ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

December 1997


Whole Foods Includes Whole Self
Capitalizing on Human Resources Encourages Growth at Whole Foods Market

Making Waves With Employee Recognition
Rewards and Recognition Practices at Sea World

Honeywell's High Flying Division Shows Company The Way To Participation
Union-Management Relations Help Airplane Part Manufacturer Excel


Freedom's Just Another Word
by Peter Block

Highs and Lows Of Participation
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Views For A Change

H. James Harrington Responds

In the United States and even in Japan, the employee's commitment to the company is at an all-time low. In fact, in the United States, commitment in general is at an all-time low. This includes commitments to churches, spouses, parents, children and to the community. Truly, we live in a me generation, not a we generation.
Management is faced with a workforce that has been taught to believe that work should be fun, that no one should do things that they do not like to do. In the 1930s, most people took the job where they received the best pay and then looked for ways to make their jobs enjoyable. Today basic financial needs are provided by the state, so people look for jobs that they would get satisfaction out of doing, and if the job does not meet this requirement then they are ready to move on. Employees used to measure their success based upon how much work they could do. Today, employees measure their success based upon how much they enjoy the time that they spend at work. The question is, with this type of workforce, how does an organization earn its employees' commitment. Employees' commitment is driven by four factors. They are:

o When was the last time the employee went hungry?
o How much does the employee like what he or she is doing?
o What's in it for me?
o The organization's reputation.

There is a direct correlation between the last time an employee went hungry and his or her work ethic/commitment to the company. It was the fear of not being able to meet the family's basic needs that drove the so-called "Protestant work ethic" in the early 1900s.
Today, the best way to ensure employee commitment is to make the work satisfying and enjoyable from the workers' standpoint. This may be accomplished in the following ways:

o Provide challenging work assignments - this often involves job-rotation and job-
enrichment programs.
o Delegate to the individual as much of the decision-making process related to the job assignment as possible.
o Match the job assignment with the individual's personality traits. People can generally be classified into the following personality traits: Networkers, Doers, Planners, Managers.
Develop an organization where teamwork prevails - It is important to realize that there is a big difference between teamwork and teams. Many organizations have developed a series of teams that compete against each other. This is usually detrimental rather than helpful. Teamwork, on the other hand, allows individuals to work together to accomplish a common objective without being formally organized into a team.
o Develop a friendly, personal environment - An organization where people are smiling and call each other by their first names, where management not only know the employee but also know all the names of their children and key information related to the employee's family is fertile ground for this type of environment.
o Select managers based on their abilities to inspire individuals, not on their technical abilities.
o Develop a dual path career system, one for management, and one for technical people. This meets the growth needs of both the technical community and the people-oriented community.
o Make personal creativity part of everyone's job and train your people on how to become more creative.
o Develop an open communication system that provides everyone with information about the organization, its challenges and how it is performing.
o Work with your people to help them set challenge targets for themselves, then don't be afraid to reward noble failures."

Employee questions: "What's in it for me?" I worked at IBM for forty years and loved my job most of the time, but the day they stopped paying me was the last day I showed up at my office. "What's in it for the employee" is answered in many ways. Some of them are:

o Salary, profit sharing, benefits, retirement plans
o Promotional opportunities (typically very low in today's environment)
o Mental growth ( corporate-funded educational support program)
o Stock options (employee ownership programs)
o Challenging, interesting, and fulfilling work
o Recognition
o Company-supported recreation

One of the biggest mistakes made by most organizations is that they do not adequately communicate the benefits provided to the employees so that the employees can fully understand them and appreciate the costs of providing them. Most organizations do not have an adequate reward and recognition process. Employees hear "thank you" in many different ways; so the reward and recognition process should have many facets.

o Financial compensation, monetary awards
o Personal and group public recognition, private recognition

The last point that I would like to make is that employees commit to an organization that they are proud of. Organizations that are singled out as outstanding organizations by respected sources, or by the organization's customers, ignite the spark of pride that results in increased employee commitment. Talk to the employees of the organizations that have won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Awards or organizations that are listed in Fortune Magazine as the most admired companies and you'll see what I mean. Talk to the employees at the Saturn automobile plant and you will quickly feel that sense of pride. Employees like to work in organizations that have a good reputation and whose friends envy them because they work for that organization. In South Korea, workers leave shoe manufacturing organizations to take jobs in the electronics industry at less money because the electronics industry has a higher status in the community. Commitment to many organizations in the United States has declined because the organization's reputation declined. IBM is an excellent example.
To summarize, the more the organization commits itself to the employee and involves the employee in the organization, the stronger the employee's commitment is to the organization.

John Runyan Responds

December '97 News for a Change | Email Editor
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