“Of course, no-one likes change” How often have you heard that? It is a statement that is so frequently made that you would think it is a universal truth. But is it?
Wouldn’t you love it if your employees thought and acted like partners in the business? If they brought the enterprise, energy and enthusiasm that ensured your success? Well that is effectively what employee engagement is and why you need it.
So, if you want your employees to be like that, to think and act as though they were partners, you need to treat them as partners. And the best way to do that is to make them co-owners of the business. And you don’t have to just take my word for it.
They say you should never answer a question with a question. Yet, sometimes, there is no better way of providing an answer. You are likely familiar with the apocryphal story of the executive who asked, “What if I train my employees and they just leave?” And, who apparently received the answer, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”
What a classic riposte. Oh to have the same wisdom and wit! I increasingly feel that is the perfect way to answer a question I am often asked. So from now on when people ask me, “What happens when I value my employees?” I am going to respond by saying. “I don’t know! But what happens when you don’t?”
The great management paradox is that it is common for executives to say “Our people are our greatest asset!” Hell some might even sincerely mean it! Yet convention insists that we account for, manage and treat employees solely as costs. How then can you expect your employees to be engaged if the subliminal message they keep getting is that they don’t really matter?
In my last blog I shared how I would adapt John Spence’s business success formula, building on its fundamentally people-centric essence. I promised then that I would show you how you could put it into practice more easily. So now it is time for me to keep my promise and do just that.
This week I attended a seminar entitled “HR Strategy and the Role of the HR Business Partner.” I was really looking forward to it and hoped to get a clearer insight into what an HR Business Partner was and what they did. What a disappointment!
My key takeaways from the evening were:-
- There was no clear identification of what the role entailed; it varies from organisation to organisation.
- Results where business partners had been introduced were mixed and generally the business response seemed to be unenthusiastic. There even seemed to be some doubt as to whether the concept would last.
- Even the case studies illustrated that significant communication problems persisted.
The elephant in the room was gap between “business” expectations of HR and how they saw the role and how HR saw their own role. This was specifically identified and yet no effort was made to address it or to identify how or what was being done to close the gap. Surely that has to be a primary function of HR partners? Perhaps, therefore, it was hardly surprising that the discussion revolved around generalities. The speakers talked about “strategies”, “measurements” and “the need to understand the business”, without giving any tangible examples of what they meant or how they were really adding value.
Consequently my lasting impression from the evening was that, “Nobody, including HR themselves, actually knows what HR is or what it stands for.” All HR professionals think what they do is important. Yet they seem to be incapable of proving it. If they did that gap would not exist. It is entirely of their own making.
To say this is ironic is the understatement of the year. But the irony is magnificently magnified by the fact that it is so unnecessary: the role of HR should be obvious to everyone. Let me explain why.
I guess it’s true: you are never too old to learn. This past week I learned about the Customer Experience Index (CXi); used to benchmark customer experience. Maybe I am behind the times and you already know about it and even have it as a key performance indicator (KPI). If so, have you given proper consideration? If you haven’t you may well be setting yourself up for failure.
Don’t get me wrong. Providing a good customer experience is, or should be, the single most important goal of any business. After all, if you don’t keep your customers happy you won’t have customers for long. And that means you won’t have a business for long, either! Thus customer experience should be the central axis of your entire business strategy. But, if it isn’t and you have Customer Experience as a KPI you are very likely setting yourself up for failure.
Naturally you will almost inevitably insist that your customer is central to your business strategy. I would, however, ask you to challenge yourself on that. For, if you do not look at every strategic and tactical decision you make without considering how it will affect your customer, you are deluding yourself.
Perhaps one of life’s biggest frustrations can be something that seems obvious to us may not always be obvious to someone else. Maybe that is why toddlers go through the “terrible twos” – they are simply the manifestation of their frustration with adults who do not understand what they are trying to communicate.
That is why I so appreciated the words of Edward Morrow I came across recently: “The obscure we always see sooner or later; the obvious always seems to take a little longer.” They are an amusing witticism that – upon deeper thought – demonstrates the wisdom of the old adage that “many a true word is spoken in jest.” Let’s take a moment to explore how relevant they are.
It’s quite remarkable! In a world of incessant change it is a barometer of consistency. It never seems to change.
Recent surveys indicate employee disengagement is around 70%. This is what it was 10 years ago! So, despite more than a decade’s attention, headlines and efforts, we have made no headway at all in rectifying this. Why not?
There could be any number of reasons, but perhaps the first and foremost could be that the executive managers are not engaged themselves. This would inevitably make them sceptical about any employee engagement initiatives and so inhibit the outcomes. Thus it seems critical to establish whether executives themselves are engaged. But how would you know?
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” That quote from Simon Sinek caught my attention this week. It seems so obvious. Yet the majority of our customer experience tells us that it an extremely rare phenomenon. You don’t need any employee engagement statistics to tell you that the vast majority of people either do not love their jobs or the organisation they work for.
That is why a great customer experience stands out brighter than a comet flashing across the night sky. Let me share a story about what I mean.
“We JUST need to engage our heads and our hearts in a leadership process that validates the worth of every individual. Where everybody matters.” (My emphasis) What do you make of that statement? Do you agree?
You will not be surprised that I do. It comes from a Bob Chapman TedTalk that I found incredibly inspiring and I thoroughly recommend that you take 22 minutes to listen for yourself. Here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njn-lIEv1LU&feature=youtu.be A key takeaway is the phrase, “Everybody Matters.”
The conviction that people matter is the distinguishing characteristic of most truly great leaders and “people matter” should be the mantra for all aspiring leaders. Perhaps that is what is wrong with modern leaders. They focus on measurements, with money as the key measure, and not on people.