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Destination Employer

I have spent the last few months immersing myself in the phenomenon of humanistic organisations. This has involved reading books like Firms of Endearment, attending conferences and in-depth lab sessions with organisations who are adopting more humanistic approaches and having the fortune of spending time working in such organisations observing their culture.

Im am left in no doubt that these companies have found a secret sauce that has largely been ignored and in doing so are way outperforming incumbents in their industries. These companies have managed to find a greater balance between focusing on shareholders, customers and employees. They have aligned the needs of these stakeholder groups so that benefiting one benefits all. Walking the halls of these companies and you can really feel the sense of caring for the employees and in return the magnitude of employee engagement they are rewarded with.

In a world where only 13% of employees are engaged, 24% actively disengaged and working against the organisation and 63% are disengaged (according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace) Humanistic organisations have worked out that engaged employees means better customer outcomes. Further more better customer outcomes means higher profits and for public companies better shareholder returns. BINGO!!

Humanistic organisations don’t share a common business model, quite the opposite, they are incredibly responsive and agile and adapt to their unique circumstances to seek out competitive advantage. However they do seem to have similar traits, they pay employees more, offer greater employee benefits, more training and even allow employees time to volunteer in community organisations each year. Workplaces are vibrant, dynamic places that interact with employees.

In recent visit to a large US airline I walked from the front door, up two floors and into a team workspace, by this time I felt great and excited to be involved in the company. I could tell whose birthdays it was in each team space as I went past, saw the faces or hundreds of employees spread over the walls, knew clearly the company purpose and vision and saw meeting rooms themed in significant points in the history of the organisation. When I went to buy my coffee I was forced the answer the question ‘how are you?’ before the barista was prepared to make my coffee “no.. really, how are you?” and even though my name tag was covered up by my jacket he had manage to get an angle that exposed my first name and that’s what was used from then on….. I really enjoyed that coffee.

That’s not to say that humanistic companies are perfect and have no fault, don’t make bad decisions or have constraints. They do seem to be more transparent so bad decisions are more open and can be handled more effectively and faster, they are both proactive and aggressively reactive.

I am going to blog a bit more on the journey to more humanistic organisations but what worries me more in the short term is the incumbent. Its seems a journey to more humanistic see a degree of staff turn over, some people just dont enjoy working in dynamic environments with transparency, autonomy and empowerment, they opt out.

So enterprises today need to ask themselves, who do you want to be a destination employer for?

These people opting out are going somewhere. I cant help but envisage this current of happily disengaged employees grumbling their way through the wasteland in search of rigid monoliths to land at where that can be uninspired and complete their task before heading home. Meanwhile a wave of dynamic, highly motivated and innovative employees are surfing their way through your industry looking for an organisation that will inspire them and give them the platform to be brilliant.

Organisations that remain focused on Shareholder returns or those who are waving the customer centricity banner while constraining employees ability to exceed customer expectations wont be given a choice.


About Gary O'Brien

A Principal Consultant with 20 years experience in ICT and a diverse background as an IT Business Strategist and People Manager. I specialise in helping executives, teams and individuals to adopt and improve Agile methods, principles and practice. Using a strong emphasis on facilitating organizational change, and the role of management and leadership in an Agile world. As an Agile Coach I look to help teams adapt Agile and Lean thinking to their specific environment and impediments they face. Experience includes working with CIO’s and senior leaders to create and execute a vision and strategy for and adopting Agile as an enterprise approach to improving outcomes for delivering customer value and optimising IT.


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