verse connotes we have the right to do our duty, but the results are not dependent only upon our efforts. Various factors come into play in determining the results. If we become worried for results, we will experience anxiety whenever they are not according to our expectations. So, Shree Krishna advises Arjun to give up concern for the results and instead focus solely on doing a good job. The fact is that when we are unconcerned about the results, we can focus entirely on our efforts, and the result is even better than before.

The question arises how we inculcate this philosophy in our organisation. The first and the foremost there should be paradigm shift in the management thought process and treating employees not as human resource but as living embodiment of God. With this paradigm shift management will become more humane and will not perceive everything with profit and loss. To imbibe the philosophy of spirituality business needs to remember and indoctrinate the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: "Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth - either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry - I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood by millions of others". Unless such a viewpoint is adopted by the entrepreneur or the leadership, spirituality will remain a far cry and an empty jargon without making any big headway in the enterprise. There are examples galore whereby entrepreneurs have got influenced by the said quote of the Mahatma and have adopted this model in their personal life and in their enterprises as well. It is only after the leadership is convinced about the necessity of imbibing spirituality, both in thought and practice, a culture will evolve in the organisation, and will drip down to the employees.

To arise the divinity in the employees and give a meaningful life will need a well thought out strategy to succeed. Imparting the lessons from Bhagavad Gita can be one of the strategies to put meaning in the lives of the employees. Bhagavad Gita should not be linked to any religion as it only prescribes a way of life one should adhere. The importance of imparting and inducing the lessons from the Bhagavad Gita can be well illustrated from the following quote of Mahatma Gandhi:

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Deepanjan Dey - General Manager- HRM, Tata Steel BSL Ltd., Angul, Odisha