Why do we treat our people this way?
And yet, if only senior management realised, that if they treated their staff with any kind of care and humanity, their bottom line could grow exponentially. But first they have to treat their staff as humans. People need a break every now and again.
I once asked the general manager of a computer company what growth he was aiming for over the next 12 months – his reply – 3-5%. When I asked if he would like 30% growth, he almost fell off his chair. His reply was distinctly patronising – ‘Ann, in case you hadn’t noticed, computer companies don’t get that kind of growth any more.’ My reply – ‘that’s not what I asked you – I asked you if you would like 30%?’
I went on to explain, that if we aimed for 30% and only achieved 15%, wasn’t that infinitely better than aiming for 3-5% and getting it? However, I also explained that he wouldn’t get 30% by constantly tightening the screws and demanding more and more and more from his staff.
I have spent 15 years working with organisations, encouraging managers and employees to leave behind work methods I believe are leftover from the Industrial Revolution. I show managers how to delegate 30% of their day to employees so they (the managers) can work ON the business not IN it, and I show employees the necessity of starting to think and act like an owner not a dependant. To think every single day, ‘How can I do my job better today than I did it yesterday?’ An organisation will not get this kind of loyalty if they treat their people like machines. Even machines need oiling occasionally.
I believe everyone within an organisation is a stakeholder, not just the shareholders. In fact I believe if an organisation actually gave their employees a small parcel of shares, they would be amazed at the loyalty and involvement and results they would get from their staff.
It is a cliché I know, but in this world of look-alike products and services, the ONLY competitive advantage any organisation has is the people it employs. Their loyalty, passion, energy, initiative, drive,creativity and willingness to go the extra mile when times are tough, could be the difference between survival and extinction.
Business planning is done the way it has always been done - a group of senior managers (mostly with a financial background) putting their heads together to create a dry and uninspiring business plan – yes a business needs a business plan, but wouldn’t it be more exciting if they:
- Didn't just focus on the short to medium term?
- Involved their staff in looking at where THEY wanted the company to be in 2 years, 5 years and 10 years?
- Asked for ideas and input from every single member of the organisation, including cleaning staff?
- Had regular focus groups of staff to discuss what competitors were doing and what ideas came from that which could be used or adapted?
- Held regular customer forums to involve them in ideas for the future
- Involved suppliers occasionally to see what ideas they were working on in teir business that could have a lfow on effect into yours?
One of the most powerful business books any manager or owner can read is Maverick by Ricardo Semlar.
By setting up totally self-managed teams, Semlar (Maverick) improved productivity in his organisation from $10,200 per employee to $96,000 per employee over a period of 13 years. When he first floated the concept of employees not only managing themselves, but also making day-to-day business decisions, he was ridiculed. Yet he had the last laugh, because by empowering his people and giving them a share in the profits (and the losses), he watched his bottom line double/treble and quadruple.
Ricardo Semlar now shows up for work 2/3 times a year, the rest of his time is spent playing golf, speaking to large organisations for a huge fee, and writing books and articles about his business.
He also has a waiting list of people who want to work for his company.
Was it easy? No. Did they have set-backs along the way? Of course they did. But he never lost sight of the fact, that working in a hierarchical fashion, where he made all the decisions and everyone else just followed orders, required him to be physically present every day of the week, and that is not how he wanted to live his life.
Ah..I hear you say – but he was the owner of the company. If I as a manager only came to work three or four times a year, I would be fired. Of course you would, I am not suggesting that as a manager you only show up three or four times a year – what I am suggesting, is that you look at the concept that Semlar used – handing over as much decision making to the front line as he possibly could. You can do that.
So where do you start?
You start by making the decision to get out of hierarchy. As managers, what would you rather be doing instead of managing people? Wouldn’t you rather spend one day a week doing more productive things? Do you really enjoy watching other people work (or not work as the case may be)? As a manager, once you have decided what you would rather be doing, think about what you are prepared to give up in order to have that day a week. Usually managers will profess to hating running meetings, or scheduling rosters, or stock-taking, or dealing with performance issues.
Employees can run meetings, and schedule rosters, and do stock-take and deal with performance issues. Employees can do anything, if they are trained in the task, coached while they are learning and then trusted to get on and do it.
The interesting thing is that if we turned our organisations on their head and seriously involved employees, we may actually need less managers. And possibly that is the reason we keep doing what we have always done and getting our 3-5% growth!
Perhaps managers keep coming up with things for their staff to do to justify THEIR positions.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
A manager has four tasks to complete:
- To increase profits and productivity
- To decrease costs
- To grow people
- To do themselves out of a job every 3-5 years.
So maybe bottom line thinking is actually a form of self-preservation for senior management and an easy way of NOT having to deal with staff in any way other than giving out more and more orders and causing more and more change. Whether it is needed or not.
Food for thought.