Posts Tagged ‘motivating people’
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
As reported in the NY Times (December 22, 2009), for the last four months there has been an increase in the number of temporary workers, well beyond the hiring levels of permanent workers. This four month increase of hiring temporary workers over permanent workers is of longer duration than the last two recessions, which saw two month increases until increases in permanent hiring were greater than temporary ones. Are we seeing a quirk, driven by the severity of this recession/mini-depression, or have organizations decided now that for the long-term that they will operate with larger percentages of their workforce being temporary?
A quick search also turns up increasing numbers of casual workers in many countries globally, along with growing alarm that these increased numbers of inherently insecure jobs can wreck havoc with a country’s economy. Recently one HR magazine reported that a permanent shift may be underway moving the US economy from 15% casual workers to 30% or greater casual workers. If this shift occurs, it is a seismic shift in the US workforce and most organizations as well as workers are ill prepared to deal with it. While many organizations look at the financial benefits that accrue from jobs that are more easily shed, very little thought appears to be given to the costs of having a substantial component of the workforce without a long-term commitment to the organization and organizations without a long-term commitment to its employees. Loyalty died a long time ago, right?
These unexplored costs may rear their head in terms of poorer customer service, less attention to quality, little to no organizational memory on how things should get done, no commitment to seeing things through, and higher levels of turnover as people leave what is unstable employment for opportunities that may provide more stability or at least a few months of more stability. The defense industry has struggled with this for decades as people within that industry can get “hired” for a specific project and well before the project has ended, these temporary workers being to look around for their next opportunity, as they have little incentive to finish a project that upon completion leads to their termination, and only after being terminated spending time in a search of a new opportunity. The searching and exodus begins well before the end of the project.
Other organizations with the desire to look good on paper to their investors or boards when it comes to headcount will utilize temporary workers to keep the number of permanent staff below a certain threshold. They are willing to have a constant rotation of temporary workers fill positions that could be filled by a permanent worker, a permanent worker who would likely be more effective and efficient in completing work than the rotating temps who are constantly on the learning curve.
There are plenty of models out there regarding what an employer should do to motivate employees, (e.g. pay them well, have good benefits, provide them advancement opportunities, give them interesting work to do, even plenty of it), but there is a serious hole when it comes to what you can do to motivate temporary or casual workers as to maximize chances of organizational success.
While some organizations hold out the carrot of permanent employment with better wages and potential benefits should the organization’s fortune continue to rise, those promises may not always or often materialize, and these days’ workers have an awful lot to be skeptical about. “In the past, temps who do well have often been offered regular employment, with higher pay and benefits. Given the uncertainties about this recovery, companies are not doing that now, and temps, as a result, are less likely to spend as freely as regular employees or to qualify for credit, generating less demand than permanent employment would.” (NY Times, December 22, 2009). Sounds like a self-reinforcing negative cycle to me.
The traditional motivators of pay, benefits, advancement and job security are not available to many organizations or the people working within them these days, so what can an organization offer that would be motivating to these temporary or casual workers? Well if you can’t offer job security, how about offering career security?
Job security is an attribute that affects the Personal Internal Confidence quadrant of the Employee Confidence model, a concept that I developed a number of years ago and have been collecting data upon and testing out over the last few. Personal Internal Confidence is the notion that things that happen on the job, leading to perceptions of job security being high or low, advancement opportunities being there or not and overall whether a bright future is to be had at the organization, will impact an employee’s overall confidence. These factors are internal to where the person is currently employed and are the traditional drivers of employee loyalty, and are significant motivational factors.
Personal External Confidence is the notion that, were I to leave my current employer, for whatever reason, that I could land on my feet elsewhere. I am prepared to succeed with different employers within my area of expertise or in other areas, but regardless, should I depart I will be fine as I have transportable skills, others are hiring people with skills similar to mine, and the likelihood of me finding a comparable or better job elsewhere is pretty good. In other words I am not afraid of the outside world. Helping prepare people to successfully deal with the outside world and becoming known as an organization that is very good to be “from”, is one way to motivate workers and to keep them, whether they are temporary, casual or permanent.
In fact, an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal (October 26, 2009) starts off this way: “Determined to retain your most talented executives? Well, here’s some counterintuitive advice: The best way to keep them from leaving is to prepare them to do just that.” The concept of preparing people to be successful upon leaving the organization is not only motivational but also encourages them to stay. One argument that is made against this notion, and I have heard some CEOs suggest is, “why invest in people when, as soon as you make the investment, and they get trained up, they will walk across the street for a 10% raise?” So one response to that is, “so you would rather have an untrained or unskilled workforce doing your work?” But rather than a snide comment for these executives let’s look at the data.
The data that has been collected on this topic shows that those employees who recently joined the organization and feel like they are not getting training or development will leave as soon as they possibly can, they have no loyalty. So the organization will have a continual drain of talent that the organization just worked to obtain. At the other extreme the most loyal group to the organization are long-tenured employees who feel that their skills have rusted away and that they would have difficulty finding similar employment elsewhere. So those who feel most trapped, with limited opportunity elsewhere and who are likely not in possession of start-of-the-art skills are not going anywhere. Not exactly the kind of workforce to guarantee organizational success. For those folks in the middle ranges, the data shows that those who are receiving development opportunity and are keeping their skills sharp are no more likely to leave than anyone else.
So in a nutshell, if I join a company but am not getting developed, I leave. If my skills have become obsolete, I stay, and if I get past the short term and get development opportunity I am no more likely to leave than others. That combination would seem to be a good argument, promoting the notion that it doesn’t hurt to give people what they need to develop high levels of Personal External Confidence. Some organizations have already gotten this, with one well known beverage company using this notion to recruit and retain staff. They say, “We invest in you, you invest in us. We cannot guarantee you lifetime employment, but what we can say is the time you spend here will be well spent.”
Employee Confidence has many interesting implications at the company, industry, country, even global level. If you would like to learn more about Employee Confidence and its impact on organizational performance, contact me at email@example.com.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
There is an old fable that goes something like this: A father was giving his son some advice. The father asked the son what skills he would like to learn; how he would like to earn a living. The son said that he would like to learn to wash clothes in the river. Washing clothes being a good honest trade, he sent his son down to the river to learn and told him “Become the best clothes washer you could possibly be”. The son worked very hard and opened a small clothes washing business called “Downstream Wash & Dry”, and soon his work became known for producing the cleanest clothes possible and he prospered. People stood in line in for hours to get their clothes washed by the agreeable washerman. A few years later a paper mill opened upstream from the son’s business, fouling the river water. No one wanted their clothes washed downstream of the paper mill. What was the son to do? He checked the village records and found that the paper mill was operating legitimately and had all the necessary permits. He then checked with the landowners above the paper mill to see if he could purchase any land close enough to the village so he could successfully relocate his business and found that all the nearby land had been bought up by a company called “Upstream Wash & Dry”, which had just opened a franchise in town. The competition, upon seeing the success of Downstream, had been paying close attention to the changing environment, waiting for an opportunity to clean up and grab market share. The moral of the story: Simply being very good at something can become irrelevant if your operating assumptions don’t keep up with the times. This fable has a happy ending (as fables should), for the father was watching over his son’s business and had already invested in “Downstream Water Filters”, whose products allowed the son’s business to continue.
If the first time you are thinking about how to manage your business or your employees through a down business cycle is when you have already entered a down business cycle, do yourself a favor—turn off the lights, lock the door and go home. The time to think about these things, like so many other things in life, is prior to when you actually need them. No one, at least not many, would think about retirement for the first time on the very day they were to retire, and no one should be thinking about how to manage in a down cycle for the first time upon the realization that they are in a down cycle. “Now let’s see, where did I put that magic button?” Having said that, if we assume that some prudent steps were taken prior to the down cycle, there are some things that can help ease an organization through a downturn.
How do you motivate employees to do their best at work during a downturn, especially when the future is uncertain and layoffs are possible?
I would answer that question with another. How did you motivate employees prior to the downturn? While there may be some nuances to operating in a downturn, good business practices are still good business practices. If you have built a reputation for open and honest communication, that will stand you in good stead with your employees and during a down cycle you want to increase the frequency and amount of communication even when the news is bad. During times of turmoil people’s desire for communication increases exponentially, so while the natural tendency may be to withhold bad news, it is better to increase the information flow. A lack of information will cause people to fill in the blanks—and they will generally fill in the blanks with an imagination that creates worse scenarios than the reality.
But communications is simply process. What should you be communicating about? Message. Now is the time to unveil the plans you had developed during the good times and let people know how you will cope with the bad. What are the timeless principles by which the company will continue to operate regardless of the environment? What will you do? How will you treat people? How will you cope with lower business volumes and potentially shrinking market share? Performance. What will the organization do to enable people to get their jobs done and done well? What new strategies will be put into place, what new products that are more attractive in a down market? Future. What are the compelling reasons why someone should stick around and help the organization make it through a down cycle? What is in it for the individual?
What can an organization do to show its top talent how crucial they are and prevent them from jumping ship?
If all your talent is not crucial to your success that means you have not been dealing with issues that you should have dealt with prior to the downturn. Using the downturn as an excuse to deal with performance issues, under the banner of “downsizing”, will be transparently seen through and is potentially alienating to other employees. In other words, the organization was looking for an excuse rather than dealing with issues on an ongoing basis. People who are able to help reinvent the organization, its products and services and its ways of operating will be crucial to the long-term success of the organization and should be rewarded appropriately. The traditional rewards such as money and opportunity are traditional because they have been found to work.
If your company is forced to lay off people, how do you then reassure and engage those that are left?
Alternatives to the layoff should be considered first. Can other operating costs be cut? Will some take an early retirement if it is offered? Can an across-the-board pay cut be implemented so that everyone can stay employed? Are some willing to go to a part-time schedule? One of the privileges of being in management is that they should take the lead in suffering during a down cycle. They should be the first to take a pay cut and they should be cut the deepest. If a layoff does happen management should also be laid off in equal percent to the non-management employees, rather than being viewed as a protected group. Those companies that can retain their talent though, assuming that they have been dealing with performance issues on an ongoing basis, will be better positioned to flourish in the recovery. If a layoff happens, it happens as a last resort, not a first choice. It should happen all at once and not in a slow drip kind of fashion. Once completed, the staff should be told that the downsizing is finished as long as market conditions are stable. Based on this approach people will recognize that the company operates in a manner that tries to protect their employment to the extent possible and that when pain is to be suffered it is suffered in a fair and equitable fashion and that will provide reassurance.