We hear lots of commentary from executives about the challenges of the workforce, and the people that work in their organizations. The war for talent, the resource squeeze, rapid turnover, staff loyalty are all terms we hear frequently. We also hear about the need for greater staff engagement. That is, how can employees be more involved emotionally with the business and with greater passion and enthusiasm.
But are we missing something in this discussion? Indeed, there is a very simple question that is worth posing, namely how exciting is your organization?
Some will say that organizations are not meant to be exciting, and on one level that may be a fair point. But it is also missing the bigger picture as to why people stay with an organization or move elsewhere. It also cuts to the issue of the motivation of people even if they do remain with an organization. Could they be “present” in person but not necessarily “here” in commitment and motivation?
Much has been written about how employees are not motivated purely by money. Exit interviews that I have conducted in my corporate life certainly attest to that, although in many cases the money factor is a very strong but not the determining factor.
What is often missing is the excitement or spark in the organization that makes people think more positively about their work environment. If they think more positively about their work (and where they work), it can be a win-win for the people and for the organization overall. In other words, they see the work place not only as a means to earn a living, but rather as a place that provides a higher level of engagement and fulfilment.
As an example, a graduate was working with a prominent global resources business. This organization was engaged in some of the world’s most interesting and exciting resource development projects. Yet the organization provided a somewhat stifling work environment for the graduate – very intense, highly bureaucratic, and deadly serious in its day-to-day conduct of business. Of course, there are good reasons for this as the organization is heavily driven by the culture of safety. This was a key success factor for the business. But for this graduate, the work environment had totally overpowered the organisation’s exciting business activities thus causing the graduate to re-think committing to the organization longer term.
Measuring the level of excitement of an organization is not a typical performance measure, but there are three questions that can provide an effective proxy, namely:
1. What does the organization celebrate with individuals?
2. What does the organization measure for individuals?
3. What does the organization value in individual people?
Does the organization celebrate a broader set of achievements beyond the periodic financial and technical results for an individual? For instance, celebrating a new and innovative process initiated by an employee could show that the organization is not just committed to delivering very important but somewhat narrow financial results, but is also focused on delivering outcomes on a wider front.
Are the performance measures for individuals in the business just narrow financial measures or is there a broader spectrum including people management, collaboration and so on? The trick here is to ensure that the non-financial measures are significant in profile and importance, and not just mere tokens. For instance, a realistic form of peer assessment would show that the organization is committed to a more collaborative and therefore more exciting environment.
What does the organization really value in its employees? How far beyond the quantitative financial measures does this extend? Employees who worked beyond the call of duty on a major deadline despite disruption to personal commitments would normally be thrilled to receive a public acknowledgement of that effort. Again, it is not the money or the reward, but rather the fact that the organisation is effectively saying it really values what the employees have done.
The excitement factor in an organization does not have to mean some of the glitzy features, such as balloons in the lobby or a big Christmas Party. It is about how the organization gives its employees that little bit extra for them to say “this place is good to work for”.
Excitement in organizations has often been attributed to the technology type businesses such as Google. But over the years, many different industries have demonstrated examples of how this can work, such as some airlines, media, and some aspects of retail. There is great potential in this space for what can be done. Writer Robert Conklin was right when he said, “Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present”.