What organisations need for the future of work
To remain competitive in a post-COVID world, organisations need more strategically aligned effort and activity from their people. Not just some of them, but everyone.
Every single person must be absolutely dedicated to creating a movement that propels the organisation forward. Not only do they need to take ownership of the outputs they produce, they must commit to improving the outcomes the organisation delivers.
What gets in the way
- Unfortunately, because staff engagement in most businesses is so low, leaders fear that such expectations might be considered an attempt to exploit them.
- They also tend to interpret the behaviours of their people as a window into who they are rather than evidence of their disconnect, and then presume their only option is to try to squeeze more out of them. They view their people as a resource rather than individuals that have the capacity to deliver positive change.
- This reminds staff that management doesn’t believe in them, thereby prompting them to keep their distance rather than getting involved in the business on a more personal level.
- Finally, because treating staff according to their actions rather than their aspirations is the norm, the majority of business leaders assume it’s impossible to do anything different. It just seems too radical or unrealistic, and it feels safer to stick with the status quo.
A shift in thinking
It’s frustrating that executives have come to believe this type of engagement is not only unrealistic but near-ridiculous. In our initial discussions with business leaders, they typically report that it sounds like something that’s only possible in an imaginary utopia rather than the real world.
However, when we ask them to think of the idea in a sporting context, something changes. Almost universally, they agree that it’s not only possible, it’s the norm. It’s necessary irrespective of the standard of the players or their particular makeup.
So, why would the same visionary leadership not be just as effective – and necessary – in the future of work?
The power of empowerment
Many people (and yes, probably many of your people) perform extraordinary, positive acts of teamwork and charity in their free time, but carry out their work tasks in a state of relative indifference despite being paid for it.
What is it that prompts people to want to push themselves on the sports field, or go out of their way to help a friend or stranger in need? The reason isn’t because of what they ‘get out of it’, it’s because the majority of us want our life to mean something to others; to know that we’ve played a part in creating better outcomes or experiences for those around us.
The answer to the performance conundrum most organisations are grappling with is not to focus on employee packages or benefits per se, but to talk about the difference they can make to your stakeholders by being involved.
- Not surprisingly, the majority of business recommendations are driven by the presumed interests of employees rather than the “drivers” of human performance.
- Organisations often presume they need to offer “rewards” rather than talking about the work they are doing and the difference it makes to their community. If they approached it from this angle, employees are likely to start viewing their work as a positive opportunity to make a difference while earning a salary.
- Everyone loves to be stretched; to extend themselves for the benefit of their teammates and the greater good. They relish the opportunity and the experience.
- What people don’t like, however, is being on the periphery of an enterprise that doesn’t involve them, or being told to get on with their work while the benefits remain a mystery.
In our experience, problematic behaviours are largely a result of misguided leadership rather than employee laziness or belligerence. If organisations accepted this, they would focus their HR system on helping everyone succeed rather than addressing the wayward.
When people know that what they do matters, when they feel important, they begin to take pride in what they contribute. If your system is built with this in mind, lifting performance and engagement becomes easy.
This article is part of our white paper ‘The future of work: A performance-focused insight’. To request a copy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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