Rethinking how we manage our workforce
You are much more likely to be successful in your transformation if you can inspire people to take part in it. However, how most companies manage their workforce is simply perplexing: the main philosophy seems to be one of doing the least amount possible simply to prevent employees from jumping ship. Companies create incredibly complicated systems to decide who gets 2% or 3% annual merit increases and do little to address the dismal leadership skills of several of their leaders.
Is it any surprise then when we hear that Gallup, in its 2022 State Of The Global Workplace report, concluded that 79% of the world's employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, with productivity losses totalling over $7 trillion?
Executives complain when employees behave in an entitled way, and yet they do the same when expecting employees to give everything they can for a job that no one really cares about. Employees in most places feel like a commodity, a number, a cog in a machine with no hope for improvement. Suddenly, business leaders have been reacting to “quiet quitting” as if it was something new or outrageous. Give me a break!
Putting all the legalese aside, an employment is a contract in which both sides take on responsibilities. Employees are expected to give 100% commitment in fulfilling their jobs to make the company successful, show respect towards their colleagues, and behave with the utmost integrity. And what about the company’s responsibilities?
Before they demand employees to fulfill their side of the bargain, companies should be held accountable for consistently demonstrating why people should care about what they do, offering a safe and respectful work environment, rewarding performance accordingly, and creating growth opportunities.
Make employees care
Beyond making money, why is the world a better place because of your company? If you can’t answer this question in a compelling, no bs way, with proof points to demonstrate it, you don’t have a good purpose.
While past generations appreciated a bigger purpose, it wasn't necessary to keep them content in their roles. This trend has changed with Millennials and Gen-z, who place extreme value on purpose and are much more motivated to quit without it. If you can’t tell them why they should care about what you do, why should they bother?
The literature on finding purpose is as rich and varied as you can imagine, but if you need help, start with Simon Sinek. His golden circle methodology is simple and clear, and he has a lot of resources you can leverage right away to get started on your journey to finding your company’s purpose. In a nutshell, Simon believes that every company needs a “why”, a “how”, and a “what”. Your “why” is the reason your organization exists. Your “how” is what makes your organization special and sets you apart from your competition. And your “what” includes the products and the services you sell.
Offer a safe and respectful environment
Under no circumstance you should allow any leader in your company to bully employees. By accepting toxic leaders in your organization, even (and especially) if they are top performers, you are enabling the development of a negative culture that will spread through the ranks. Those people destroy the morale of any team and have a devastating impact on the lives of their subordinates.
Remember: you are responsible for setting the culture of the company and modeling the behaviors you want your leaders to follow, demanding them to do the same. Only in an environment where employees feel safe and respected at all times can they be productive and develop enough connection with your purpose to want to go the extra mile.
Ridding your organization of toxic behavior is fantastic. But you can do even better if you manage to engage your employees. How? With better leaders who will fully support your workforce. Do everything in your power to help your leaders develop and your organization will thrive.
Reward performance accordingly
Time and time again I’ve witnessed awesome employees who happened to be less vocal about their contributions and less demanding about their salaries be underpaid when compared to their peers or even to the market. Some companies will go even further and only pay the lowest possible salary even for people doing a great job, all while demanding an unrealistic level of commitment from those same employees.
People should be compensated according to their contributions and value-added, not based on years of service nor how much that person needs to stay put. To figure out how much you should be paying an employee, ask yourself: “How much would I have to pay to hire someone good from the market to do that exact job?” Anything else is just inviting the wrong behaviors into your company and ensuring an unfair approach to comp. Whether you like it or not, employees do talk about comp amongst themselves, so don’t expect your approach to be kept a secret.
Create growth opportunities
Alas, nothing is more demotivating to top performers than not having the opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills. You can’t say you are taking good care of your employees if you are not thinking about their career progression.
Get to know your employees, their motivations and desires. Consider upward and lateral moves that will help them develop, such as transformation efforts, side projects, and outside training as part of their developmental journey. Why would you go through the trouble of training someone to become great at what they do to simply let that person go because you haven’t created the right environment for them to flourish?
Managing your workforce is not rocket science, but it does require doing things differently. We are living through one of the most obvious crises of our times: the lack of inspiring leadership in business (and honestly, society overall). The dismal engagement numbers speak for themselves and should push any leader to fix things right away.
You should ask yourself and your executive team why that is the case. Search your soul for the answers and commit to doing something about it. We are the ones leading at this moment, the ones modeling the behaviors the next generation will learn. So let's help create the world we want for our children, starting now.