Human dimensions of organizations

I recently decided to make a financial and time investment in my education in a topic that I’m very interested in, one my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, so brilliantly calls Human Dimensions of Organizations.  For the last five years, I’ve seen some negative changes in business culture that worry me.  Knowledge workers are treated more and more like factory workers, layoffs have become an ordinary occurrence, and employee engagement is at an all-time low.

On October 8th, Gallup published its State of the Global Workplace report, with the mind-blowing statistic that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work – only 1 in 8 workers.  Actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees nearly 2:1.  The vast majority of employees worldwide reported an overall negative experience at work.

Gallup states emphatically:  “Business leaders worldwide must raise the bar on employee engagement.  Increasing workplace engagement is vital to achieving sustainable growth for companies, communities, and countries – and for putting the global economy back on track to a more prosperous and peaceful future.”

The same week Gallup published its report, I was attending Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Florida, and two of their ten opening keynote predictions unsettled me:

  1. There will be such a reduction in labor by 2020 that social unrest and a quest for new economic models will have to emerge.  They cited bartering as a potential “new” model.
  2. Machines will make executive decisions.  Gartner predicts that mandatory use of non-override-able “smart systems” – such as automotive assist – will approach 10% by 2024.  They not-so-jokingly said Skynet (Terminator movie) is coming.

Just a few days later, I received an email from UT Austin that said “Be an outlier. Applications now open for UT’s innovative new Human Dimensions of Organizations program.”  Any communication prompting me to stand out rather than blend in always gets my attention.  This was one of those synchronicity moments for me as I’d been wanting to dive deeper into these topics to be able to speak on them with expertise, not just opinion.

UT Austin’s Human Dimensions of Organizations program is a new type of executive education program that brings together some of its finest researchers in the Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences to educate the rising generation of leaders in the business and non-profit communities. What is so fascinating about this program is that it is developed and offered by the College of Liberal Arts, with collaboration on a few topics with the business school.  There are two paths one can take:  a full Master’s Degree or a Certificate Program.  I’ve chosen to pursue the HDO certificate program, which is designed to help leaders become internal consultants who understand specific human, cultural, and communications aspects of business.  In a nutshell, it’s about being well-versed in methods for understanding the people around you in an organization so you can identify and solve problems, drive innovation, and boost productivity.

A total of four seminars must be completed to earn a certificate in each category.  There are currently three categories:

  • Thinking Smarter
  • Language and Leadership
  • Organizational Improvement

I’ll attend my first seminar in the Thinking Smarter certificate next week, and the remaining seminars take place in January and February.  My hope and prediction is that an exploration of the human condition at the level of individuals, organizations, and cultures will enable me and my classmates to further develop thought processes and unleash our creativity in ways that drive leadership in this era of rapid change.

If you’re interested in learning more, just hover over the links provided.  There’s an information session tonight on the UT campus at 5:30 PM; please reply if you’d like to attend and I’ll post the information.  I look forward to sharing my experience in the certificate program with you and how I’m applying the learnings in the workplace. I’d also love to hear about any continuing education opportunities you may be pursuing!

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