It is the seemingly unexplainable conundrum: Business leaders want “stimulating innovation and creativity and enabling entrepreneurship.” Yet, employees believe that their “confidence in leaders and managers is disturbingly low—particularly in terms of the interpersonal aspects of their respective roles.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve rarely seen any group of people hitting innovation and creativity out of the park when they don’t have confidence in their management team. In fact, 40% of the workforce would start looking for a new job after their summer vacations, taking some time to recover from the corporate onslaught before heading out to what would hopefully be greener pastures.
No matter how a particular company is run, business management has become purely transactional when it comes to their employees. Employees are considered the largest cost in the business (which is true) and therefore something to be cut and reduced so as to lower cost. They are not the largest investment the business has, you understand, waiting and ready to produce a great return on the investment. No, they are not human capital; instead, they are the largest cost and need slashing to the lowest level possible.
And a great way to eliminate a large chunk of costs is to eliminate the cost: layoffs, outsourcing, and contracting have ravaged the employee side all in the name of cost-cutting. Employees understandably look at managers wielding cost-cutting knives with apprehension; the wolf guarding the chickens inside the coop. Or, in Wisconsin terms, management is the Chicken when it comes to breakfast: they participate. Employees, on the other hand, are the Pigs: when it comes to breakfast, they commit.
Employees, to stay employable, need to produce results, of course. They need to show they can help the company achieve its goals. I don’t think that can be disputed because they are being paid something for the contribution.
Companies need to produce results as well or they won’t survive the competitive marketplace. And for the loftiest management-employee work, employee engagement needs to take place. The management and employees have a bright line showing how what the employee does effects specific people and those people are helped by what the employee does.
Engagement doesn’t come from the corporate speak “process engineering” improvements or “productivity enhancements” or spell-binding “deep dives” into corporate culture. No, it comes from doing work that the employee can clearly see helping another person and gaining satisfaction from the work. Rare, these days.
Pundits, including this one, will continue to advocate the production of results for companies; it is how we earn our living. Execution, though, is clearly not loyalty. Not loyalty to a particular manager, division, product or company. No, the execution is to maintain our employability.
Rather than continually dealing with poor management or a company that could go bankrupt or lay us off in a New York Minute, we produce to give ourselves a better corporate experience than the fear-producing environment of management saying how much they value employees while they devalue everything an employee does to reduce costs and increase productivity.
Executing on business goals, then, should and will continue. But, as my friend Liz Strauss said on one of her great 140 character commentaries:
“Execution is expected. Loyalty is a relationship.”
I want the relationship. Want to join me?