Age of En­light­en­ment

◗ ◗ The chest thump­ing Al­pha- male ( and fe­male) are go­ing the way of the di­nosaur, says a lead­ing HR ex­pert. To­day’s en­light­ened em­ployer is all about pro­vid­ing sat­is­fac­tion and nur­tur­ing po­ten­tial

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

BABY boomer bosses, wake up and smell your re­tire­ment cheques: The bad old days of ‘‘ crush, kill, de­stroy’’ man­age­ment are over. And com­pa­nies that still use them to hound peo­ple out of their or­gan­i­sa­tions in­stead of nur­tur­ing ca­reers and build­ing teams will them­selves be de­stroyed by the mar­ket.

Ac­cord­ing to Peter Wil­son, the head of the Aus­tralian Hu­man Re­sources In­sti­tute ( AHRI), there is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween value to share­hold­ers and com­pa­nies who treat work­ers de­cently - or em­ploy­ers of choice in to­day’s jar­gon.

Em­ploy­ers of choice es­chew the male- dom­i­nated chest thump­ing Al­pha- male ( and fe­male) tor­ment of beta and gamma mon­keys in or­gan­i­sa­tions for a ‘‘ first among equals’’ in­dus­trial approach.

First, how do we de­fine an em­ployer of choice: ‘‘ Very clearly, they are peo­ple who are good to work for,’’ says Mr Wil­son. ‘‘ It means work en­vi­ron­ments where peo­ple are treated well ac­cord­ing to clear and cur­rent val­ues in so­ci­ety. And also where their em­ployer is known to pro­vide chal­leng­ing, sat­is­fy­ing work and fo­cuses on you re­al­is­ing your po­ten­tial.’’

Man­age­ment at th­ese com­pa­nies are ‘‘ a bit like a skills coach at the foot­ball’’. He adds: ‘‘ They help you im­prove your game and have a pro­gram for that.’’ At the mo­ment, the work­force is chang­ing from baby boomers whose think­ing has been in­flu­enced by Har­vard MBA- type logic, he says: ‘‘ This is where per­for­mance indicators and fol­low­ing the leader rule.’’

But em­ploy­ers of choice fo­cus on con­tem­po­rary val­ues of a con­tin­u­ous bal­ance be­tween work and life. Mr Wil­son adds: ‘‘ You don’t take a long sum­mer hol­i­day, you take short breaks, you work 24- 7 at times when it suits you.’’

On the other hand, the em­ployee ex­pects to be treated fairly and eq­ui­tably whether you are a man or wo­man re­gard­less of what race you might be. ‘‘ You are not in­ter­ested in a work­place that is well­known for stereo­typ­i­cal baby boomer male be­hav­iour, but more one where dif­fer­ences are ap­pre­ci­ated and the work­place is struc­tured flex­i­bly, there is no sex­ual ha­rass­ment or any other racial or gen­der is­sues that you can get when the or­gan­i­sa­tion is driven by that very male type of think­ing by peo­ple in their 50s and 60s,’’ he says.

The mind­set is more a ‘‘ first among equals model in the lead­er­ship sense and where teams are known for the way they max­imise the per­for­mance of in­di­vid­u­als’’.

Mr Wil­son says AHRI is de­vel­op­ing an award to recog­nise Aus­tralian em­ploy­ers of choice: ‘‘ A lot more medium and larger size com­pa­nies are do­ing staff en­gage­ment sur­veys. That’s one thing to look for if you want to be with an em­ployer of choice. Do they do reg­u­lar staff sur­veys? ‘‘ In large or­gan­i­sa­tions, it’s very hard to man­age them. It’s very hard to man­age com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the top to the bot­tom and back. It’s very hard to get in­for­ma­tion from peo­ple at the coal­face and then trans­form it into a bet­ter place to work than it used to be.

‘‘ A lot of the bet­ter em­ploy­ers have not only en­light­ened lead­er­ship around the first point, but very strong for­mal and in­for­mal tools to com­mu­ni­cate and pick up staff feed­back and re­spond to sug­ges­tion from peo­ple about how to im­prove the work­place.’’

What do you do if you find your­self in an of­fice of chest- thump­ing Ne­an­derthals? ‘‘ You can vote with your feet. What peo­ple tend to do and where you get suc­cess­ful change in an or­gan­i­sa­tion is to try to find a role model.

‘‘ Is there a group known for their en­light­ened peo­ple man­age­ment and what can you learn about that and what spot­light can you pro­vide to top man­age­ment? Can you say: Look, this is how some­one else does it.’’

Mr Wil­son uses GE as an ex­am­ple of en­light­ened peo­ple man­age­ment: ‘‘ GE is one of the best per­form­ing com­pa­nies in the world and they take their peo­ple man­age­ment prac­tices very se­ri­ously. They spend a lot of time on im­prov­ing work­ing con­di­tions, im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the work- place, con­cen­trat­ing on lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­grams. It’s no big sur­prise share­holder value and peo­ple en­gage­ment are two sta­tis­tics which are highly cor­re­lated.’’ Mr Wil­son says the win­ners of the an­nual For­tune 500 awards for the top busi­nesses, were ‘‘ al­most with­out ex­cep­tion good peo­ple man­agers’’.

He says a global bench­mark­ing study found ‘‘ 30 to 40 per cent of com­pa­nies are still re­ally in the di­nosaur class’’.

‘‘ Those old at­ti­tudes among about to re­tire baby boomers are still alive and well,’’ he says. ‘‘ The mar­ket won’t put up with that long term: the smarter ones are re­spond­ing and bring­ing in young peo­ple to change things. The com­pa­nies that don’t will con­tinue to de­cline.’’

‘‘ Peo­ple work best when they are con­fi­dent about what is ex­pected of them,’’ Mr Wil­son says. ‘‘ They feel the val­ues of the or­gan­i­sa­tion are sup­port­ive to them, and they feel com­fort­able they are sup­ported there and they are not wor­ried about an ac­ci­dent that may lead to an in­jury or they are not wor­ried about be­ing stressed to the point of hav­ing a heart at­tack or a stroke.

‘‘ With 24- 7 log- on ca­pac­ity, the smarter em­ploy­ers don’t mind if peo­ple come in at 10 o’clock af­ter they have dropped the kids off at school. Smart em­ploy­ers don’t worry as long as em­ploy­ees can get the job done. The smarter com­pa­nies are keep­ing good peo­ple and at­tract­ing more.’’

Peter Wil­son: Chang­ing cul­tures

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