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People and organisations flourish with good employment practices

Cleaners who have just ninety seconds to clean each toilet. Bus drivers who have too few comfort breaks. Food deliverers who are apped by an algorithm if they cycle too slowly: 'Can't you find it?' How do people keep going in today's demanding, dynamic work environment? This is the core question in Aukje Nauta's inaugural lecture on 7 December.

In fact, Aukje Nauta, the new professor by special appointment in â€˜Enhancing individuals in a dynamic work context’, is not keen on the concept of HRM. Her main point of contention is that in HRM circles people are referred to as a 'resource', or are regarded simply as a means of production, and this reflects the way employees are treated by some employers. 

One-third have flexible work

The flexibilisation of labour is having an impact. More than a third of the working population are self-employed, temporary employees or have temporary work, says Nauta in her speech. And a new sector has emerged in which employers or clients define the tasks extremely narrowly: they provide mini-tasks such as delivering meals, and that's it. Furthermore, they have hardly any relationship with the people who do the work. Indeed, according to Nauta, 'The tasks that workers are given often do not even come from a human being, but from an algorithm. Maybe nice as a side job, but not as a job with which you have to earn a living. Nauta is referring here in particular to platform services such as Deliveroo and taxi service Uber.


In 'real' companies, the employers' view of the tasks varies from purely functional to all kinds of - work-related - investments in employees. Nauta unashamedly refers to this as a form of 'love'.  It should always be about the sustainable employability of workers: people have to maintain their ability to work so that they can always find new work if they have to or if they want that themselves,' says the new professor. In a sector where people can become exhausted at an early stage, employers should make sure that workers can work somewhere else if things become difficult. And Nauta believes that this mutual responsibility to actively work on sustainable employability also extends to self-employed and temporary workers.

A further point put forward by Nauta is the salary levels across all kinds of sectors. Salaries are sometimes so low people are unable to provide for themselves. Another issue is that some employees have too few working hours. 'There are even more poor people in work than out of work,' she comments, quoting from recent research by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP).

Pressure on costs

According to Nauta, good working practices are a choice. Employers who pay little heed to this generally defend themselves with the argument that they have to keep their costs low. Good employers look for alternative sources of finance - and they are there to be found - and they keep the pressure on costs at the same time. Using good working practices, one employer managed to reduce sickness from 3.2 to 0.8 per cent. Nauta thinks that for smaller employers - up to 200 people - it is easier to achieve a personal approach to staff. But a large company like DSM, for example, also does all it can to promote good working practices. This does not mean, by the way, that nobody can ever be dismissed, but even on that issue there are different options, ranging from throwing someone summarily out onto the streets to guiding them towards a new job. 

Nauta believes implicitly - and bases her belief on research data - that companies where work is given and performed with love, the people and the organisation flourish. 

Text: Corine Hendriks
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