Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage


By Edna Pasher on May 28, 2022

My source of inspiration is Victor Frankel's book " Man's search for meaning" . I believe it is a must read for HR professionals and all leaders. In the age of "informing ourselves to death" (credit belongs to my teacher Prof. Neil Postman) people drown in data and information and badly need help to make sense of it all - and  we need to help them explore it in organizations. Meaning emerges out of meaningful conversations made possible in organizations that allow for them, enhance them, create time and space for them, etc.

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marc-west's picture

Meaning is critical area for development for any organization, it requires transparency of core values and learning development practices to enable all stewards to create meaning in their role, careers and purpose for the organization.
We must remember that we are all in the life process of creating meaning, a perpetually process through our behaviors, actions and language.
Meaning enables us to create alignment that fits to our life goals and to the organizations purpose. It provides a vehicle for engagement and high performance within the organization and to our external stakeholders and customers.

One more source of inspiration for this principle is Danah Zohar`s work on Spiritual Intelligence. Look here

Danah Zohar believes the search for meaning is the primary motivation in our lives. When it goes unmet our lives feel shallow or empty. For many today this need is not met; and so the fundamental crisis of our times is a spiritual one.

Sandra - Thanks. I have noticed "the search for meaning" on the rise in recent years both with students at the university and with people at work. This is why we have adopted the commitment to "the triple bottom line" both with our people and with the people in client organizations. Serving all stakeholders (and not forgetting any of them !!!) and not just stockholders is critical. People in organizations look to contribute to the community, to have an impact on the efforts to save the planet for next generations, this makes their work MEANINGFUL..

sandra-costeja-bos's picture

I am so happy to read that post and it resonates so much with me. To build on what has already been said very well here, I believe that meaning goes beyond just the workplace, that new generations do not want to think in terms of 'work' and 'life' and with social media the boundaries are blurred any way. So I think organisations need to be clear about their values and live by them because of they pay lip service to those famous 'Brand behaviours', their employees will not recognise themselves in them any more and will leave. It would be a shame to loose talent to the competition, wouldn't it? If they don't leave or cannot leave (for financial reasons for example), they will have a very hard time making sense of their work and performing at their best. Employers often expect their people to 'just go and do it' but they forget their role in creating the right conditions.

Keith - thanks for the encouraging feedback and for the question. IMHO people in organizations need both. They look for better understanding through conversations - the world is too complex to make sense of it alone and the community of people, which healthy organizations enable, allows this understanding to emerge. Computers cannot do it. AND people in organizations look for a purpose too, and they no longer settle for profit as the single bottom line to aim for. Adaptive organizations are committed to a triple bottom line - profit, people, planet. So the quest for meaning has to do both with understanding and with purpose.

I am very happy soooo many of you like it so here is the link to Neil Postman's speech on the quest for meaning in the computer age
It is worth reading. Victor Frankel's books are available on Amazon. Highly recommended too, especially for HR professionals.

keith-gulliver's picture

>> In the age of "informing ourselves to death"...people drown in data and information and badly need help to make sense of it all - and we need to help them explore it in organizations.
Hi Edna - great observation and quote! My life!

When I first read this post I thought it was about 'meaningful work' but having re-read it I think you are referring to understanding what is going on around us and deriving some sort of meaning from that. Is that correct?

In terms of the adaptive organization is the principle you're referring to here something like: Establish Meaning - we sense, understand and respond to complexity?


Frankl's book – if memory serves – talks about aggression, addiction and depression as symptoms to a lack of meaning. When meeting an organisation, these are good heuristics for working out if indeed it does have meaning; an angry system of management often indicates a lack of meaning or the search for it.

I like this one, put me in mind of the power of storytelling within organisations. Great leaders can chart the direction(s) an Adaptive organisation is taking through stories that engage employees in the journey. Finding meaning at work is also important for our sense of identity & well-being. If we each find meaning in our work, we are more likely to be engaged through periods of organisational adjustment and change. Stories, maps & legends can help provide this meaning and reinforce a strong, positive workplace culture.

We all need to belong; conceiving of our workplaces as communities can help here.