Have you ever wondered whatever happened to the days when employees worked for a company for life, where employers considered their people the company's most valuable asset, and a strong bond of loyalty existed between employers and employees?
With one-employer careers most likely gone forever, organizations striving to compete and thrive in a highly competative, global economy need all the members of their crew in the boat feeling valued and rowing in the same direction.
During my parent's generation, people worked for a company for the long haul. Employees were like an extended part of a family and worked hard to meet employers' needs. Job security and a regular paycheck sustained American families for decades.
Things changed, however, when the 1980s came to an end. The belief in people as a company's most valuable asset eroded. International competition captured American market share, leaving companies focused on maximizing profits in order to compete. With labor costs topping the list of the company's largest expenses, employees quickly became overhead. Layoffs spread throughout the ranks, and the American worker became expendable. People with 25 and 30 years' tenure found themselves replaced when their employers brought in two people for the price of one to reduce overhead and increase profits.
Thus, we entered the era of short-term decision making, loss of institutional memory, reduced employee development, a broken bond of loyalty, and ramped turnover. The questions became, "Why would you train and develop people during these times of instability since they may leave or go to work for someone else?"
When you look at your workforce today, what do you see? Employees actively engaged in their job and the success of the organization? People in management positions effectively leading their people and delivering sustainable results? Turnover kept to a minimum? The organization leading your industry? If so, congratulations. You need to consider yourself and your organization fortunate.
If you look at the reality of what's happening in the workplace today, Gallup, having tracked employee engagement for 30 years, reports less than one-third of employees engaged at work, more than half not engaged in their jobs, and nearly one-fifth of employees actively disengaged. That's a long way from the optimum, with people feeling valued, in the boat rowing in the same direction and competing to secure the future.
Now consider Blanchard Co.'s findings where more than three-fourths of managers, leaders, and executives say they fail to provide feedback, involve others in the process, use an appropriate leadership style to fit the person or situation, and set clear goals and objectives. Nearly 60 percent fail to train and develop their people. Many organizations have a void of leadership and a workforce not engaged to the level needed to compete, pull ahead of the competition, cross the finish line, and win the race.
In my consulting practice, I've encountered many good people left to sink or swim in the deep end of the leadership pool. They need to be setting the direction and tone, tapping into their most valuable asset, their people, by helping them find new ways to approach business and deliver consistent results. Unfortunately, they find themselves ill-equipped to function effectively in their leadership roles.
Let's look at some ways you can position your organization to compete and win the race:
- Embrace people as your most valuable asset. With the challenges organizations face, opportunity and promise still abound. Try approaching business the way top performing organizations do. Fully recognize your people as your most valuable asset. Realize your best performing employees will come from the ranks of the most engaged, and understand that employee engagement drives business outcomes. It's important to keep in mind that it's through your employees that customer loyalty is built. Also, it's through them that products and services get delivered, and profits and growth are achieved.
- Help leaders lead. Our fast-paced business environment demands significantly more leadership today than in past years. People in management positions play a vital role in engaging people and getting results. You need to set the pace and tone, communicate expectations, get people actively involved in running the day-to-day business, and provide regular coaching and feedback so your employees can keep the momentum going and make needed course corrections.
- Develop your people to be the best they can be. Always remember, people want to do a good job. They want to participate in a winning organization, where they know they can make a difference, have influence over their future, and feel appreciated for their contributions. Employees thrive on performing meaningful work and knowing how what they do contributes to the success of the organization.
- Embrace learning and growth. Your employees need to know you value them as much as you do any customer. One way to show them is to invest in their professional development. When you ensure they have the skills and information they need to perform well in their job, they know you care. When you take the time to reinforce what they've learned in training, they know you support their success. When you teach them everything you know and strive to help them become the best they can be, they know you value them and their contributions.
It's time for organizations to recognize that valuing employees must come full circle. Their people are their most valuable asset in securing the future. Just imagine what your organization could accomplish with everyone in the boat actively rowing in the same direction. Employees who feel valued gladly will compete in the race, overtake the competition, cross the finish line first, and end up on the medal stand.
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