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It started before the “Great Recession” but that period of economic history has seen it proliferate even more. Certainly reports suggest the trend of hiring contract workers is growing. Yet it is something you need to think about very carefully.
Like most people I have been appalled by the recent report on child sex abuse in Rotherham where, for those that may not be aware of it, over 1400 mostly children, some as young as 11, had been sexually abused over a 16 year period. Shocking though that figure is for a single town, what I find even more shocking are the circumstances that enabled this to take place. What were those in authority doing?
It seems there were 3 prevalent attitudes that enabled things to develop on the scale they did:-
It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.
This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.
As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?
Thus it was that 5:30 a.m. the next morning saw me sitting on my computer bag trying to fit in all my newly acquired clothes, before squeezing in my laptop.
Amazingly I managed, and was able to wander down to reception to check out wheeling only my computer bag and carrying a shopping bag with the now much-hated new shoes. These I was delighted to hand over to the even more delighted bellboy, who I had previously established wore the same size and who had even offered to go out and buy a new pair for me! Then, feeling even more denuded than when I arrived, I took a taxi to the airport.
Fortunately no-one queried my slightly awkward, bulging hand luggage (I would not have been liable for my actions if they had!) and I had an uneventful flight to Paris. With a little time before catching my connecting flight, I stopped at the Air France Customer Service Desk to once again ask about my missing luggage. After all, as my suitcase must have made the initial flight but hadn’t made it to Tunis, Paris seemed the most likely place to find it. Based on my poor customer experience to date I thought that I should personally make every effort while there, and envisaged repeating what we had done in Tunis.
Once again, however, things did not work out as I hoped.
Unfortunately over the next couple of days things got worse.
At the end of Day 2 there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I had not expected such poor customer service and this was bad news, made worse by the fact that I had packed my proven, comfortable shoes in my suitcase. This had given me a problem.
A common theme in articles I have been reading this week is employer brand
and the creation of places where people want to work. These were perhaps best
represented by this article in HR Magazine. Yet I cannot help wonder why it all
appears so mystical and mysterious. Surely it is obvious?
After all, if we only have one life, it seems self-evident that we should
all want to make the most of it. And work is large part of life. Thus you don’t
need some academic writing in Harvard Business Review to tell you that, “People
want to do good work”, “in an organisation that makes a difference” and “in a
place that magnifies their strengths.” For anyone with an ounce of humanity
that should be a no-brainer!
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
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.
Are people’s capabilities diminishing? Our own observations would suggest
otherwise. Likewise science would probably point to the opposite. So why has
talk of the “War for Talent” come to the fore over the past 15 years? How can
there be a shortage of talent in a world that has more people than ever before?
Something has to be wrong somewhere.
The root of the problem lies in the implicit distinction between talent and
people. You can’t actually separate the two. Think of it like this: if your car
runs out of fuel the only way you can get it restarted is to refuel. So why do
we view 'talent' differently? If you have a shortage of talent the only way you
can alleviate that lack is to develop new talent. I am sure you will agree that
seems pretty obvious. Yet many people still don’t ‘get it.’ Unfortunately
management seem to top the list. They still seem to remain adamant that it is something
you go out and buy.
you ever give collaboration any conscious thought? I hope so, because it is integral
to virtually everything you do, and certainly a key aspect of any leadership
role. After all, collaboration literally means “working together” and no
organisation can exist unless people work together. So you could define management as “the art or science of enabling people to collaborate more
this definition of management may be more powerful and profound than you
realise, for it makes people paramount: it makes them the centre and the
circumference of management and reinforces the fact that, as a leader, managing
people is the most important aspect of your job. It is powerful because it
exposes something you possibly never consciously recognise: that your people
are your brand! Your
This simple equation encapsulates the essence of
employee engagement. Doesn't it? After all isn’t that what you as a manager or business
leader want? You want your employees to have objectives aligned with those of the organisation. And you want them to realise the success of the business and its
survival depends on them achieving their objectives. Don't you?
This may possibly even be the biggest challenge you face. Unfortunately,
trying to create this alignment all too often leads you down the track of thinking
that you are responsible for motivating your people in order to create that
effect. This is a track that can be a dead-end.
From the time of Aesop we have traditionally recognised two fundamental
forms of motivation – the carrot and the stick. Even now these underpin all
marketing efforts, only in modern parlance they are called ‘toward motivation’
and ‘away motivation’ respectively.
Yet there is a 3rd motivational force that is not widely enough
recognised or acknowledged.
In my book “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” I used this diagram to
depict it. This looks at motivation from the perspective of the above equation.
So instead of looking from an away or toward perspective it looks at it from
the individual and organisational perspective. Thus you have individuals
looking to fulfil needs and wants, while you have the organisation looking to stimulate
such desires through traditional carrot and stick methods.
However, individuals actually have a level that transcends needs and wants. For
example think of a marathon runner. What makes them persist in heading out to
train in all weathers and at all times of the day or night? There may be any
number of terms for that, but I have called it devotion. (In the context of the
individual and their relationship to the organisation, you may call it engagement.)
Whatever it is it is both personal and innate to the individual.
This makes it very difficult for the organisation to try to address. What
can you do to create devotion to the organisation? You have to find something
that reaches the individual at an intrinsic rather than an extrinsic level.
That is why I am so excited by the research undertaken by social scientists
and psychologists and championed by Daniel Pink. In highlighting autonomy,
mastery and purpose as the primary, universal intrinsic motivators this work
underscores precisely the points I was making in "Lean Organisations Need FAT People."
Not only does my model of employee ownership embed the equation: Individual
Objectives = Organisational Objectives through a sense of common purpose and
shared values, but it also lays a solid foundation for greater autonomy and
If you are serious about business success you have to
build employee engagement and this offers you the perfect recipe. It is motivation in 3D!