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October 2013

September 2013

How to break the cycle of poor industrial relations

The centuries-old struggle of employers versus employees shows little or no sign of abating.  There were two clears signs of that this week. The first was the strike by firemen against changes it says will force firefighters to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement. The second was a call by the NHS Employers organisation calling for a freeze in pay scales in 2014/5. On the face of it the two extremes of the struggle – workers acting because they feel exploited, and employers sending messages that employee costs cannot continue to rise.

Breaking the cycle_000009679014XSmallSuch standpoints, however, only perpetuate the struggle. To resolve the underlying problem you have to think differently or, as Einstein put it, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  So how can we break free of such entrenched thinking?

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The Case for Employee Engagement

Sometimes it is easier to define something by describing its opposite. Perhaps that applies to Employee Engagement too. Maybe it is easier to depict employee disengagement.

And of course, when describing anything, the old adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." I was reminded of that this week when I had reason to look at one of the cartoons from my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People.”   

Employee Disengagement

Ironically, although the picture does a wonderful job of portraying employee disengagement and its consequences, it is far from fiction. It portrays something that I was told once really happened!

This is the kind of situation that can actually happen when people are over-regulated or not valued enough to be allowed to use their own discretion. And that, I am convinced, is the root cause of the lack of employee engagement, and even the active employee disengagement, that is so rife today. You might not have a production line like this, but I am sure that, if you opened your eyes, you could identify any number of examples of employee disengagement that are costing you or your organisation a bundle.   

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Looking for leadership

How’s your organisation’s leadership?  

Leadership_000017316749XSmallThat is likely to be anything but an easy question. Especially if you are the organisation’s leader! And it is not made any easier by the fact that leadership is one of those words. You know, one of those "big" words that mean something different to each one of us. A word used to describe a concept that covers a multitude of different qualities, characteristics and capabilities, and that is more often judged by perceptions: by feelings rather than logic.

Even so, it is pretty disturbing to read reports that research by Harvard Business Press indicates that only 31% of global executives are confident that their leaders have the right leadership skills. Initially you might, (in a moment of rare optimism) ask if this could possibly be an indication of unheard of modesty and self-doubt on the part of leaders. Then you think that it is more likely to be directors assessing their own CEO, which is still a depressing thought for it doesn’t say much for the cohesion at the top. Nor does it inspire much confidence if it is a judgment of business leaders generally.

It turns out, however, that they are describing the abstract concept of leadership rather than the personal capabilities and shortcomings of executives. It seems that nearly half (43%) see leadership development as the most significant factor in driving business transformation. Interestingly (and some might say encouragingly), this desire for leadership seems to be directed lower down the organisation and specifically at middle management level. At last the drive for distributed leadership is gathering momentum. If only these people could see the paradox here! 

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KISS and end the War for Talent!

Do you ever sense that things are too complicated? I do. And two things make the feeling even worse:-

  • The increasing frequency with  which it occurs; and
  • The conviction that we are the ones who make things over-complicated.  

Abc_000005448371XSmallThat is why I so enjoyed Steve Roesler’s recent blog “Employee Retention: How About “Thanks!”?  As always he makes things so simple. Here he quotes research that nearly 20% of us are never thanked at work, and over a third of us only hear the words once or twice a year. In other words more than half of us do not get adequate thanks for our efforts at work. Thus Steve does not find it a coincidence that roughly the same percentage has no loyalty towards their employer!

By juxtaposing this with the fact that a Google search of “The War for Talent” results in 138,000,000 hits, he suggests that optimising people is clearly a massive concern and that we are looking in the wrong places.

If you think that is a misinterpretation of the Google results, a similar search of “Employee Engagement” returns 40,400,000 hits.  So it would definitely seem that we are over-complicating the issue. And, possibly even worse, we may be misrepresenting the problem.

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