This is a great post by Josh Bersin at Forbes if you’re the type of person who believes in employee engagement and the development of corporate culture, which you might not be. (This might be your attitude.) I recommend you read the entire thing, but you’re probably super busy chasing deliverables and not thinking about culture, so it’s OK if you don’t. At the bottom of Page 1 of the article, there’s a chart about “The Simply Irresistible Model” of employee engagement. It’s actually really simple to think about (harder to actually execute), and more companies should consider embracing it. But what is it?
Here you go:
As you can see, the five pillars are:
- Meaningful work (i.e. purpose)
- Hands-on management (i.e. empathy/caring)
- Positive work environment (i.e. don’t be a fucking asshole)
- Growth opportunity (i.e. consider training people)
- Trust in leadership (i.e. I have no idea what to say)
Bersin (who wrote the post) did some related research with Glassdoor employee surveys (where, BTW, the average score is a 3.1 out of 5, i.e. a C-Plus) and found that the No. 1 factor in employee engagement/retention (among these five) was “trust in leadership.” That’s absolutely terrifying, because I’m not sure most “leaders” have trusted qualities. (Consider this.)
One of the base issues here is that we often confuse “leadership” and “management,” which is dumb. “Leadership” is a transformative concept; “management” is a transactional concept. Those are different things, much like “strategy” and “operations.” People very infrequently get that.
The other problem is that a goal of a company, usually, is to make money. The challenge is that you can’t say “Our purpose is to make money,” because it sounds bad. (The finance industry’s goal literally is that, and even they don’t say it.) Rather, you couch it in things like “going the extra mile for the customer” and “strategic initiatives around the health care space” or whatever. Right. It’s all about one thing: making money.
The problem then becomes that for years, we’ve associated “those who can make money more effectively” with a certain set of characteristics; when we talk about “engagement” or “culture,” those are squishy terms. They’re not associated with “making money” in the eyes of most senior leaders of the generation who are currently senior leaders.
That’s really the entire issue in a nutshell. Look above at some of the concepts. “Time for slack?” “Transparency and honesty?” (HA!) “Self-directed learning?” Those seem like buzzwords to most people — and the real problem is that, honestly, who has time for this shit? People are too busy running from meeting to conference call to deliverable to worry about “a humanistic workplace.” Isn’t that f’n HR’s job?
I personally think these are the true keys, but I just worry we’ll never get to see them embraced.