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Integrating NVC in the Workplace Starts With Recognizing both Individual and Organizational Needs

By Marie Miyashiro-Collins, APR

Recently, an NVC trainer asked if I knew of any data to support the use of NVC in business. He was preparing a proposal for a prospective client in Japan and had heard about our firm’s NVC work with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. While my short answer was “absolutely,” first I wanted to explore with him the important recognition that’s an essential step in successfully integrating NVC in the workplace — recognizing both individual, human needs AND the needs of the organization.

Before I relayed specific data, I shared the larger context for the way our firm looks at this data. He had an “aha” moment when I talked about how when we bring NVC into organizations an additional dimension to the process presents itself. This additional consideration is invisible and yet omnipresent within the organization and its people. It holds tremendous influence over the thinking and actions of people in organizations.

This additional dimension is the universal needs of the organization. Like people with our universal human needs, I have come to recognize that all organizations have universal organizational needs. This recognition addresses the most common barrier I find with business people when introducing NVC – “NVC is great for my family life, but it isn’t appropriate for work.”

While NVC is a needs-based process for interpersonal connection, workplaces include both interpersonal and organizational realities. The organization is a living system in and of itself – related to, yet distinct from, the people in it. The concept of universal organizational needs bridges the interpersonal with the organizational. With this expanded awareness, the organization and its people share a needs-based reality.

For these reasons, Marshall Rosenberg has called these universal organizational needs “the missing link” to bringing NVC into the business world.

Combining my understanding of NVC with nearly 20 years experience as an organization and communication specialist, in 2004 I identified six universal organizational needs:

  1. Identity
  2. Life-Affirming Purpose
  3. Direction
  4. Structure
  5. Energy
  6. Expression

An in-depth overview of this framework of organizational needs and how they work in concert with human needs in workplaces was published in a chapter I coauthored with Marshall Rosenberg, entitled, “Integrated Clarity® (IC) – Energizing How We Talk and What We Talk About in Organizations,” in the 2007 2nd edition of The Change Handbook, a resource handbook “on today’s best methods for engaging whole systems.”[1]

After acknowledging universal organizational needs, the NVC trainer and I talked about the data our firm uses to better understand the needs of organizations and the needs of people in them.

We use our Organizational Needs AssessmentSM (ONA) as a way to gather information from our clients’ employees, managers and executives. The ONA measures about two-dozen factors which track human and organizational needs met or unmet, to determine an organization’s health score. [2]

In the surveys collected, we see a 100 percent correlation between morale and internal communication factors. If morale scores low, communication scores low and vice versa. Further, these two factors are leading indicators for the overall assessment scores. Surveys with lower communication and morale scores tend to score lower overall and surveys with higher communication and morale scores tend to score higher overall.

Simply put, communication and workplace morale appear inseparable and also have major influence on the total organizational health score.

In one of our case studies with a university research team, the pre-workshop survey showed communication score ranked last and morale 16th out of 20 factors. After engaging the same group in an NVC/IC strategic conversation workshop, the overall score rose 32 percent with communication moving up to sixth place and morale jumping to third place.

We also discussed industry data found in the books Leading Self-Directed Work Teams by Kimball Fisher and Good to Great by Jim Collins. These books document the needs for trust, passion and other values and principles embedded in NVC consciousness that when met in the workplace, lead to empowerment in work groups.

These authors have documented that compared to other companies where these needs were not met, emphasis on meeting these needs can yield results like: 45 percent lower costs, 250 percent productivity improvement, double the revenue and profits, 50 percent cut in on the job accidents, absenteeism, and sickness, and 3.42 to 18.50 times the general stock market value.

NVC (human needs) is the “how we talk” and IC (organizational needs) is the “what we talk about” in organizations. Bridging the human and organizational needs can lead to organizations that are more alive and in alignment with the universal life energy in all of us and the world around us. It can also lead to a larger community of practice for NVC around the world.

Marie Miyashiro-Collins, APR is president and chief facilitation officer for Elucity Network, Inc., an NVC-inspired business consulting and training firm based in the United States. She can be reached at 520-777-7271, by email at [email protected] or on the web at