Have you ever wondered about the science fiction view of the future written 50 years ago, predicting the now? Writers were predicting driverless cars, aeroplanes and trains. We would all have domestic robots. Factories would be totally automated. There was a relentless focus on freeing human beings from the drudgery of work so that we could concentrate on leisure activities, running, swimming reading and studying spiritual and philosophical things.
We are all aware that this hasn’t happened and yet the power of our technology and engineering surpasses anything that could have been predicted.
I, for one, am glad this vision of the future hasn’t happened yet. It sounds like a future where risk and opportunity are diminished, where stability and predictability would reign. Imagine a series of big businesses run by strict process and procedure with efficient and effective tools but without people. There would be no variation, no innovation no failure, for it seems to me logical that you cant have success without failure, you can’t have something startling and new without the mundane.
In business we often hear of the People, Process, Tool triangle. We can optimise the process and the tools dimensions but the people element is the most unpredictable and therefore exciting. It is your people that give your company the edge, people make your business succeed.
If we think about companies or organisations we can imagine them to have personalities. You could say this is just an extension of stereotyping, for example:
- all people that work in finance are dull because it attracts the logical and studious
- all people that work in advertising are zany and crazy because they need off the wall ideas
But think about Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Boeing, Nokia, BAE SYSTEMS, these are all large and successful companies whose products have to be safe reliable and appealing, their employees come from diverse background and they work in different countries across the globe but the ethos of the company will be present and consistent in whichever office you enter.
This the result of an interesting blend of corporate values, the perception of the characters on the board, the branding, the products, how it feels to work there. So above all its the people and their behaviours that define the business and its likely success.
Years ago there was the concept of loyalty, employers were loyal to their employees and expected them to work there for life, man and boy until they retired. Employees returned that loyalty, people moved less, there was a higher probability of career progression in the same company perhaps coupled with a lower expectation of the same.
Today workforce loyalty is not the same, people will move where the opportunity presents itself for betterment and employers think that restructuring and shedding people is just part of being an efficient and agile organisation.
So does this shift eat away at the coherence of the organisation, its perceived personality, does this impact its market share?
This is of course hard to measure but instinctively we trust an organisation who acts congruently and consistently so it is important to have your people acting congruently.
A congruent workforce are all working in the same direction, the vector sum of their activity correlates 100% to where you want the organisation to go, there is little dissent. The result is you get the maximum effectiveness for the salary you pay your employees, they release their discretionary contribution, they deliver over 100%. The company is perceived as coherent and the path to success looks assured.
People are your company’s greatest asset.