Photocredit: Shutter-stockAs every business owner will attest to, a company is only as good as its people. Every business’s ability to serve to its clients and customers hinges on its workforce. Not surprisingly, today’s evolving workplace is redefining organisational success, moving away from using such traditional metrics as financial performance and the quality of products or services to including an organisation’s relationship with a broader social ecosystem of customers, stakeholders, communities, and employees. This shift is moving more and more organisations to lean away from a conventional business model towards one of social enterprise, where companies invest in their ecosystem and leverage these relationships and their reputations to create sustainable revenue growth. Such organisations value people over process and tools and pay special attention to the changing nature of today’s workforce. The benefits of this approach can be seen in the increased productivity, strengthened employee loyalty, and reduction in conflict that multinationals like Google, Hilton, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals enjoy.
Despite these proven successes, many businesses continue to implement one-size-fits-all legacy models that no longer work, choosing to focus on matching skills to jobs while neglecting important employer-employee dynamics. Organisational success, however, starts from within: it begins with how an organisation attracts, retains, and engages its employees and it directly affects the organisation’s ability to build trust, credibility, and consistency with its customers and stakeholders. Consequently, in order to develop positive relationships with workers, organisations must effectively motivate them by developing a culture built on 3 priorities.
The modern workforce is significantly different from its predecessors. The goal of baby boomer workers was the security of tenure, which granted them status and financial benefits. Management was top-down and autocratic, and the management-employee relationship saw workers managed by the eventualities of time and the corporate system. Active employee management and engagement was not required. Millennial employees, however, are more likely to be short-term and tend to value organisation culture over tenure. With their numbers projected to eclipse those of baby boomers and Gen Xers combined in 2020, organisations have begun to revamp their approaches to workforce management. Management/leadership must now be bottom-up and employ an agile model of human resources.
An agile HR model develops programmes and structures that both propel organisational productivity and align employees with the organisation. Finding the right cultural fit at the point of employment is therefore an important first step. In addition to matching technical and soft skills to jobs and ensuring that there is a mutual understanding of expectations on both sides, recruitment must also ensure the candidate’s cultural fit and include a culture-oriented on-boarding process that quickly grounds the candidate.
After recruitment, employers must ensure that employees have a strong sense of belonging because they want to feel engaged. Top-down autocratic leadership allows leaders to establish clear goals and expectations and a clear vision for the organisation, but it also leaves today’s employees feeling like cogs in a machine rather than part of a system. By delegating responsibilities effectively and allowing workers to prove their competence and ability to lead assignments or projects, managers can reinforce employee ownership and show workers their pivotal roles in achieving business growth. Moreover, delegation allows both managers and employees to acknowledge and understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to build better teams.
Additionally, providing team bonding activities, such as recreational and social events, will reinforce lessons learnt, foster camaraderie, and improve employee retention rates.
An Enabling Environment
Every organisation can create an environment in which workers feel empowered through transparency and systems of engagement, both of which are key to the agile HR model and social enterprise. Successful organisations build strong, positive, and genuine relationships with their employees by improving communication and access to management.
A 2015 Gallup poll of US workers found that engagement was highest among employees who had some form of daily communication with their managers, whether in-person, by phone, or electronically. Workers today tend to be increasingly more concerned about their treatment by management and the perception of supervisor fairness. Maintaining an open-door policy/meeting with employees regularly, and encouraging questions and creative thinking will therefore increase employee productivity
Finally, managers must develop emotional intelligence when dealing with employees and ensure that they are sensitive to life situations and work stressors. Most importantly, employers must actively assist their employees in maintaining a healthy work-life balance and provide personal support where possible. In 2007, Google sparked a change in how companies approach personal support when it extended its paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks and reduced the rate at which new mothers left the company by 50%. Today, US organisations typically grant anywhere from 15 to 20 weeks of paid parental leave and even Facebook now provides a baby stipend to offset the cost of a new baby.
Effective change is seldom top-down. It usually radiates out the centre of the organisation, which is its workforce and the heart of social enterprise. By setting organisation goals that prioritise the employee and by embracing the social enterprise model, organisations can invest in their workforce and build strong employer-employee relations to become more productive—and more profitable.
Because a happy workforce is a productive workforce.