An alternative narrative to an employer of Choice
This is the opening paragraph from an article titled “9 Trends That Will Shape Work in 2023 and Beyond” in a Jan 2023 Harvard Business Review.
“In 2022, business leaders faced an increasingly unpredictable environment, with evolving return-to-office policies, higher employee turnover, and burned-out employees (more than ever before….
All 9 points were fascinating (I encourage you to read it) but the one that stood out for me was that “Many new-to-the-workforce employees are struggling: 51% of Gen Z employees say that their education has not prepared them to enter the workforce. And the pandemic means that these employees have had few in-person opportunities to observe norms and determine what is appropriate or effective within their organizations.”
I’m going to meander around a bit with this article because it’s a big topic. So hang in there. I get to the point, eventually.
So where does that leave us? Large organisations are scrambling to find a way to reconcile how to create a psychologically safe place AND manage high-performing teams. Or not even that, just getting by.
This sits squarely at the feet of Middle (people) Managers but is being directed by Senior (strategy and financial) Management. And therein lies the conundrum.
The Middle Managers have yet to gain the knowledge and experience they need to lead because they are themselves being measured on the Budgets and KPI and rarely is there a KPI for people development. That might show up inside a footnote in the KPIs of the HR Department.
For the really large organisations there’s the Board who sees their value as delivering to the Shareholders and the Shareholders’ fickled valuation standards and lack of loyalty.
Have a look at any Company Annual Report and I guarantee you’ll see a statement about “Our people are our Greatest Asset” then in the Financials and try and find how much was invested in the “Greatest Asset”. Sweet FA, I guarantee.
The model is broken and it will take years to turn these ships around (if ever).
Or they just sail off into oblivion as they become less relevant and lose support.
I’ll leave that mission to the likes of Simon Sinek and Adam Grant who, amongst many others, do fantastic work spreading the word.
The opportunity (and this is where I care) is with the more agile organisations that have an owner (or Board and Management) who believe that caring is enough to get the job done. And are prepared to take an innovative approach to have a market advantage.
If We Care, We Succeed
Let me tell you that when I was a Manager, running a large team, it was friggin hard.
I know how hard and how satisfying it is. I had to transform and adapt my leadership style so I could be trusted first, then lead, then manage.
It’s so much easier for me to sit on the outside and tell you, “You should be doing …. fill in the blank”, but I have total empathy for your situation.
So rather than run the guilt trip question of “Are you a business that cares?” I’ll rephrase it and ask “What do you want to be known for and what does your business care about?”
We hear and see it on the sporting field. Fans who care about their team. They would obviously like their team to win, but that’s not why they became and remain a raving fan.
I’m talking about the rusted on fans; the one who turns up in the rain, to the final game of the season, even though the team is coming last. Those fans. I’m a St George Rugby League fan since 1966 when my brother and I went to Kogarah oval to watch Billy Smith and Graeme Langlands. You might be one too.
It’s like a religion. And then they encourage the team to come back the next year stronger for the experience. Because they LOVE and CARE for them.
It’s this spirit that supports the culture and behaviour regardless of the performance.
In my humble opinion, and excuse the cliche “It’s as simple as that, but not easy”.
When I left two businesses in Papua New Guinea (2017 and 2019), I had a reputation for being someone who was tough, loyal, and cared. I earned the trust and we all performed. There were plenty of people who were glad to see me go, and more, I’m proud to say, who didn’t want me to leave, but all respected me because I respected them.
When we stuffed up, I took the fall, and when we won, I stood in the shadows.
I did this for selfish reasons. I wanted to play golf and build stronger client relationships and I needed a team behind me to do the job when I wasn’t there.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” John Maxwell penned this and spread the word in his many management books. But I’m not sure too many people are listening.
Where was caring during the greedy eighties, the naught-ies, the rise of the internet in the 2000s, social media influencers based on vanity and greed.
Now we are now in a hysterical “us against them” eco-chamber at so many levels.
It’s been so self-serving and we all (me included) were guilty.
Are you over it too?
Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Back to the problem at hand.
In PNG I spoke about becoming an Employer of Choice and now that I’m working with businesses here in Australia I’m just shifting my focus slightly, given the world context.
Changing the narrative
I’d like to change the narrative to that of a Business that Cares supported by Collective Accountability.
It’s not JUST the owner’s responsibility, it’s collective accountability at all levels.
If you want to work in a place that’s safe and fun, what are you (the employee) doing about it?
If you want to earn more money, what are you doing to make the place more efficient?
If you want clients who value you and are happy to pay for your service, why do you have clients that you complain about?
So, are you a Business Owner and Team who Cares? How do you show up every day for each other?
Does your Team care for you and your passion, or are they just going through the motions? What are your staff passionate about that you could use in your business?
What’s in your Care Package? When I open it up what will I see?
Do you care about Profit? Performance? Community? Leaving a legacy? Making a positive impact (in your chosen area)? Relationships? Giving back? Teaching people? Being a Guide? Being a disrupter? Running a steady ship?
All of these are valid because you care about them.
It’s OK to care about profit as long as it’s not based on greed.
It’s OK to be seen as the Boss as long as it’s not based on Ego or Hubris.
I could go on but I think you get the picture.
And if you’re not sure yet, that’s OK too. When I set up Inspiring Business I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to be when I grew up :-), so I just kept searching for my purpose.
The light might have just been turned on for you and shining on an idea. It might be the one or a step towards the one.
The cool thing is that as you evolve what’s in your Care Package can change.
At the core, if people know what you care about, and they resonate with that, you’ll attract raving fans, and as Seth Godin writes, you’re looking for sneezers, (not sure that’s a great analogy in 2023 but let’s go with it) and they’ll spread the word.
I’m passionate about helping business owners to create a Business that Cares (note I didn’t say Employer) and make business Enjoyable.
If you’re having fun and enjoying what you do, then it’s more than likely safe.
If we care, we succeed.
What’s in your Care Package?
Please let me know what you feel like saying in the comments.