Thursday, 4 August 2011

Business Stability - Find out grass-root thinking!

I read with great interest this week an article in HR Magazine , which reviews the feedback from a survey of almost 4,000 employees in larger companies in 14 countries, including the US, UK, Germany and China. The report examines employee attitudes to their jobs and employers, in areas such as loyalty, job satisfaction, workplace pride, training opportunities and salary perceptions. Employers spend significant time and money in recruiting and training employees, and in retaining experienced staff - yet the survey shows they need to work harder to understand these individuals' career expectations.

 Respondents cited a lack of opportunities to use their skills as reasons not to commit long-term to an employer, also four out of five employees felt that their skills were not fully utilised, while almost half reported that their performance appraisal process was of little or no value. Not a very glowing review in relation to the millions invested trying to engage employees and retain them.

Although this article is talking about employee migration within 5-years, I took the view that there is a bigger message and it is a message that concurs with my own view, in that organisations - big and small - need to accept engagement and get to know what is really going on at grass-roots in terms of employee personal workplace perspective. My own research shows that organisations make the mistake of assuming that existing engagement and communication mechanisms and strategies are delivering correct feedback. The climate all organisations are operating within these days is demanding, fickle and fast moving. I find that employees are actually a reflection of this world, in that they think the same way as customers/clients - they want certain things from work, they build "views" of life based upon their workplace experience and above all, it is hard to change these views. It is my experience that like customers/clients, unless you give them chance to really tell you what they think/feel, you will never know and will suffer from this ignorance!

I have moved within many organisations small and large, where they operate under the assumption that traditional generic motivational practices will maintain employee harmony and they rely upon line management to handle the face to face aspect. Wherever I go, I always ask the same question of all supervisors, managers, directors that I meet - "How often have you noticed that what people say and what they actually do are different?" The answer I get is often guarded or text-book and often I elicit a mixture dis-belief and acceptance when I tell them that in my experience it is usually because they haven’t had their needs fully understood, and haven’t been engaged with at the right level with regards to their internal values and beliefs while at work.

Any employee (at any level) goes to work for a reason, once there they operate according to their own built-up internal "filters" (filters are developed based upon experiences, values, fears, anxieties, etc) and it is these filters that actually determine how effective employees feel; how valued am I, how secure do I feel, how motivated do I feel, etc. To ensure I get people to "visualise" and "feel" what I mean, I always encourage people to think back to their first day at their present employer. Once they do this, we can really discuss the above statements about employee filters in the context of a person being back when they were new to the organisation, with no prior history of events, feelings, relationships, politics. We can honestly discuss what it was that determined how they feel today, what filters are now in place that make them think as they do - compared to before. Only then, having examined it personally, can the wider employee persepctive be looked at. With all the barriers and pretence removed, I get to talk about the impact the wider employees actually have on their surroundings and the organisation driven from how they too might feel, their expectations and what may have happened to them so as to create current behaviour and view points (individually of course). For many, this kind of insight - at grass-roots - is a revelation and does change future; decisions, thinking and one-to-one interactions. Further more, work can begin to elicit information from employees and begin to model behaviour, in order to work to change it - as a team.

For business leaders I meet, who rely day-by-day on down-the-line operational results, being in tune with the reality on the ground is something that can become a major advantage in terms of their strategy, policies, communications, etc.  How many "back to the shop floor" type documentaries have evolved due to the elation felt by organisations who are suddenly "enlightened" to know what is really going on in the minds of employees? I applaud this corporate interest and continue to preach that more behaviour insight across a wider geography is now needed so as to address people issues, migration and operational performance. My advice to anyone reading this is and trying to determine a view, is firstly:
  • Think back to when you started your current employment. Remember how you felt, what you saw initially and what your hopes were (see it in your mind's eye and feel it in your gut).
  • Think through the changes in how you felt then, compared to today - what has changed, what made it change?
  • Ask yourself honestly, does this before and after analysis now impact you in terms of how you work, could work, should work?
People dynamics (good and bad) significantly impact upon organisations. As the HR Magazine article highlights, to fail in grasping the true feelings and insight from employees (at all levels) means that there is a constant under-current and mis-match of expectation on both sides. The loser - ultimately - is the organisation through operational performance, continuity, results, service and even the culture.

Being the first Blog release for Baninel, it is right for me to explain that the whole purpose of producing Blogs is to open-up a line of thinking and discussion, in terms of what drives behaviour and the outcomes of behaviour on organisations and other people. This actually does applies to all walks of life and impacts upon us all each day. Before doing what I do today, I used to get frustrated and angry with what was going on around me and the "inconsistency" of people which seemed to always impacted back on myself. Back then I failed to understand why situations and behaviour ocurred around me and worried endlessly that things just plodded along "hopefully" towards targets, goals, etc in the hands of people around me. Now I enjoy a greater clarity of understanding behaviour and people dynamics, where I am better able to interpret goings on and "see through" the words and actions people produce. My aim now is to share this insight and help people explore it themselves and see the results.

Thank you for reading my words, feel free to respond - I am not precious and everyone has a view that should be shared. If you like this blog article, please subscribe and/or follow the links for more like it.

Until next week...... 

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