JOB SATISFACTION - A Strangely Neglected Subject

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Her Highness Begum Salimah Saheba were felicitated at a join meeting of the Rotary Clubs of Bombay. New Bombay and Thane at Oberoi-Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday, 25th January,1978 when Mawlana Hazar Imam was presented a memento by Rotary International Director Soli Pavri. Following is the text of the speech delivered by Mawlana Hazar Imam on that occasion.

Mr. Chairman, Presidents and Members of the Rotary clubs, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your very kind invitation to my wife and me to attend this enjoyable and happy function and for your generous and flattering words of welcome. As you may know, I was educated at Harvard and have therefore had considerable exposure to American pragmatism. Indeed I have come to admire the very high level of organisation that they ha fields but a statement you made in your speech made me reflect over some of the more amusing applications of pragmatism. You referred to me as "Superhuman" and I recollect how the Americans had applied Einstein's theory of relativity of this concept. No sooner had American comics invented superman than somebody asked "superman in relation to whom". The result was the immediate creation of supermouse.

Since I became the Imam of the Ismaili community a little over twenty years ago, I have marvelled at the social conscience of the people of this great sub-continent. Wherever they are, whatever their activities, no matter their ages or wealth, they are consistently concerned with each other's well being and I am convinced there is more spontaneous humanitarian and philanthropic activity in this part of the world than any other. This great effort in practically all fields of human involvement has produced a myriad of organisations, institutions, trusts, foundations and other benefactors. They operate at the village level, at the estate level at the national level, at the international level and even world wide, and I have often asked myself whether it would be acceptable, and practical to seek to apply some pragmatism to this vast field of human endeavour to channel those institutions that are freely willing into a more rational, logical and methodical approach to serve the poor and the sick.

It is conceivable, for example, that the best organised agencies might create their own association and that this association then proceed, with the assistance perhaps of the national and state authorities to identify those areas of human need where they would work together on agreed identified priorities.

I do not believe that this sort of co-operation and join programming of voluntary agencies could be brought about in any way by legislation. On the contrary, it could only introduce in a matchless and spontaneous gesture of concern for one's neighbour, a sense of obligation and direction from above which would eliminate both spontaneity and material generosity. On the other hand a voluntary effort at co-ordination, based on a systematically quantified analysis of how many agencies are rendering what services in what fields in what parts of the country with the aim of identifying areas of duplication, of surplus office, of under-use of institutions, of waste through individual rather than bulk purchasing, of duplication rather than sharing of qualified manpower, might be an idea worth pursuing, and one in which a respected and recognised international service association, enlightened by the leading citizens all over the country, such as the Rotary Club might wish to take the lead.

To make any rationalisation of this sort really effective and at the same time to maintain the sense of dedication and motivation which attracts people to work in schools or hospitals, either in a voluntary capacity or as salaried doctors, nurses or teachers, would not be an easy task. I have spoken elsewhere, however, of how social institutions are beginning to borrow modern management methods used by business firms to improve their efficiency and thus to make a given volume of resources serve a much greater number of people.

It should be equally possible to extend this procedure further, to investigate how a modern businessman motivates his staff and to ask why these techniques cannot be applied to schools, hostels or hospitals just as much as offices or factories, after all, by far the largest item of expense in any major social institution is the cost of its salaried staff. In schools, this can be as much as 80% of total expenses. In hospitals, it averages 60% and is rising rapidly in the industrialised countries and to get the best from these men and women operating in the social field, does it not make sense to apply the same methodology in the non-profit making sectors of the economy as is used by the most far-sighted and progressive business managers.

Material or financial compensation is the first and most obvious means of motivating people and it is a tragedy that society has not yet learned to accept that men and women who earn their livelihood in the social field deserve others whose work receives exaggerated respect and remuneration. Nurses and teachers, for example - and let me say this frankly - are sadly under-valued in many nations of the world. While there is a threshold beyond which financial inducements begin to have diminishing returns, that threshold is still far away in our welfare sectors.

In both developed and developing countries, however, I suspect that the greatest potential for improving the human condition lies in the promise of job satisfaction and accountability. In reality, they are two sides or the same coin and are often described as the carrot and the stick of modern management.

Job satisfaction is a strangely neglected subject by even the most enlightened and progressive employers. So much work today is obsessively monotonous. Yet a little thought, research and imagination can turn the dullest routine into something which attracts the employee's interest. It can be done by introducing an element of sporting competition, or even by setting simple and administrative or production targets to replace daily repetitive drudgery from 9 to 5.

These are not and should not be, complicated exercises, but they repay the trouble of consulting an experienced, professional personal or systems manager, as well as a good deal more attention at Board level than is normally the case.

Another important aspect of job satisfaction is career development. If even the humblest employee know that a chance of promotion is waiting for him if he does well, he will be a happier and more effective member of the organisation. This is even more valid at middle and senior management level where special incentives and training schemes are an essential ingredient of a well-motivated staff.

I have the feeling that if a voluntary association of humanitarian agencies were to exist based on the rationalisation of the complete inventory of existing organisations, large joint programmes could be launched where individual agencies would be too small, new activities could be located at places of the highest demand and many of the management ideas I have mentioned such as job satisfaction, work variation, career growth could be made available where individual agencies would be unable to offer similar advantages.

There must be many Rotarians present who are familiar with these concepts and what I have suggested this afternoon is - first, that Rotary as an organisation may wish to help instate a certain rationalisation of the multiplicity of voluntary activities taking place in this country and second, that some Rotarians may consider ways and means of transplanting modern management techniques to the social sector through this association of voluntary agencies.

Thank you.

Source: Ismaili Mirror October 1982

Please use the back arrow to go back to the previous page

Back to timeline 1978