The Human View

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We Are Humans First

June 26, 20235 min read

We are humans first. Before we are male or female, before we are married or single, before we are fathers and mothers, and certainly before we are employers and employees – we are human.

Starting from there – and considering that the societal, political, and global dynamics shaping the Employer / Employee experience are more complex today than at any time in the past 50 years – the value of designing “human-centric systems” seems clearer than ever.

Human-centric vs. role-centric
We design employee benefit systems because they’re nigh-on a necessity for employers and employees alike. Similarly, we design patient services systems – a necessity for the doctor / patient relationship. But notice that neither system really takes the other into account in its design elements. Both are role-centric. So also drug distribution systems and health insurance systems. Not to say this is wrong, but just to recognize the limits innate in each of these systems.

 Still, it is a single human being who plays all of these roles (and more):

  • Employee

  • Patient

  • Consumer

  • Member

So, as we move towards the end of Q1 of this century – and particularly given the amplification capabilities that are emerging with A.I., there is a profound opportunity to re-imagine the healthcare delivery system and employee benefits industry in the context of “macro-mappings” that begin to weave these diverse roles together into more coherent, adaptable, and resilient societal systems.

Designing to our shared humanity
If we choose to recognize our shared humanity as the core essence beneath our diverse roles, we can tap into a powerful – almost alchemical – framework for transforming our workplaces into evolutionary laboratories that work to reflect that profound truth. And it’s a choice; we certainly don’t have to do so.

But if we reorient on and embrace a compassionate, systems-focused approach that acknowledges the complexity and interdependency of our relationships as employers and employees, we enter a realm where our businesses are no longer just detached entities operating in an economic vacuum.

A company is a living, breathing system – in many ways akin to the human body: organs & cells, departments and employees – who share a common goal.

In the tumult, how can we not view our organizations through the lens of systems theory? And, not “systems” as an abstract concept, but as a vital, empathetic roadmap guiding us through economic, societal, and political challenges? It's a call not merely to survive, but to thrive.

Interdependence fosters independence
The relationship between employers and employees isn't a one-way street. Every decision, every action taken by an employer, has a ripple effect. It touches the morale, productivity, and well-being of the workforce. Conversely, the employees' attitudes, performances, and overall satisfaction feed back into the lifeblood of the organization. Our collective and personal capacities for self-determination emerge from our understanding that we are inviolably interconnected.

Opportunity #1: Recognize these interrelationships, and honor them.

Feedback isn't just a bureaucratic checkbox
Soliciting a real conversation - a connection with employees – can become a lifeline within the organization. Employers have not only the opportunity – but perhaps even the duty – to nurture and guide, to provide feedback that fuels growth. And employees’ perspectives, insights, and experiences are invaluable. Each voice can help shape and refine the very heart of the enterprise.

Opportunity #2: “Get” that real dialogue is necessary (and desirable) for adapting and flourishing.

Response-ability beats react-ivity
There is depth and strength in a system experiencing harmonious equilibrium. It’s far more than just hitting KPIs and meeting deadlines. It's about fostering a healthy work environment and maintaining a balance that encourages job satisfaction, reduces turnover, and enhances productivity. It's about keeping the pulse of your organization steady and robust. 

         Opportunity #3: Orient on “people” as primary, rather than secondary, to profit.

Adaptability amidst flux
Who hasn’t heard the phrase “adapt or die?” As Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfield (Danny DeVito) said in Other People’s Money, “I bet the last buggy-whip manufacturer made the best buggy whip you ever saw! How would you like to have been an investor in that company?”

Our world is in constant flux. Markets, technologies, societal needs - they're evolving at breakneck speed. As a system, an organization must be nimble, responsive, and ready to adapt. It's not enough to merely react; one must anticipate, pivot, respond, and embrace change.

Opportunity #4: Shift away from a manic focus on quarterly earnings (or other operational equivalencies). Study what’s coming, and hone your intuition.

Finally, adopt a holistic perspective. The relationship between employers and employees doesn't exist in isolation. It is but one piece of the complex puzzle that constitutes your organization as part of the larger systems of our communities and economies. Consider your entire system – the physical work environment, the company culture, industry trends. Every element is interwoven, each contributing to the overall tapestry of the business.

The last word
Our collective path forward requires a conscious shift towards integrating these principles of systems theory. It's a compassionate approach, one that sees our organizations not as machines, but as – literally – living human systems. And it is through understanding, honoring, and nurturing these systems – ourselves, really – that we will navigate the challenges of our era and emerge stronger.

~ Mark Head
© 2023. All Rights Reserved.

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
~ Theodore Roosevelt


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Mark Head

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Mark Head


With 4 decades of combined experience in employee benefits consulting, wellness and health management, Head brings a unique combination of dynamic perspectives into a clear vision of where the future of health care is moving - and it's moving towards deeper human connection, awareness, and engagement...

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