Posts Tagged ‘employee engagement’
Scott Brooks and I recently published this article which we thought you would enjoy. Jeff
“Recognition is based on knowledge, familiarity is based on feeling”
Oliver Sacks – The Mind’s Eye
I was reading Dr. Sack’s latest book over a recent vacation and when I got to this sentence I had to pause for a while and really think about it. “Recognition is based on knowledge, familiarity is based on feeling.” Recognition in this context is being used as when someone recognizes a location, a person or an object. Some people have trouble in varying degrees, for instance, to recognize the faces of people they know. The inability to recognize the face of someone who should be familiar to you is called prosopagnosia and there is a growing body of evidence that the incidence of prosopagnosia in the general population is much higher than previously thought, and that it is based on a normal distribution in terms of severity. This affliction is not binary, you don’t either have it or not, but rather you can have prosopagnosia to varying degrees, as is exists on a continuum of severity.
We all spend our days recognizing the objects, people even the tasks that surround us. For instance, you can recognize a specific person or just some artifacts about the person such as young/old, female/male. You can also recognize the foods you eat, the cars you drive, the pen you write with, or the tasks you undertake to carry out your job. But when those things we recognize seem “familiar”, they evoke emotions or feelings. I recognize the face of my mother and she evokes certain feelings in me which makes her seem familiar.
Recognition and familiarity are independent and are processed by two different portions of our brains. This becomes evident in people with Capgas syndrome. These are people who can recognize a face, such as a spouse or child, but because the face does not evoke the emotions of familiarity, people with Capgas syndrome assume they are imposters A man can see his wife and recognize her as being the face of his wife but assumes that it is not really his wife because the face is not evoking the feelings he normally would associate upon seeing his wife. The person must be an imposter!
In the work environment you might recognize a task you have to carry out, but independent of that recognition would be a sense of familiarity that the tasks might generate. You might recognize for instance the steps you have to undertake to perform a tune-up on a car, but it is not until you have done it over and over that the task achieves a sense of familiarity. The same could be said of a surgeon removing a gall bladder, an accountant preparing a tax return, a taxi driver heading to the airport etc.
The question that this posed to me was regarding the measurement of employee perceptions of the workplace. Employees can recognize tasks to be performed very early on in their training for a job. But when does a task feel familiar? And is employee engagement dependent on a task generating an emotional component of familiarity or merely the recognition of the task? Can someone be engaged in their work if the work does not carry a sense of familiarity? We know that normatively the most engaged employees tend to be the ones you just hired, those who would have the least amount of familiarity surrounding their tasks, which might seem odd given the above. And that employee engagement declines, sometimes precipitously at about the 12-18 month mark of employment. It often continues its decline, hitting bottom at the 3-5 year mark, with a corresponding spike in turnover. The 3-5 year mark is also when many organizations report that the employees are really beginning to significantly contribute on the job.
But here is some speculation for you. An employee gets hired, is very engaged from day one, with that engagement being driven by the excitement of a new activity, for some a new beginning. They begin to learn the tasks associated with the job and over a relatively short period the tasks and the work environment begins to generate feelings of familiarity. Short-term engagement, driven by excitement, gives way to long-term engagement, driven by familiarity. At this point the work environment can live up to expectations generating positive emotions surrounding that sense of familiarity, or it can fall short generating negative feelings. And by-and-large it is very difficult for each and every work environment to live up to everyone’s individual expectations, and so the norm on employee engagement is that it declines as people become more familiar with their jobs and often have to deal with the day-to-day frustrations that newer employees tend to be shielded from.
We don’t have to be satisfied with the norm though. And there are certainly benefits to be gained by those organizations who understand how to buck the trend, maintaining or creating a sense of positive familiarity with the work environment as the employee’s experience with and contribution to the organization grows.
© 2013 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
“The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.”
I sometimes think of my job as holding up a mirror to an organization so that it can see not what it wants to see but what it has to see. While people in almost every organization like to think their organizations are unique, most organizations really fall within a few common patterns, with some nuance, when it comes to employee survey findings. Here are some common patterns:
- In most organizations there are virtually no differences to be found when the data is cut by gender, ethnicity, or generation. While there are some slight differences to be found, (e.g. females are often a hair more positive, as are traditional part-timers), on organization performance items like customer focus, quality, leadership, communications, decision making, cooperation and teamwork, looking for differences is like searching for a meaningless needle in the proverbial haystack. When differences are seen it is usually indicative of significant underlying organizational issues.
- The largest differences are most reliably found on an employee survey when you cut the data by occupation or level within the organization. Managers are generally between five and 15 points more favorable (the more senior the more favorable) on survey items than non-managers, depending on the item. They are typically less favorable on customer service/focus, resources and product quality. When the differences are larger it is usually a sign that senior management is living in a different organization than the other employees experience, and that each group would have difficulty seeing the world from the other’s perspective. It is not unusual though for administrative groups to be more favorable than their level suggests.
- The most favorable group completing the employee survey will very reliably be the employees that you just hired. Specifically, those with less than 12 months tenure. It takes the typical organization about 12-18 months to beat that positiveness out of the new employee. Disillusionment with organizational effectiveness, training, advancement opportunity, pay and other frustrations as well as the sense the organization is not as was advertised, drive the numbers down.
- The least positive will be those with around 3-5 years tenure and in many organizations there will be a gradual recovery in positiveness over time, but it usually never gets as positive as the newly hired employee was again. A small number of organizations can buck this trend and what they do in order to accomplish that is very interesting.
- By geography the least positive employees in the world are pretty reliably the Japanese (with a few exceptions). The most positive are those in Latin America and some other parts of Asia (e.g. Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam). The USA is below Latin American, with the UK trailing the USA and continental Europe lagging behind the UK. Russia and the USA look remarkably similar on a large number of items.
- The best way to predict turnover with an employee survey is by asking the employee directly if they are going to stay or leave. They tend to answer very honestly. If anyone tries to sell you some mumbo jumbo predictive index, walk away. There is nothing better out there than simply asking that one directly.
- The best way to predict customer loyalty is to ask the employee about whether customer issues are resolved quickly.
- The best way to predict accidents is to ask about the safety environment and the emphasis placed on safety. Are you getting the idea yet?
- Employees are generally more critical of product and service quality than your customers are. They see how the sausage gets made.
- Employee Engagement is no magic bullet and is rarely predictive of many critical organizational performance metrics.
While not every organization out there is as unique as perhaps they think they are, there are certainly some organizations that are performing better than others in various aspects. And there are some organizations out there that could really benefit from a well done employee survey, focused on the right things, aimed at improving effectiveness and performance and monitoring employee sentiment and insight. Sometimes all sorts of excuses are given to avoid having to look at the organization squarely in the mirror. “We just had a bad quarter, or are in the middle of a reorganization, or we are unveiling our revamped strategy and vision, or we are rolling out new products” etc.
Organizations making excuses like that, I would bet, would be extremely reluctant to use those same arguments with respect to tracking financial performance stating, “we had a bad quarter so we are going to skip tracking the financials this quarter. We will start again perhaps next quarter when we believe the numbers will look better.” They simply would not be able to get away with it. If people are truly an organization’s most important asset, as is so often stated, how can their opinions, observations, insights, and emotions be ignored?
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
Employee Engagement is often viewed as a magic bullet. All we have to do is increase our levels of employee engagement and all will be well. Is your engineering done poorly? That is because your engineering employees are not engaged enough. They would exceed your customer’s expectations if they were more engaged. Putting your stores in under-performing locations? That would not happen if your real estate people were more engaged. Are your customers unhappy with the quality of your products? If only you could make your sales people were more engaged. This kind of thinking is of course nonsense, but there is a deeper issue here.
Some, if not many organizations have bought into the notion that increasing employee engagement should be part of an organizations’ strategy. But that is like saying reducing an ill person’s fever should be the strategy to get them well, without addressing the underlying cause, like the tumor that is spreading rapidly in their pancreas. Maybe if we brought the fever under control that tumor would resolve itself? Not likely.
As we conduct employee surveys there are several distinct kinds of questions that are used to gage what is happening within an organization and how it is functioning. One question type is called an independent variable. These are items like “do you have the training you need to get your job done?” They are directly addressable if the response scores are low. Another question type is called a dependent variable, such as “I am proud to work for XYZ”. These kinds of questions are dependent on other things driving them high or low, such as, we were just caught up in a bribery scandal, so I am not so proud to work here. How would you address pride in that circumstance? While there may be other underlying issues, simplistically, you would address ethics in order to bring pride back to higher levels. There are other kinds of questions we use in surveys but discussing these two types will make my point.
Good strategy for an organization is strategy that is simply stated, easily understood and directly addressable. Good strategy could be thought of as independent variables. Is your engineering done poorly? Good strategy may be to upgrade or bring resources to your engineering group. Maybe you hire or maybe you acquire or maybe you outsource, but the hallmark of a good strategy is that you can directly address the improvement needed of the engineering function. The engineering employees will become engaged when they have what they need to do their jobs well, are treated in an equitable fashion, with respect etc.
A strategy that states, we will increase employee engagement as the strategy itself, is not directly addressable and does not give the management team any insight into specifically what needs to be done to accomplish that goal. Without insight into the direct strategic actions that must be taken you get warm and fuzzy words that are not directional and will be impossible to accomplish.
Having high levels of employee engagement is a good end result, but it is an end result of other strategic actions you take and is simply not strategic by itself.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: http://www.orgvitality.com
New York, September 6, 2011. AdeQuaTE®, a quality consulting organization specializing in Alignment of Talent Development with business strategies has formed a strategic partnership with OrgVitality, LLC, a management consulting firm whose services help organizations balance current performance with future potential. The two organizations share a similar philosophy on what makes great employees and great companies, and the newly formed partnership will capitalize on the relationship between the individual and the organization.
Dr. Lichia Saner Yiu, based in Geneva and President of AdeQuaTE® stated, “Our track-record of success in helping organization improve the quality and impact of their training and development programs and investments has enabled us to build a loyal customer base in China, India, Middle East and Asia. We are very pleased with the opportunity to offer expanded services to our existing client base and to offer our services to OrgVitality’s client base. OrgVitality has brought together a group of dedicated professionals with an unparalleled degree of experience and a track record of delivering business results for clients.”
Jeffrey Saltzman based in New York and CEO of OrgVitality added, “The two companies are a natural fit, with products that compliment and enhance each other. Additionally, our philosophies and cultures are congruent. Both companies deliver very high quality products, tailored to fit the needs of our clients. We don’t force clients into boxed solutions, but rather, build solutions to solve clients’ specific business issues. OrgVitality is thrilled to be associated with such a high quality company as AdeQuaTE®, and Lichia and I are both equally excited about the opportunities and synergies that this alliance will create for our clients both from a geographic and product line perspective.”
About AdeQuaTE®: AdeQuaTE® is a quality consulting organization offering dedicated expertise in promoting effective and efficient investment in talent development and intellectual capital formation. Its approach strives at achieving a balance between an individual’s career aspiration and his/her organization’s execution of its strategic objectives. AdeQuaTE® consists of experienced and well respected experts in Organization Development and human capital investment and a network of associates specializing in process and quality management. AdeQuaTE®, headquartered in Geneva, has operations in China, India, Middle East and Europe. Its services include performance review (ROI) of the human capital investment, training of learning system managers, internal training quality auditors, and coaching of the chief learning officers and training quality management certifications. For more information, please visit www.adequate.org, email email@example.com or call (41-22) 906-1720.
About OrgVitality, LLC: OrgVitality is a management consulting firm focused on helping organizations make sustainable improvements in their operations and offerings, increase their Vitality and empower them to excel in their unique organizational strategies. The firm consists of highly experienced and respected professionals in Human Resources and Marketing with technical expertise in Industrial Organizational Psychology and research with an average of 15+ years of experience in their respective fields. OrgVitality, headquartered in Westchester, NY, has operations in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, and Orlando, FL. OrgVitality’s services include employee surveys, employee assessment and selection, 360 surveys, coaching and executive assistance, customer surveys, brand and market research. For more information, please visit www.orgvitality.com, email contactus@orgvitality or call (914) 747-7736.
- The trend data is in Roman numerals.
- The location codes include the Ottoman Empire and Prussia.
- The last administration of the survey included Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic translations.
- One survey item asked about how good a job Attila was doing.
- The organization hierarchy starts with the title Pharaoh.
- Occupation codes included lamplighter, elevator operator, pinsetter, iceman, milkman, switchboard operator, telegraph operator and lector (look it up).
- The instructions tell you to mark your answers on the abacus in front of you.
- The tenure item includes references to common era or before common era.
- The options on the scale for the gender item includes only one choice.
- The survey focuses primarily on employee engagement.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or look at the movie section in the newspaper these days without seeing some reference to zombies. Zombies used to be the stuff of late night horror or the once a year Halloween movie marathon. But it seems pretty clear that zombies have gone mainstream, appearing not only in horror flicks but in television series and even kid shows.
On the university campus, one professor of political science, Niall Michelsen, has incorporated the topic into his classroom instruction and has co-authored a paper titled “Teaching World Politics with Zombies”. Daniel Drezner has written Theories of International Politics and Zombies. In both cases the authors/professors are exploring how the world might react to an actual invasion of zombies. One theory they explore is whether capitalists would be able to exploit the cheap labor that zombies, the undead might provide. Another explores whether stronger countries would sit and watch while zombies ate their way through the weaker ones or if some central organizing effort to control zombies would emerge.
With the growing popularity of zombies and hence the growing population of zombies in society, it was only a matter of time until inevitable personnel issues surrounding zombies, such as motivating or engaging zombies needed to be addressed along with a whole host of others issues. I thought I would get the research ball moving with some thoughts on the topic.
Some of the immediate issues personnel departments are struggling with concerning the rights of the undead include:
- Do zombies have collective bargaining rights? They seem to be very good at organizing gatherings and may have an edge in negotiations. I mean how many of us really want to sit across the table from a zombie and look them in the eye, even if it is still in its socket?
- If you are a union member in the living state and then become a zombie do you retain your membership? Can you be legislated into a second class status when you are undead? Are you still responsible for dues? If not, as suggested by the professors, organizations might forgo the living and hire the undead as cheap labor or union busters.
- Does last in, first out apply during zombie layoffs?
- Do zombies get severance? An arm or a leg?
- If you turn into a zombie do you lose your citizenship?
- If so, can you then get a green card?
- If your kid turns into a zombie before you do, is your kid an anchor zombie, able to sponsor you for inclusion into zombiehood?
- Can the undead be elected to political office, be appointed as a CEO, or do they simply need to eat their way to the top?
- Given how easy it appears to be to kill or injure a zombie, (all you apparently have to do is bash them with a baseball bat), what are the regulations surrounding health care coverage for zombies? Is being a zombie considered a pre-existing condition?
- And critically, how do you motivate or engage the undead to increase their value as an integral part of the workforce?
There has been much speculation that zombies are somehow different, that they don’t want what you or I want from the work environment or that somehow their relationship with their supervisors are “strained”. Some say that zombies are impatient, unwilling to pay their dues in order to succeed in the organization. Others imply that zombies are not as concerned about job security or being developed for future opportunity, wanting only to unlive in the here and now. Other spurious and suspicious claims have arisen against zombies including that they have strong body odor, that they have socialist, communist or perhaps fascist tendencies, others claim that they are not from “here” and that they are so unlike “us” that they even pray to a different god. Some say that zombies are lazy, willing to move along only at a slow shuffle, or that they are solely concerned about money, presumably because they resist being paid with scraps. Speculation has been rampant that zombies need a strong leader to exist in an orderly fashion and that they are not ready for a democratic oriented society. Meanwhile the reported cases of harassment against zombies have skyrocketed. These are grave issues.
Cutting through all this noise, fear, and paranoia will not be easy for researchers intent on furthering the science behind how to motivate and engage zombies, but with good experimental design much can be achieved and some deeply buried findings may emerge.
Let me suggest a simple framework for carrying out this work. The fundamental underlying notion that I propose is that zombies are people too, being driven by the same desires that any other person has regarding the world or work. I am not talking about what zombies like to do in their off-hours, or what their social norms and eating habits might be, I am talking about what zombies want from their labors and how they expect to be treated in the world-of-work and that by-and-large it is the same thing that anyone of any generation, gender, ethnicity, religion, geographic location or sexual orientation wants, because it is what people want. If we want to spend our time searching for the minutest differences (such as whether you are dead or alive) they can be found, but our similarities greatly outweigh our differences.
When unrest occurs among zombies it is often driven by a deep-seated sense of lack of respectful or dignified treatment (just look at the clothes they are often made to wear) and that the playing field between the living and undead is not even. Beyond this, it is clear that the undead want to go through their existence with a sense of equitable treatment, that given their efforts they are being fairly rewarded and with a sense of achievement, an innate sense of accomplishment arising from their labors.
I often use what I call the MPF© model during organizational transformations and I am convinced that it would work as well during undead transformations. “M” stands for message, “P” stands for Performance and “F” stands for future.
“M” – first off zombies will want a clear understanding of the purpose of the organization, what does it stand for and importantly how they fit in. What will they be doing in their day-to-day job that will help the organization achieve its goals? If the line from the zombie’s job to the organization’s goals cannot be directly drawn, the organization needs to go back and keep drawing it until the message is crystal clear. Zombies want to know how they fit in and how that fit contributes to what the organization is trying to accomplish.
Second is “P” for performance. Examine the message you have delivered to your zombies and then ask yourself if you enabling them or hindering them in delivering on that message. If the message given out by leadership is that the organization will be customer centric, are your processes and procedures, those things that the zombie must live with supportive of that notion or do they fly in the face of it? Many times zombies are frustrated and act out aggressively, because they are asked to do inhuman or impossible tasks given the resources available to them. They are told one thing and then not given the tools needed to deliver on it. Make sure you are enable performance in-line with your messaging.
Third is “F” or Future. Zombies have their eye (figuratively if not literally) on the future, just like the rest of us. They want to know that if they deliver on the goals they now share with the organization that good things will happen. Things like job security, opportunity for development and to get ahead, the ability to provide for their family etc. The evidence on zombie engagement is absolutely clear, people can work through current hardships and difficulties if they have a sense of a purposeful and meaningful future for themselves – not a smoke and mirrors future of continuing unfulfilled promises, but a real one.
People will get on primitive sailing ships and travel to new unknown lands, they will stand alone, unblinking, in front of a tank, they will challenge despotic rulers who won’t hesitate to cut them down, they will give up and then give up some more, allowing themselves to be treated horrifically and suffering deprivation, all for the sake of creating a better life down the road for themselves, their children, and to create a Future that they can believe in and can see. And with my last breath let me say that you should make sure that the zombies who work for you can see that future and then you need to deliver on it. Come by again sometime soon, I’ll keep an eye out for you.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
A few years ago during a presentation at a conference I was attending, I noticed what I thought was a pattern in a dataset that was being presented on employee engagement scores by country. The countries that seemed to score higher on employee engagement, in general, were democracies or those that did not have despotic rulers or a history of monarchy, though they may have had a history of colonial occupation since thrown off, such as in India. There were of course exceptions, but in general the brief glance at the data I got seemed to imply that vibrant democratic countries were scoring higher on employee engagement. I tucked that thought away for future reference.
Freedom House produces an annual analysis for each independent country in the world scoring them as Free, Partly Free or Not Free. These ratings (scored 1-7) are based upon how the country performs according to these standards taken from Freedom House’s mission statement:
“Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed.”
I was pretty happy to come across this group as it provided an independent and standardized rating by country, regarding the state of freedom in each. In 2006 I did an analysis of fifty-one countries regarding the degree of positiveness of employees in each country, based upon how they responded to employee surveys that their respective employers asked them to complete. That dataset included about 29 million survey items across the countries, and a country positiveness score was produced for each of the 51 countries. So for instance, if a survey had 30 questions and 1000 employees completed that survey that produced 30,000 survey item responses. Rather than looking at a specific index what I was able to do is take a step back and look overall, at the gestalt of where the more favorable responses were coming from and where the least favorable responses were coming from. This avoided item mapping across a large number of different projects with items that really did not match up very well. Since most of the projects were multi-national I was getting a good cross section of differences by country within each survey questionnaire.
With the new data from Freedom House in hand, and the tucked away thought from the presentation at the conference I attended, I wanted to revisit that dataset and see if there was a relationship between employee positiveness and how a country was rated in terms of freedom. My hypothesis was that employees, who felt they had a voice in society and were living in countries rated as more free, would respond more positively when they were given a voice in their respective organizations by being asked to complete an employee survey.
I eagerly loaded the data from Freedom House and was pretty dismayed by the correlations. They were very low and really no relationship was found to support the hypothesis. Then I looked at the data a little closer and found that the reason for no relationship being found was a classic case of range restriction. In this case, perhaps not surprisingly, countries with despotic rulers, to the extreme right or extreme left, were simply not very likely to be places where employee surveys were carried out. So most of the data came from countries identified as being Free as you can see in the table below.
|2006 Country Scores||Freedom House 2006 n||Freedom House %||Employee Survey 2006 n||Employee Survey %|
Bottom line, I was disappointed not to have enough data to test out my hypothesis, but perhaps enlightened a bit by confirming the notion that in places where people are Not Free, where attempts are made to suppress freedom of expression, that attitudes of people, including employees at work are not collected. Employee surveys in countries identified as Not Free or Partly Free are not done at nearly the same rate as in countries that are identified as Free. I can’t help but wonder if more participative companies are more likely to carry out employee surveys than those that are run in a more autocratic fashion paralleling the findings at a country level.
There is a complexity in the data that needs to be mentioned and that is that most of the organizations collecting employee survey data who are in the dataset are western multinationals, either American or European, who may simply not be doing business in the countries that are Not Free and I have no ability to test for that.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
-Isaac Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics with the additional Zeroth Law-
I just finished reading a science fiction book by one of my favorite writers, Greg Bear. Hull Zero Three is about a massive ship that is sent to colonize another planet in our galaxy, that colonization being the last best hope for mankind’s survival after having systematically exploited and destroyed the Earth. That makes it a fairly typical story as these things go, but when one of the colonists wakes early to find the ship badly damaged, he determines, over the course of the novel, that a civil war had occurred on the ship while he “slept”. Most of those who were to colonize the new planet were kept unaware of the methods and goals that the designers of the ship were willing to employ to assure mankind’s survival and when those goals and methods were uncovered dissention in the ranks ensued. The civil war, internal to the ship, was fought over differing visions of what the ultimate goals of the ship should be and how they should be accomplished.
So here you have a senior group, the designers/managers of the mission, who felt it was necessary to keep overall organizational goals and methods secret from those who were to carry out the mission, the “real” goals being on a “need to know basis” in order to assure success of the mission. Sounds like fiction doesn’t it? Who could believe that senior managers of an organization would not be clear to others within the organization regarding ultimate organizational goals and methodologies? Hidden agendas, ulterior motives, political manipulations, or simply poor communications are the makings of a good story, unless of course that story unfolds in the real world in your company or organization.
The pursuit of efficiency and the corresponding breakdown of work into its subcomponents, with each subcomponent being performed by an expert in that task was one reason that people lost sight of the bigger picture, what the organization stood for, its goals and how it was going to go about accomplishing those goals. Craftsmanship can be lost when an individual’s tasks are performed in isolation of the other tasks required for ultimate organizational functioning. It then can become very easy to perform blindly, overlooking or literally not seeing ineffective or perhaps even distasteful, illegal or immoral practices occurring elsewhere within the organization. A sales group who has no idea what operations can actually deliver upon, marketing being similarly divorced from an organization’s actual capabilities are not rare occurrences. Overall operational quality can go by the wayside if the view I have of my job is to simply put bolt A into slot B and my perception is that quality will be delivered by the quality control department, or that others will be the ones to worry about things that are beyond my own task. Conversely, those in operations/engineering/service delivery may be oblivious to the need to manufacture or provide what will actually sell or to stay closely in tune with what customers want. What you begin to develop is O Robot, the organization acting in a robotic-like fashion to develop, market, sell and deliver its products and or services, with each simplistic robot/employee doing the individual element for which it was organizationally programmed or because of interest, skill, or willingness to expend effort, programs itself.
But I feel like I might be doing robots a disservice. Isaac Asimov’s fictionalized robots were much more advanced than those notions and behaved according to the laws of robotics stated above. And large advances are being made in the real world to make robots behave in a more human-like fashion. According to a paper in the journal Interaction Studies (2007) among the traits a robot will need to exhibit to be viewed as more human-like are:
- Acting with autonomy
- Containing intrinsic value – being valued for simply being, not only for what it can do
- Being held morally accountability for its actions
- Engaging in reciprocal relationships – adjusting its expectations and desires as it interacts with others
- Demonstrating creativity
- Imitating other’s behaviors normatively– because of a desire to fit in socially
- Distinguishing or identifying actions that break social conventions.
It might be considered a step up if humans operated consistently or valued others according to a similar list of what we expect from our future robots to make them seem more human.
In the 1970s, there was for a time the notion of job enrichment. It was all the rage. Organizations, it was felt, had gone too far in breaking down jobs into elemental components, and in order to achieve happier, more satisfied or engaged workers, what was necessary was to enrich their jobs to make them less robot-like. Workers therefore were given more of a “whole” piece of work to do. You don’t hear much about job enrichment today, do you? It was not carried out very well in the majority of cases and in some cases workers whose jobs were enriched were not happier, but went on strike for higher wages and/or benefits, since more was being expected of them. This occurred not because enriching jobs was wrong, but because of fundamentally poor management practices or poor implementation of the job enrichment schema. In some cases workers were given new skills and responsibilities, but were in many ways still treated and compensated as unskilled labor, destroying any sense of fairness or equity they may have had.
An organization’s ethics is a broad and somewhat nebulous definition, but can generally be stated as the values to which the organization subscribes. How it behaves from a legal perspective is only one piece of the ethics equation. Over the years I have found that each organizational member’s view of ethics can be quite varied and is very dependent on where within the organization that member sits. The definition of ethical behavior by a blue collar worker is indeed different than the definition of ethics by management and ethical definitions will differ between professionals and administrative assistants or supervisors etc. And there are often differences in understanding or saliency of communication as different groups think about what is ethical to them. Forgive me, Isaac Asimov, for taking liberties with your Laws of Robotics, but given the way some organization attempt to operate in a robot-like fashion, I could not help but adapt the Robotic Laws into Organizational Laws that might just form a basic foundation for big-picture ethical behavior in organizations.
- An organization may not harm the Earth, or, by inaction, allow the Earth to come to harm.
- An organization may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
- An organization may not harm a constituent (e.g. employee, customer, citizen, supplier, member), or through inaction allow a constituent to come to harm.
- An organization must follow societal laws and regulations except where such laws and regulation would conflict with the First, Second or Third Law.
- An organization must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the other Laws.
One has to wonder that if these relatively simplistic Organizational Laws were widely followed would we be better off today in terms of our environment and society? Or are these notions too simplistic? How do rewards and punishment fit into the organizational role? What is the role of the organization if it decides to punish one member for harming another? And what is the role of rewarding members differentially based on merit? Etc. Possibly too simplistic, but I have to say I am intrigued by the overall framework. Thoughts?
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
Everyone and their brother is out there trying to make predictions regarding what will happen in 2011. Will the economy improve, will jobs finally begin to appear, will various wars and conflicts resolve themselves, will I get a promotion, will gasoline prices go up or down, what about the stock market, will Elvis put in an appearance, will I win the lottery, etc.?
“Psychic wins multi-millions in lottery.” I am quite certain I have never seen a headline like that. Have you? So if you were truly psychic would you waste your time doing card tricks in a lab, or spend time predicting another’s future on some side street in a second floor walkup shop or would you go for the gold, so to speak? Why waste time providing services to others if you could truly predict what was going to happen?
Why are hawkers of get rich quick schemes not getting rich on their own schemes, but are getting rich by getting others to buy into their schemes? Was P.T. Barnum right? If I could truly buy foreclosed houses and sell them for tremendous profit, why aren’t you doing that yourself rather than trying to convince me to give you my money for your secret to success?
If genius stock brokers are so good at making money, why do they need my money? Why is it not a full time job just managing all the gobs of money they are making for themselves?
I was doing work for a large Fortune 50 company. They had assembled a cross section of consulting firms to tackle an issue they wanted researched and resolved and I was invited to participate. One of the other consulting firms kept vigorously pressing their solution as the one that would resolve all of the client’s business issues, all they had to do was adopt it and pay them a lot of money. Success was guaranteed. The very large and extremely well known firm that was so strongly promoting their concepts was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. I had to ask, in as gentle way as I could, why weren’t they employing their own magical solution in order to save their own company. I mean if it was good enough for their clients why aren’t they taking their own medicine?
As a teaching assistant in grad school, I had a question posed to me about Nostradamus that has bothered me enough that 30 years later I still remember it. A freshman student asked me if I believed in the teachings of Nostradamus. I immediately responded in the negative without giving it much thought. I knew who Nostradamus was, but my tendency was to dismiss such nonsense out of hand – it was not something I wasted time upon. The student then followed up with “Have you ever read Nostradamus”? I had to answer that “No, I hadn’t.” (I also have not read Scooby Doo or Josie and the Pussycats). Then came the obvious next line – then how can you dismiss it? I needed to have a more thoughtful reply rather than simply dismissing what to this student was a real belief. I am still kicking myself for not having a better reply handy with perhaps some facts and figures. The issue is that you can’t possibly have facts and figures at hand to reject every charlatan’s claim as there are simply too many charlatans with false claims out there. In order to deal with the flood of claims you need to develop your own heuristics that allow you to evaluate the claims one at a time in a logical fashion.
The bottom line though is that if these kinds of approaches did not work with at least some regularity with people and organizations they would no longer be used. The fact that they are not that hard to find in our day-to-day world means that they do in fact work often enough that the perpetrators of these solutions/hoaxes continue to use them.
There are a few factors that make us susceptible to these come-ons including a human’s tendency towards biases, such as confirmatory bias (accepting only information that confirms your existing beliefs and rejecting information that does not), the bandwagon effect (a desire to go along with the crowd, to fit in by believing what others believe). There is even a bias that you have, which makes you assume that you are less biased than others (well of course you don’t have that bias, only others), along with a host of others. There is also a human tendency to assume intelligent cause of an action. So that noise in the woods is more likely to be assumed to be a bear rather than just the wind, which has obvious survival benefits. And the human tendency to want to believe in higher powers, that someone at the top of the organization (no matter the size) knows what they are doing, can give the fortitude to persevere in the face of adversity. Of course each and every bias which developed because of its survival benefits also has a downside, and can make us susceptible to manipulation by others.
Any researcher, who regularly peers into datasets to read the evidence of what is contained within, must remain cognizant of the potential biasing and other factors that can cause misinterpretation of the evidence at hand. Any decision maker who understands the factors that can influence their decisions, is on a path towards making better decisions. And any person who can evaluate information coming at them from a evidence-based basis is more likely to steer clear of charlatans. Try this next time you walk into a psychic’s shop. When the proprietor asks you what they can do for you, ask them why they don’t already know.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com