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Making Waves With Employee
Honeywell's High Flying Division Shows Company The
Way To Participation
Freedom's Just Another Word
Highs and Lows Of Participation
John Runyan Responds
Your question cuts to heart of a dilemma facing virtually all leaders, managers and workers in today's' job market. At a time when most businesses desperately need the best ideas and efforts of all of their people to successfully compete, these enterprises are fundamentally changing the nature of the employment contract that they have with their people. From a time when companies could assure continuous employment to good workers, we are fully immersed in a time where rapid change in the world and marketplaces creates conditions where no one is assured of their specific job or on-going employment, no matter what the job is or how well they do it - even in a growing business. In this context, the keys to building "burning levels of job commitment" within our organizations from all employees seem elusive or out of reach.
From my point of view, all members of businesses in this situation have to wrestle with the basic work of developing a new employment contract, at least on the crucial psychological/motivational level. In some cases these implied assumptions and commitments can be translated into writing - but here I am focusing on what goes on in people's heads and hearts.
Speaking to you as the leader of your enterprise, I can offer advice in three areas as you seek the maximum level of commitment possible from your people:
o Be realistic. Deal with your
employees as adults. Pursue a mix of motivation in your
employees that reflects their self-interest as well as
your company's interests.
The new employment contracts that I
see emerging in many places are based on tough new
premises. In the face of increased change and competition
from all directions, even the best of companies can no
longer assure people of steady, continued employment in
given jobs and teams for any extended period of time.
Re-directing, re-focusing, re-engineering, and
right-sizing are and will be the ongoing reality in the
business world for as far as I can see. As a result,
employees have no other choice than to be ready for
change, to be flexible and adaptable in their outlooks
and attitudes, and to be continuously improving in their
work-related thinking and skills. They need to be highly
responsible for themselves -continually motivating,
educating and developing themselves and their careers so
that they are always competitive in the job market inside
and outside of their company.
And don't expect them to quickly be happy, committed "in a burning way" and fulfilled in this brave new world. Instead, ask them to join you in a realistic commitment for however long they work with you. Acknowledge the realities and the limits of your commitment to them. Call on their more mature, more adult sides. Then treat them as adults in all the ways that you and your managers can conceive. And don't ever drop back into a patriarchal, patronizing mode with them that can confuse and undercut your message and your expectations of them. Fundamentally, people are smart. If you back up your main message with consistent actions that manifest respect and high expectations, those that truly want to work for and with you in this new world will find the ways to be fast learners and real contributors.
Second - build their commitment by
investing in them rewarding them. Invest the time to be
in real dialogue with them about challenges of this new
employment contract. Invest the money to offer them skill
assessment, career counseling and training in new skills.
Invest in the orientation, cross-training, and
developmental assignments that will help them to move
more flexibly in and across your organization.
Lastly, I encourage you to treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Nothing can be simpler and at times nothing can be harder. I know from the experience of several of my recent clients, the jobs and lives of top-level executives are no longer immune from the perils of the current marketplace. The challenges and imperatives that I have discussed here are just as pressing for CEO's as for front-line workers. Knowing this in your head and heart and having the guts to talk about your own realistic vulnerability with people around you at all levels is critical to building the trust that encourages others to follow you. By bringing this openness and empathy in action along with your direction-setting, entrepreneurial efforts and managerial skills, you will have done all that you can to elicit the maximum commitment that you seek from your employees.
December '97 News for a Change | Email Editor