You may – and most likely do – use it unthinkingly. It is such a little word; seemingly innocent, innocuous and insignificant. Just three letters long!
Yet, it can be profoundly significant.
In fact, if you were to think about it more deeply you might recognise the intention behind the word as a primary cause of conflict: for toddlers and tyrants alike, every race and culture and possibly every species of creation from aardvark to zebra. At all levels: individual, family and community; personal and organisational; micro and macro.
So can you guess what the word is?
Yes, I am talking about the word “get”. And maybe now having seen both the word and the context in which it was used you can also begin to sense why I am raising the issue and where I am heading. How do you feel when you think someone is trying to “get the most out of you”? So how do you think it makes your employees feel? Almost certainly Bolshie, otherwise and disengaged!
Now take the statement, “In these straitened economic times, every business owner wants to make the most of their employees.” You have only changed two words but what a world of difference. Not only is it less abrasive but it has a nuance that changes the whole dynamic of the relationship.
Historically, with employment’s evolution from slavery and serfdom, it is quite natural for both parties to implicitly understand it entails getting the most from employees. And changing the words will do nothing to change that. However, both sides also understand that the contract entails giving and receiving value. “Making the most of employees” recognises this. It is more benign because it implies a partnership. It suggests the need for employees to fulfil their potential and hints at an enabling obligation on the part of employers as well as a delivery obligation on the part of employees to achieve this. To optimise the capabilities of the employee so they fulfil their potential both parties need to work together.
Isn’t this the true role of Personnel or HR? What a pity then that they have never seen or expressed this and made it their role to facilitate it. In fact it is doubtful whether they see it even now. If they had surely they would have made it an essential element of employee engagement. After all, you cannot expect people to be engaged if they feel – even at a sub-conscious level – that they are being exploited, can you?