by Gene G. Wright
We now live in a time of exponential change and increasing uncertainty in the world of work. The “new normal” is often expressed in terms of jobless growth, asset de-risking and the relentless pursuit of increasing competitiveness.
The necessity for innovation in the workplace has long been recognized as a critical success factor for global companies like Apple, General Electric and Wal-Mart. However, it is no less important to small businesses where the loss of a single employee may be devastating to its success. Today, in the best and most profitable organizations large and small, greater wealth is being derived directly from people performance versus capital equipment investment. In these organizations, unleashing the potential of people is seen as essential for the organization to thrive. Their employees are regarded as “talent” versus “labor” and seen as investment versus an expense. And like an investment, they’re being sought after to provide a return on investment (ROI). Employees are being more precisely targeted and selected for work roles to predictably and consistently provide maximum performance for their employers.
In spite of the critical need for innovation in the workplace, many companies and their employees remain deluded about the nature of work in this new age. Both parties continually experience unnecessary risk, loss, failure and surprises due to their respective reliance upon assumptions, misunderstandings or information voids. Managers and staff at every level are interacting daily without the knowledge necessary to unleash the greater potential hidden within their relationships. Incredibly, in 2011, some still only use performance reviews, engagement surveys, and assessments that are little more than rear view mirrors of past performance and do little to address real workplace needs and desires of either party. In sum, yesterday’s work mentality is inadequate for today’s workforce realities.
The reality of today’s work relationships is one of great complexity, percolating from differences, contexts, variables and change between employer and employee. Because of the many “moving parts” there are significant benefits for both in the workplace if they can develop a common map for understanding and assembling work role relationships. A well designed work role serves to improve everyone’s thought, design, communications and choices. This can also provide a means for continuous improvements and knowledge management across time.
The value of predictive performance that may be gleaned from such a process could enable sustainable competitive advantage for businesses large and small if managers and employees can begin to realize, reconcile and reach agreement with their respective work, workplace and career goals. This becomes even more true related to respective specific needs and what each sees as value or benefit related to work. Both find it is easier to produce expectations than to extend attentive empathy and understanding of the other. Being accurately responsive to the other parties needs is advantageous and reliably provides the powerful leverage required to best gain what they seek.
The critical factors that define, influence and impact performance, relationships and attraction between workers and organizations are quite different for employer and employee. On the “employer side” of work relationships there are three ever-changing, universal dimensions of functional work role performance within every organization of any size or industry. They include:
- Outcomes and production (what is expected)
- Conserving resources (efficiency)
- Preventing risk (mistakes)
On the “employee side” of work relationships, three different dimensions drive, attract, engage or repel workers across every profession and every worker demographic. These include:
- Functional (skills, competencies, education and experience)
- Social (interactions with people inside or outside the organization)
- Life effects satisfaction (travel, relocation)
Predictability, the only way for employer or employee to dependably and consistently get what they need from the other is to provide what the other needs, and do it consistently and with precision. In short-the reality of work becomes a “we” thing with shared accountability for creating and sustaining high performance work relationships. Neither party is entitled anymore. Choice is the cornerstone of shared accountability and the underlying force for strong work relationships.