How well an organization’s business processes work is a major factor in determining how well it produces results. Experience tells us that the effectiveness of these processes will directly influence an organization’s results. That’s why I am a major supporter of continuous improvement of business processes. We also know that motivated, committed and skilled people are even more valuable because they can often make things work despite less than perfect systems.
I have come to understand more than ever that the answer to higher productivity lies in a larger investment in creating committed people. This idea is not new, but it is difficult to put it in place when in the environment of 24/7 competition, an uncertain economy, and heavier workloads. Let’s also not forget that the new visibility of management evildoing, has created more than a few skeptics. Skeptics are less likely to feel fully committed.
So, how do leaders and employees make this investment? What investments need to be made? What is the role of leaders? What is the role of employees? The answers to these questions are not always simple.
The optimum solution combines proven principles with a non-traditional approach. The principles have been proven during years of experience in creating high performance organizations. The non-traditional approach is simply to trust these principles without first requiring proof from the usual business metrics.
Six Principles for a committed workplace:
- Establish the philosophy that personal development means business. Put in place an active program to develop each employee’s skills related to their job. One benefit goes to the employee and the other benefit is returned to the business in the form of greater contribution by the employee. This investment should include developing skills such as creativity, leadership, communications, decision making and management, as well as technical skills.
- Become A Change Organization – Change is related to innovation and innovation is all about improving results. An innovative culture and mindset is one that encourages new ideas, positive attitudes and learning. It can create a more dynamic environment that stimulates growth. Organizations that learn to embrace change as a way of life create new capability to respond positively to business challenges. Diversity of thought, background and culture is a catalyst.
- Create ownership and involvement by the total organization. People perform better when they feel like they are an important to the success of the organization. This is one of the core practices in Total Quality. A powerful way to do this is to make sure that the entire organization has an opportunity to understand the vision, the state of the business and how well the company is living up to its goals. When employees are encouraged to participate in an organized way to design solutions to business problems, it creates a sense of ownership. Finally, having a way for employees to participate in the financial growth of the company creates even stronger incentives.
- Learn to balance personal and work life. In a recent survey, balancing the demands of personal and work lives was the number one issue, ahead of job security and salary. This is more than just a time issue. The mental, physical, social, family, financial/career, and spiritual elements of an individual’s life will affect productivity on the job. Conversely, an issue at work can affect the personal side. Skills in this can be developed. The organization needs to promote the development of holistic personal and business goals. An individual’s personal goals are not for sharing with others unless they want to do so. It is more important that this work is being done and that it shows up in job performance. Businesses also need the benefit of employees who have an adequate amount of time away from the job to reenergize their personal power supplies. Impossible to achieve in a 24/7 world? Maybe not – how about insisting that employees get away? How about sharing organizational learnings on how to plan for away time so that there isn’t an unmanageable backlog of work when they return? The idea would be that there are not extended periods of time when personal and work life is out of balance. The business gains because employees are more rested and focused and the
- Establish a set of higher values and live by them. If the company’s leaders behave consistently with a more lofty purpose than just profits, it can develop a deep sense of pride. When the organization is known as a contributor to the community, it begins to take on a dimension of humanness that most people can readily relate to. And, if the company has an outstanding reputation of treating other businesses ethically, it attracts more customers. If leadership’s actions do not match their words, it will be a source of mistrust.
- Foster Attitudes that serve the business and the individual. Attitudes are habits of thought that influence behavior. Helping people to Understand the linkage between attitudes about one’s self, place of work, and results are often difficult to exactly substantiate These do not have to be serious activities – in fact making it fun, an adventure that everyone is involved in and counted on
Before these principles can be applied effectively, there two requirements: first, do not think about investment in its traditional context – money. Not all of these factors require money but many require a process of sharing important learnings and skills across the organization. Think about it as a focus of people’s time, attention, and sometimes, money. Secondly, if the organization does not have a clear vision, a sound strategic plan and goals, it must create them. If these are not in place, the foundation is missing some blocks and will not support the kind of environment that you are trying to build.
I have tried unsuccessfully to directly and numerically correlate these principles to traditional measures like ROI, and the truth is that it is not possible, there are simply too many variables involved to do it accurately. There is plenty of evidence though from organizations that begin to operate more effectively when attention is paid to these principles. I have also found that you simply have to trust them.