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Why is the 996 working system so popular?

via:CnBeta     time:2021/1/17 21:09:58     readed:98

Recently, the sudden death of an employee working late at night on his way home has aroused heated discussion. Although it can not be proved that the sudden death of the employee is directly related to long-time work, "996" and "007", as the pronouns of the prevailing overtime culture in China's Internet enterprises, have attracted attention again. In some companies, overtime has become a culture, and even directly affects the performance of employees.

This is a periodic existence in the historical cycle, but once it starts to harm the physical and mental health of employees and bring great negative impact on the sustainable development of people, it is time to make a fundamental turn

Zhang Qian, reporter of Finance and Economics

In 2019, Zhilian recruitment conducted a survey on the overtime work of more than 11000 employees. According to the survey report released later, overtime work is the norm for 80% of office white-collar workers, and 70% of them can't get extra labor remuneration. The research report also shows that the "996" work system is invading the domestic corporate culture with the trend of spreading.

There are different views on "996". Some people think that "996" violates the labor law and should be strictly regulated. Some people think that "996" is a kind of market behavior, one is willing to fight, the other is willing to suffer. Earlier, some entrepreneurs said frankly that "996" is a blessing.

So, how to treat the "996" phenomenon? Can it improve the efficiency of enterprises? Should policies and laws regulate it? Caijing interviewed Zhou Yu, an outstanding professor of organization and talent strategy teaching in Business School of Renmin University of China.

Why is "996" respected?

Caijing: why is "996" culture or overtime culture respected by large Internet companies and technology companies?

Zhou Yu: at the stage of rapid development, all modern economies in the world, whether for blue collar employees, knowledge-based and technological employees, including entrepreneurial entrepreneurs, have experienced the cycle of excess labor supply. From a macro point of view, "996" is a phenomenon that every economy in the stage of rapid growth will encounter. To put it in a more popular way, it means super struggle, all-out struggle, quick work, and supporting the rapid development of enterprises and economy.

There is nothing new in the sun. In the period of rapid development after World War II in the United States and the take-off of the four little dragons in East Asia, the work intensity of employees is relatively high. Until now, the problem of overwork of employees in enterprises such as Japan is still very prominent, so this is first of all a problem of historical cycle.

Caijing: what are the internal driving factors of "996" culture?

Zhou Yu: first of all, in the past few decades, China has been in the period of catching up with the economic cycle, that is, the stage of rapid growth. Many enterprises, especially the leading enterprises, need the company organization to be in a state of high intensity and high efficiency when they take advantage of the situation and develop rapidly.

Secondly, in the operation and management of Chinese enterprises, on the one hand, they learn from the performance orientation of western enterprises; on the other hand, they face high market-oriented competition, and then generally emphasize high performance orientation. Even in some industries, this kind of performance supremacy has been overemphasized. Under the guidance of the supremacy of shareholder value and business performance, the performance management of enterprises is becoming more and more powerful, more and more refined and strengthened. This model will make a company like a continuous fast running machine, rotating at high speed, and the intensity and rhythm will be faster and faster.

The third point is that many knowledge workers themselves have very strong achievement motivation, that is to say, knowledge workers themselves have a strong desire to do a good job, have high self requirements, and continue to struggle without self-restraint if they do not achieve some ideal results. This is also very important.

Caijing: as a high-speed machine, what will be the corresponding changes in the construction of enterprise culture and enterprise management structure?

Zhou Yu: in addition to strong performance guidance, Chinese enterprises generally regard encouraging struggle as the internal cultural traction of enterprises, including competition mechanism, incentive mechanism, rapid promotion and appointment of young people and other development mechanisms, all of which are intended to stimulate employees' awareness of struggle. In this regard, we can not simply determine whether it is right or wrong. This is a periodic existence in the historical cycle. However, once excessive, for example, has begun to harm the basic physical and mental health of employees and has brought great negative impact on people's sustainable development, it is the time when the culture of excessive struggle and overtime brought by such strong performance needs to be fundamentally turned.

Caijing: but many high-speed technology enterprises and even start-ups in Silicon Valley do not have such a common overtime culture as Chinese enterprises, and they are also developing very well.

Zhou Yu: We studied this problem eight years ago. Enterprises in the United States, such as Silicon Valley, are also full of vitality and struggle intensity, but they are also very concerned about the sustainable physical and mental health of employees, which has evolved from the process of management precipitation.

This change has a very direct relationship with an important law found in management and human resource research of organizational behavior. After World War II, the proportion of knowledge workers in western countries has been increasing. Compared with the labor-intensive workers who occupied a relatively high proportion before, for these white-collar workers, the high control management mode of extending working hours and increasing work intensity is very inefficient or even ineffective. Therefore, enterprises begin to shift from high control management to high commitment management. High commitment is to provide employees with a relaxed working atmosphere and independent working space, so that employees can enjoy a free working state. Some enterprises even provide employees with some unique care, such as Facebook and even help them wash clothes. These measures can stimulate the initiative of knowledge workers, stimulate them to work spontaneously, and improve their work efficiency.

Caijing: under what circumstances will the historical node of corporate culture turn?

Zhou Yu: since the 1990s, western enterprises have paid close attention to the sustainable development of human beings and began to emphasize the work life balance and the physical and mental health balance of employees. But in fact, since the 1950s, people's sustainable development and the balance between life and work have become a social demand. With the rise of emerging industries, the attribute of its rapid development requires continuous injection of advanced productivity, and enterprises will also require employees to always maintain a state of struggle.

However, as I mentioned above, the proportion of knowledge workers in emerging and innovative industries is relatively high, while the output of traditional management methods for blue collar workers is low. Independent and relaxed working atmosphere is more helpful to enhance the enthusiasm of employees, so many enterprises will propose work life balance. When employees feel that their personal rights and interests are respected, their work enthusiasm will increase, and the corresponding output will also increase. In addition, many knowledge workers are born with initiative. If they want to make achievements in their work, they will take the initiative to work hard. Moreover, the extra care of the company will increase the recognition of these employees to the work and the company itself, and the work efficiency will also be improved, which will further increase the company's efficiency.

However, a few years ago, we did some relatively cutting-edge research from another perspective. For knowledge workers, family friendly policy is the most important policy To a certain extent, it actually aggravates the "Exploitation", which is a kind of management means in the post capitalist period. According to the different attributes of the crowd, the management mode has been changed and upgraded. Its essence is to arouse the internal motivation of knowledge workers, and let the staff enter a state of struggle unconsciously and naturally.

Compared with "996", this way is more advanced and dignified. On the basis of respecting people, it also highlights the understanding and grasp of work rules.

In fact, a large number of "996" are ineffective

Caijing: many Chinese enterprises are also changing to innovation and technology-based enterprises. Why don't you see the node of corporate culture transformation?

Zhou Yu: when the society develops to a certain stage, there will be corresponding requirements for the transformation of the industrial structure. For example, the industries with the attributes of science and technology and innovation have been encouraged to develop, and their proportion is constantly increasing. In addition, the dynamic nature of the environment is improving. After the dynamic nature of the environment is transmitted to the enterprise, the pressure transmission is transmitted from shareholders and entrepreneurs to everyone in the organizational structure. All people are under the competitive pressure brought by this high degree of uncertainty.

Different from many countries, China's labor market has always been endowed with sufficient supply of labor, which also leads to fierce competition in the talent market. Even if the work intensity is extremely high, enterprises will not worry about recruiting people. This makes the individual in the work bear more competitive pressure. Of course, with the change of the distribution structure of the working age population and the increasing scarcity of talent supply, enterprises are bound to value talents more, which will weaken the competitive pressure of the talent market.

Moreover, some enterprises also realize the importance of sustainable physical and mental health of employees. For example, Vanke has a strong performance orientation within the enterprise, but they also emphasize that they will never sacrifice their personal health for success, and their personal body and body indicators will be linked to the bonus of department managers.

Caijing: can "996" bring higher benefits to enterprises?

Zhou Yu: in view of my long-term research and observation on enterprises, a large number of "996" in Chinese enterprises are invalid.

That is to say, many employees who participated in "996" work overtime in vain. Because many managers do not have enough traction and value grip on work arrangement, especially in the establishment and arrangement of work, most of the time, managers do not really think clearly about the value orientation and fundamental purpose of work, and lack relatively clear value judgment on work, which leads to employees' repeated tossing and blind overtime.

For example, many managers' professionalism is not in place. When communicating their work, because they do not think through the problems themselves, they are vague and can not give clear instructions, which makes employees spend a lot of time and energy to speculate. I call this speculation cost in an organization. This phenomenon is common in Chinese enterprises.

I often say that this is "to cover up the confusion of value by the busy state", which leads to many "996" actually does not create real value. This results in a double loss, which not only consumes the energy and time of employees, but also does not bring actual benefits to the company. It is a double waste and needs to be improved.

Caijing: is this a high proportion of enterprises?

Zhou Yu: at present, no one in the world has done such quantitative research. But according to my personal analysis and judgment based on the phenomenon, the proportion of invalid overtime is very high. In fact, this is a concentrated reflection of the fact that Chinese enterprises still stay in extensive management of human resources and rely on excessive and super intensive input to obtain output.

Caijing: an interesting phenomenon is that many Chinese emerging enterprises are also highly competitive in the international market. Does this have anything to do with the pressure transmission?

Zhou Yu: if we look at it explicitly, it still has something to do with it. From the perspective of competitive advantage, "996" can not and should not become the competitiveness of Chinese enterprises. In my opinion, it just reflects the lack of real competitiveness of enterprises. I always believe that the advanced nature of technology, the sustainability of business logic and the degree of civilization in organization and management are three necessary components for China's enterprises to have the world competitiveness and the three important aspects of our contribution to the world's business civilization.

Finance and Economics: what aspects of sustainability are needed to enhance competitiveness?

Zhou Yu: the sustainability of management civilization. Among them, the most important is the management and traction of human sustainability, which can really effectively stimulate people's innovation potential, rather than simply relying on the extension of labor time to manage people. The bonus based on labor intensity will be transformed into a more lean, efficient and sustainable management bonus.

In fact, this is the improvement of the organizational level. In the long run, this is the composition of the enterprise's competitive advantage. The extensive high-pressure and strong work relying on human resources, even if it seems to have the so-called high-pressure and fast output, or the so-called high performance brought by this high intensity, in my opinion, is neither a reflection of high competitiveness nor a more civilized management logic, and can not support the long-term high-quality development. This way is bound to be eliminated by the market in the next development cycle, especially when we have entered the stage of transformation and upgrading and innovation driven high-quality development.

How not to let the struggling suffer

Caijing: at least at the present stage, many enterprises attract talents with high salaries, which greatly improves their scientific and technological strength and market competitiveness.

Zhou Yu: we need to add an attribute in front of this competitiveness in a certain historical period. As I mentioned earlier, our country is now in a stage of rapid catch-up development. High pressure, high investment in exchange for high performance, high output and high return will bring certain competitiveness in the past stage.

On the other hand, I once called this way of development driven by high performance, strong incentive and high pressure "doping mode", which does not have long-term advantages. The most important point is that it will make the health of the enterprise organization unsustainable. For example, in the real estate industry with high salary circle before, after the rapid development cycle of the industry has passed, the strategy of simple and crude high salary employment is not sustainable.

Therefore, the high salary to attract talents to "work hard" often occurs in a period of rapid development of the industry. But such enterprises are likely to rely on the strong stimulation of sprint explosive power, and the lack of long-distance resilience, which is very dangerous. In the direction of talent management, it is also in a node of transformation. Now we should especially encourage the enterprises that try to change. The improvement of civilization and sustainability of human management is an important foundation to support the high-quality development of Chinese enterprises.

Caijing: Why are Internet companies so attractive to young people?

Zhou Yu: I think this is due to the huge flow base that China has naturally, that is, the huge consumer population. Moreover, compared with state-owned enterprises, the organization of Internet enterprises is more dynamic.

In addition, the business of Internet enterprises is fresh and attractive to young people, because they are exposed to the most cutting-edge things and their management is relatively flat. The state-owned enterprises, central enterprises and even the traditional large-scale foreign enterprises all attach great importance to structured organizations. If Internet companies and technology enterprises are a busy machine, then these enterprises are more like a sequential machine, and young people often don't like this atmosphere.

Before the rapid development of Internet companies, in fact, foreign enterprises are very competitive, but in fact, the management efficiency of these foreign enterprises is not high. Our research also shows that these foreign enterprises have formed some kind of institutionalized management in China. They are even more and more like traditional state-owned enterprises. Compared with high-tech companies, Internet companies with organizational vitality and emerging formats no longer have significant advantages.

Caijing: there is a view that it is against the labor law for enterprises to require employees to "996" and "007", so we should strengthen the protection of workers by law. Do you agree with this view?

Zhou Yu: I suggest that we do some more rigorous investigation and research to make clear which so-called "996" practices are illegal labor laws and regulations and which are not involved in laws and regulations.

Among them, I have always had a very clear attitude towards the enterprises and practices that violate the labor law. All these management means suspected of violating the law and regulations should be removed, especially the head enterprises. They should be more cautious and high standard to prevent the risk that some staff management means may be suspected of violating the labor laws and regulations.

Caijing: many enterprises do not explicitly require employees to work overtime, but there are "hidden rules", which virtually increase the working hours of employees. How do you view this phenomenon?

Zhou Yu: in many cases, "996" is a kind of "soft atmosphere", not compulsory or even formal system. Many years ago, I suggested that we should continue to strengthen research on some basic issues of labor laws and regulations, and that changes in the legal level can more fundamentally resolve and improve this "soft atmosphere". For example, in the western labor law, based on the nature of work, exemption jobs and non exemption jobs have been distinguished for the work in the industry for a long time. The former mainly refers to knowledge work including technical work and management work, which has higher flexibility in working hours requirements and overtime compensation.

For example, in the United States, the technical and managerial positions of knowledge workers are defined as exempt positions. According to the labor law, the working hours beyond the working hours stipulated in the labor law need to pay extra overtime wages, which is similar to the labor law of China. However, these knowledge workers find it difficult to accurately calculate all the working hours that exceed the labor law one by one, so they choose to take the work results as the guidance, link the incentive payment with the final work results, and no longer use the traditional timing method for blue collar workers.

For some entrepreneurs, I think their original intention is more to encourage young people to strive for self-improvement than to praise "996" in a narrow sense. In addition, the enterprise should give extra recognition and incentive to the striver in terms of treatment. The so-called striver oriented, at least not let the striver suffer losses.

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