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.

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 persuasion.

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 as before.

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 commitment?
  • 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 and commitment?
  • 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 from them?
  • 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?
IBR Consulting Services Ltd.
5110 Meadfeild Road
West Vancouver, BC
Canada V7W 3G2

T: 604-926-9181
F: 604-926-9182

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