The concept of human sustainability has been considered essential in achieving overall organizational success as it facilitates organizational changes and sustainability. However, most people have no clear understanding of the human sustainability concept or theme. This paper discusses the theme of human sustainability, and how it relates to the concept of organizational change and sustainability. It explores the various dimensions of human sustainability, the concept of human sustainability, and describes its connection to bringing and sustaining change.
Benn and Dunphy (2011, p. 95) describes human sustainability as the development of fulfillment of human needs. This description implies that human sustainability can be attained only through fulfilling major aspects of human needs, which are affected by factors within and from outside the organization (Faber et al. 2010, pp. 10-11). Therefore, for an organization to successfully initiate and sustain organizational change, it must first address the needs of the employees, as they are the driving force of any organizational change. Golan (2005, p. 27) views human sustainability as a matter of constantly ensuring the employees maintain good relations among themselves as organizational change and eventual success depends on teamwork coordination. Therefore, Golan (2005, p. 27) argues that organizations can attain human sustainability through pursuing organizational strategies that embed employee relations policies into all aspects of their planning and implementation process. Therefore, it is evident that human sustainability theme in organizations involves the constant efforts to improve how employees relate with one another and their external environment with the aim of fulfilling their essential human needs. Meeting employees’ essential needs is critical in motivating employees towards a particular course of action, such as implementing strategic plans that can lead to attaining organizational change. Furthermore, human sustainability improves the levels of employees’ job satisfaction, whereby they would be encouraged to maintain the new organizational change position to enhance organizational sustainability. Achieving organizational sustainability normally leads to the realization of overall organizational success.
Griffiths and Petrick (2001, pp. 1576-1577) have identified several conditions that characterize humanly sustainable corporations at the individual and organizational levels. At the individual level, organizations strived to achieve human sustainability through redesigning jobs to enhance an individual’s autonomy in decision-making, and to further link the individual employee’s work to the organization’s core purpose (Griffiths & Petrick 2001, p. 1576). Job redesign as a condition for achieving human sustainability is important in the implementation of organizational change because it does not only generate greater organizational commitment, but also enhances employee satisfaction, which is critical in sustaining the change. However, job redesign as one of the major early humanistic interventions to enhance human sustainability was not adequately effective in implementing sustainable organizational change. This was also true for other humanistic interventions, such as skills training, human development and culture change initiatives. Although developing individual skills is an important step in enhancing human sustainability, these skills can best generate sustainable positive outcomes for individuals and the organization if they are complemented with organizational systems and architectures that reward people for utilizing these skills (as cited in Griffiths & Petrick 2001, p. 1577). To complement these skills with organizational systems and architectures, most organizations turned their attention to establishing team-based organizational architectures that were meant to address the problems associated with the oppressive structures that characterized large bureaucratic organizations. Such oppressiveness obstructed creativity and innovations in organizations, thereby resulting in widespread employee alienation and conflicts industrial relations matters. This team-based organizational architecture initiative is mainly derived from the organization development (OD) to organizational change and development. The implementation of team-based organizations through creation of smaller autonomous teams proved to be more effective in enhancing performance, human relations, and team-learning, system thinking, thereby making OD among the most effective and preferred model for implementing and sustaining organizational change (Molnar & Mulvihill 2003, p. 172). OD approach usually strives to achieve incremental change through changing the attitudes of teams and groups within an organization (Benn, Dunphy, & Griffiths 2014, p. 82).
The environmental management systems (EMS) model is among the best models for implementing and attaining organizational change and sustainability respectively. EMS as a proactive and strategic tool provides a structure that allows management have a better control over the organization’s environmental impacts. This can be accomplished through integrating human aspects across all levels of the structure provided by EMS. An EMS includes the documentation of commitment and policy, planning, implementation, measurement and evaluation, and review and improvement (Daily & Huang 2001, p. 1539). Therefore, human sustainability in organizations can be achieved through influencing the human resource (HR) factors affecting EMS, which would eventually result in an EMS-HR model. The first human resource factor affecting an EMS in the organizational change and sustainability efforts is the top management support (Daily & Huang 2001, p. 1543). This concerns the top management’s commitments in generating human energy and activating the human mind to initiate and drive the organization change and sustainability efforts (Daily & Huang 2001, p. 1543). This includes creating an organizational culture that is supportive, thus allowing employees fulfill their essential needs. Fulfillment of human needs is crucial in achievement of human sustainability as it provides the satisfaction and motivation, which generates energy and creativity in implementing organizational change and ensuring its sustainability. The second HR factor is organizing environmental training, in which employees become more aware of the need for quality and environmental control, increased adaptability to change, change to a proactive attitude to build an environmentally conscious culture that would fulfill human needs that are derived from the environment (Daily & Huang 2001, pp. 1544-1545). The third HR factor is employee empowerment, whereby employees are granted some autonomy and decision-making power that can enable them improve their individual and organizational well-being (C DuBois & D Dubois 2012, p. 801). Finally, the HR roles in establishing and strengthening team work, and rewarding highly performing employees can help an organization improve its environmental impacts, as it would encourage employees to practice best practices that enhance human sustainability (Causon 2004, p. 303).
Gender, ethnicity, culture, and class play a significant role in bringing and sustaining change. People of different gender often perceive situations and events differently, thereby encouraging informed decision-making. Adopting a policy that prohibits gender discrimination and harassment can ensure workplaces are inclusive and safe for working (Porter 2012, pp. 302-303). Culture determines the extent to which people would accept, implement, and sustain meaningful change in the organization. Ethnic diversity can enable an organization formulate policies that can be accepted throughout its areas of operation because it provides a sense of inclusiveness to employees and other people in a multi-ethnic society (Savolainen 2013, p. 57). Class establishes social structures that determine how people relate to one another. Class can be a source of conflict, which if successfully addressed can enhance cohesion and improve teamwork capabilities in an organization. Employees can initiate change by demanding better compensation, relations, and good working environment in exchange for increased productivity and creativity. Employees are the people who implement the actual change process through accomplishing tasks or relating to one another in a better way. Employee consultation and engagement often influences outcomes in the change process through providing them a sense of ownership in ensuring its success. Change can affect how employees work, relate to one another, or even evaluate their importance and value to the organization. This would affect their job satisfaction and motivation, thereby affecting their productivity. Community and customer can create an imperative to change by requiring an organization align its work and organizational behavior to acceptable ethical principles. Perceptions and beliefs inspire sustainable organizational development by allowing the organization develop achievable goals throughout the change process.
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