Recreating the Organization
Organizations invest a great deal of time
and energy in rationalizing their investment in technology
or other capital, but rarely spend that same time examining
the return on the investment they have made in human
capital. Suppose you had made a technology investment
of $10 million, but only saw a modest return on that
investment. You would try to understand how to boost
the return - quickly. Similarly, if you have a workforce
representing millions of dollars in annual salaries
and benefits, you should be asking the question: What
is the difference between what employees are contributing
to our company's success and what they could be contributing?
Organizations today are so busy making
money, and cutting costs, that they no longer have the
time - or make the time - to reflect on such questions.
Circumstances change so rapidly that there is truly
no normative stage with any new organizational structure
or product life cycle. Things are becoming obsolete
almost as fast as they are created. The psychological
contract - whether stated or implied - now tends towards
"look after yourself and your needs, because no
one else will". With such a limited sense of organizational
purpose, employees become uncertain about the future
- their future. This is not the environment in which
well-being can thrive. Well-being in organizations is
not a concept that is held or sustained by the individual
alone, without corporate support.
When their deeper needs are not being
met, people may resort simply to survival behavior.
Survival behavior means that they will turn up for work
at the last moment, they will go home as soon as possible,
they will spend considerable time away from the workplace
during the day, they will do the minimum to justify
their pay, and they will take as many sick days as they
can, just to give themselves a break. Organizations
are paying out fortunes in lost work hours and lost
opportunities, and seem willing to continue to do this
rather than look at the root causes of negative well-being.
Well-being alone, however, is not enough.
A person who is merely content, safe and secure can
become complacent, and productivity will suffer. People
need some motivation to keep them productive. This is
where purpose comes in. Employees must be given a clear
idea of the organization’s purpose (its goals
and objectives). Once they understand the goals, they
will need to be motivated to achieve them. Certainly,
fear is a motivator, but it has a number of negative
consequences, such as stress and insecurity, which normally
diminish productivity. Thus, we need the final element
Commitment is often internally generated
but it must be externally reinforced. Downsizing may
have cut the cost of labor, but it has also severed
the traditional loyalty of employees to their organization.
Gone are the dreams of retiring with the gold watch.
Loyalty is now to their own career, not to their employer.
Loyalty is now to their family's needs, not to their
company's. Employers have championed “employment
at will” status for many reasons, and their employees
have learned their lessons.
Think of this situation in terms of warfare.
For centuries, people fought for their countries with
passion and commitment, even in the face of death. By
comparison, mercenary armies - paid to fight for someone
else - had allegiance to no one, except themselves.
Whole countries could fall, and no one need care. In
the workplace of the future, we will still have a few
organizations with loyalist forces. But increasingly,
we see the emergence of companies having a mercenary
With such a detached army of employees,
it is impossible to sustain the kind of blind, almost
dogmatic, obedience that many large companies enjoyed
in the past. Employees are no longer automatically willing
to transfer to wherever the organization wants to send
them, or to work massive overtime when the employer
requests it, or to switch shifts just because this is
required by the company. On their part, managers are
now saying: Don't they trust us? Where are they when
we need them? People just don't seem to care as much
What can organizations do? For a minute,
imagine that you and your employees were confined to
a small space, perhaps four feet high, under the weight
of two hundred years of outmoded ideas. In order to
get around, people have to walk stooped. It is no wonder
that the level of psychic back pain keeps the company
doctor more than busy.
Should you try to increase well-being
with posters to cheer people up, or should you use new
wonder drugs to deaden their pain? Or might you consider
removing the debris hanging over everyone? What if people
were able to stand tall as individual persons? What
if people found it safe to show their vulnerabilities
to one another, because as they engage with one another’s
cutting edges, they are able to discover new possibilities?
If you were to build a skyscraper, you
would dig down to bedrock, and then build upon a solid
footing. Too often, leaders try to install a new overlay
on their organizations to give them better processes,
more productivity or happier workers. Unfortunately,
this is like putting a thin veneer of pretty words over
a heap of rubble! The theme of well-being only makes
sense if you are ready to do some heavy digging. It
makes sense only when you are ready to build your organization
upon a new foundation.
This seminar will provide informative
answers to the following questions:
- Which organizations are believed to be “best
in class” in promoting well-being, purpose and
- What are the most important factors in promoting
well-being, purpose and commitment in the workplace?
- How are organizations developing and maintaining
a corporate culture that fosters well-being, purpose
- Which leadership skills will be critical in sustaining
well-being, purpose and commitment in the future?
- How are organizations motivating their top performers?
- What is the best way to nurture a trusting environment
where people feel safe to make mistakes and learn
- What kinds of activities do organizations conduct
to cultivate the spirit of the workforce?
- How do organizations encourage their employees
to balance their work and home lives?
- How should you measure the well-being of your workforce?