I came across a Fast Company article titled, 7 Predictions For The Future Of Work. Author Dana Ardi offers some interesting thoughts, particularly the idea of “Limited Contracts” where people will work for organizations for a short amount of time and be compensated based on their business impact.
While offering thoughtful predictions, this article is not surprising and really doesn’t offer any groundbreaking viewpoints. The fact that work will be different tomorrow is no different than the fact that today’s work is different from yesterday’s. We no longer use buggy whips, Kodak film, and may soon see laptops disappear in favor of tablets or some other mobile computing device.
What is new is the pace of change. Business and technology are changing at an ever-increasing pace. So how do both individuals and organizations stay ahead of these changes?
For organizations, they must dismiss two crippling attitudes:
- “We’ve always done it this way.”
- Taking a short-term view of business.
The changing business environment requires new strategies, new objectives, and new ideas. While certain business processes may have propelled an organization to great success, those same processes may not promote future success. And our short-term, Wall Street-oriented business view prevents many organizations from making the necessary investment in their systems and, most importantly, their people.
For individuals, this changing world requires them to be continuous learners. Read a business book, biography, or even a novel, watch a documentary on TV, participate in a webinar, watch and read the news, and network with new people.
Notice the word ‘and’. Staying relevant in today’s rapidly evolving business world requires multiple learning opportunities, not just a single event or approach.
So how are you always learning? How do you stay ahead of the game and avoid obsolescence?
About a week ago, my wife and I were eating at an upscale Italian restaurant. One reason we chose this particular eatery is because we were thinking about having our son’s wedding reception in one of their large rooms. After asking our server for some information, the manager soon appeared at our table. He was very friendly and offered some thoughts but didn’t have all of the information handy. He ended the conversation with, “Let me run back to the catering office and get you some more information. I’ll be back before you finish dessert.”
Unfortunately, that was the last time we spoke with the manager. We saw him a couple of times as he passed by our table, but he never brought us the information.
So why didn’t he come back? Was the manager sincere? Did he really mean those words? Most likely. He probably just forgot, his mind swimming with “To Do” items during a busy dinner period.
We regularly offer sincere words and statements that oftentimes get lost in the busyness of life. Sadly, we offer these things so frequently (and without thinking?) that they oftentimes become throwaway comments:
- “This year we’re going to offer quarterly employee feedback instead of our usual
yearly approach.” Twelve months later, we’re still waiting for our first performance
review with our manager.
- “Your call is important. Please leave a message and I’ll return it as quickly as
possible.” But when we don’t hear back from you, does that mean our call is not
- The “Our employees are our biggest asset” corporate value shows up on a wall
plaque. Then why don’t our employees feel valued and appreciated?
Do we really mean what we say or are we simply saying what’s expected? The right thing at the right time?
What is the cost when our words become hollow and meaningless? We might lose customers (in my case, we chose not to use the Italian restaurant for our reception). We might lose employees. We can lose trust, respect, or even a friend. We miss opportunities that may never come again.
Effective communication requires effective words along with effective tone and body language. Just as important – perhaps even most important – for effective communication is the necessary action to support those words.
So think before you speak. Then do something!
I enjoyed one of those hard-to-find customer service experiences yesterday. One of those experiences that go beyond great and hit that excellent level.
After wrapping up a late-afternoon coffee with a couple of friends, I was about to leave for an evening dinner reception when I realized I didn’t have a pen. Now, I wasn’t sure if I was going to need a pen but it’s always best to be prepared.
I was having coffee at the Corner Bakery in Irving (TX), which is surrounding by mostly offices and other restaurants. But I thought there had to be a convenience store close by where I could buy that much-needed pen.
So I walked up to the counter and asked, “Is there a convenience store around here somewhere? I need to buy a pen.”
Without hesitation, the young woman behind the cash register started moving things around on the counter, quickly found a pen and then offered it to me saying, “Here ya go.”
I told her I needed a pen to take with me to which she replied, “Go ahead and take that one. I’m sure I can find another one.” So off I went to my reception, pen ready to write.
Was this a big deal? Well, yes! Regarding the Great vs. Excellent theme we’ve discussed here in past blogs, this Counter Professional could have provided great customer service by giving me clear, accurate directions to the nearest store which is exactly what I requested.
She went beyond good and offered excellent customer service by solving my problem immediately. She didn’t have to, but she did.
So thanks, Corner Bakery in Irving, for an excellent customer service experience. Next time I’m in your neighborhood, I’ll go out of my way to give you more of my business.
No, I’m not writing about Punxsutawney Phil’s recent prediction of more winter weather. I’m talking about that great Bill Murray movie. As I read yet another article about the importance of employee engagement and how it’s accomplished, one of Mr. Murray’s movie lines comes to mind, “Didn’t we do this yesterday?” Why do we keep repeating this conversation?
That most of today’s employees are not engaged is no a secret. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 30% of today’s workforce is engaged and inspired. Half of today’s workers are unengaged. The scary part? Gallup reports 20% of workers are actively disengaged. “These employees, who have bosses from hell that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent.” I’ve seen these figures quoted in countless articles and reports the last several months.
Of course, most of the articles that report these lackluster engagement statistics also offer ideas and strategies for addressing this worker challenge. In fact, I’ve saved over a dozen articles the last three months that explore this employee engagement issue and all offer various forms of the same, simple solutions:
- Communicate often and clearly with employees.
- Build an environment of trust.
- Know your employees well -- value them and listen to them
- Offer training and development opportunities.
That’s about it! Yes, there are various strategies and activities that fall within each of the above categories but addressing those four areas well will move many of your employees from disengaged to engaged. It’s really not hard and there’s nothing new under the how-do-you-build-an-engaged-workforce sun.
So why do I keep hearing HR and other business professionals repeat the question, “How can I increase employee engagement at my company?” I’m not the only one asking this question. As I participated in an online discussion of HR professionals recently, someone commented, “Are we really asking this question again? Yawn.”
Most companies understand the need for employee engagement yet do little about it. According to PwC Saratoga’s 2013/2014 US Human Capital Effectiveness Report, 86% of organizations measure employee engagement. Amazingly, 60% of these same organizations do not develop strategies or build action plans to address employee engagement! Why measure employee engagement if you’re not going to do anything about it?
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it’s simply a matter of choice. Does your organization want to invest in people or just take its chances with a revolving door of unengaged employees? Simplistic thinking? Maybe a little. Other issues are at play here, primarily budgets and other resources. At the end of the day, though, choosing to actively engage your workforce is a decision you do or do not make.
Organizations that take employee engagement seriously will survive and even thrive as the economy sputters along. However, once the economy begins to grow at a faster clip, those organizations that choose not to address this critical issue better at least have a fully staffed facilities department -- these workers will be busy keeping that revolving door spinning freely.
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.