Clarity, UCLouvain study and the role of unions…

Clarity has recently been busy helping to grow the academic research on the emerging new world of work, collaborating with academics and students of UCLouvain. Things got even more interesting when people from the unions’ world got involved into the discussions.

The study

We partnered with the Sociology of Work course from Ecole des Sciences du Travail from UCLouvain. We contributed to the organization of the study of 6 belgian companies having implemented agile and/or participatory organizational practices, assessing their impact from the worker's perspective.

The students had the chance to study the companies and to present their results during a study day gathering members of the organizations taking part to the study, students, academics, experts in management and people from the union’s world. The goal was to discuss the diversity of the different practices and to identify their positive and negative effects.


The role of unions

While many interesting topics have been raised and deserve to be developed, what I’ll share for now is the contribution of the union’s world to the discussion.

Their view on agile and participatory practices was a really interesting one to consider. In essence, while being in favor of more autonomy in the workplace, they questioned the merits of agile and participative practices that would only apply to the organization of operational work, and not to the strategic decisions and on the distribution of wealth generated by the company.

My take on this is that work practices that allow people to have more freedom on their daily work and on the way they are organizing at the operational level is already an important step. But that should indeed only be taken as a first step and not be the end of the story. It should allow to go further towards workplaces where every aspect of the organization, including strategic goals and distribution of wealth, can also be shaped by workers, along with the other stakeholders. In my opinion this is key to bring really meaningful change to the world of work we know.

But in such companies, what would be the unions’ job then ? They wouldn’t be needed anymore, right ? I don’t think so. What if unions could act as guarantors of qualitative, profound and inclusive participatory organizational models ?

Time will tell !