The relationship between employer and employee is at its most strained at the moment, as people try to carve out security for themselves and companies consider who they cannot afford to keep on payroll.
And yet, this is also a time when many organisations need engagement from their staff. It is unlikely that the CEO has all the answers to deal with this challenge, but very likely that the front-line staff have - answers to cost reduction, to improving customer satisfaction, innovations which customers are asking for. Why would they share those ideas freely? Do they even know they have these answers?
At its simplest, people cost money. They cost money to recruit, to retain, and they cost money when they don’t have enough work to do so they are marking time, eg between those bursts of activity that come around regularly.
But people also deliver. In public services such as health, all care is given by people. Yes sure there are medicines and technologies that help, but someone greets the patient and either inspires or depresses them, which makes all the difference to patient experience and their chances of recovery. People deliver change and innovation, without which companies get left behind in this competitive environment - they make things happen, they even achieve the impossible sometimes. Self-motivated, committed staff make all the difference.
At the basic level, staff can be sufficiently “engaged” to do what they are paid to do. To turn up at 9, not let too many things get neglected, and not go home too early. I’m sure we can all think of colleagues or former colleagues who didn’t even manage this.
What about getting people so inspired that they contribute more? This isn’t a new idea - Konosuke Matsushita (founder of the Panasonic company) designed his company around autonomy and the contribution it could make, and was rewarded with employees bringing their commitment to excellence and to innovation.
Semco in Brazil (see book review of Ricardo Semler's book Maverick) demonstrated the same thing in 1980s - the young chief executive knew that he didn’t have all of the answers, and readily turned decision-making and even decisions over the salaries of the executives, over to the staff. They voted for competitive salaries for their managers, as long as the managers were effective. This was no beauty parade - everyone voted not just those reporting directly to the manager.
Perhaps the greatest success has been achieved by Vineet Nayar at HCLT (HCL Technologies).
Nayar joined HCLT as CEO in 2005 when the $700million technology company was clearly falling behind its competitors. He embarked on a process, to understand what was wrong by asking employees and customers, and to find out how to solve it, similarly by asking. Nayar didn’t work with the customer every day - how could he, as one individual amongst (then) 30,000, make a difference?
His employees delivered innovation, quality, customer satisfaction and delight, repeat business, new customers. The company continues to grow with over 80,000 employees and Quarterly revenue > $1billion.
Most people want to do a good job. They want to feel they have made a contribution. Of course there are people who have lost their inspiration, but these people have typically had it taken out of them in the workplace.
A comment at one of my workshops which has stuck in my mind was from a senior NHS nurse. She started with “now I remember why I joined the NHS”.
Nurses are committed to their caring vocation. Many are suspicious of attempts to measure their work, to count their patient. It wastes time on paperwork that should be spent with patients, and it gives “managers” permission to take the humanity out of care.
But she continued: “for the last 15 years, I’ve been turning up at 8am, seeing a bunch of sick people, and going home at 4pm. I knew the clinical job so I didn’t really need to think about it. But with the measurements and reporting that you’ve introduced, I can tell my grandchildren ‘I did a good job this week’ ”. Before, they resisted any attempts at change as “know-nothing management trying to save money”. Now, they examine their changing environment and make the changes necessary to be at their most effective as a team delivering health.
Our mission in life is to inspire people to enjoy and to be enthusiastic about the work they do.
We do this by using the tools of benefits management - measuring and reporting to show what is effective and what isn’t, so people at the front line can make the right decisions about how to be most effective in their day to day work. It’s just as applicable in industry and manufacturing, just as applicable in professional services, as it is in healthcare.
You can see case studies all over this web site. We can help to engage employees and other stakeholders with Social Audits, evaluation and reporting of Corporate Responsibility (Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR) and Triple Bottom Line design, measurement and reporting, and we can direct focus onto your direct commercial success or revenue building/ cost cutting/ value add (Intellectual Property pipeline).
TSRC is an independent consultancy. We can engage with your employees and other stakeholders as an outsider, to understand their concerns and complaints, and we can engage with your senior management to understand the value of using the talents and contributions on your doorstep.
We will use Benefits management techniques such as Benefits Map and Results Chain to link everything you do to your strategic objectives, especially highlighting what makes a positive contribution. We then help you to design common-sense and inspiring measures and measurement, and a reporting process that keeps everyone’s focus. People will measure if they want to know what the measurements show (ie if they care - which they do when the measures mean something to them).
We will help you to engage with your talent, and help you to design recognition and reward programmes that really work. It’s worth adding at this point that “more money” rarely delivers the desired result - it changes the culture from “we want to make a difference together” to one of “I’ll do just enough to get my bonus and everyone else can whistle”.