Back to Work Without Trust

I’ve had a great summer so far despite the stupid weather we’ve had around here. Done some camping, some hiking, and I’m looking forward to some fence re-building with my Dad when he comes up to visit next week. I’m not even thinking about going back to work, but many company leaders are.

They’re thinking about how to re-build trust after the last three years of lay-offs, pay cuts, benefit cuts, longer hours, survivor’s guilt, and all the other crap we’ve put employees through.

It’s not going to happen. The employee / employer relationship has permanently changed for companies that made cuts to survive the recession. Marcus Buckingham has told us the managers that get the best out their employers by letting them do their best at their job every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent relationship anymore.

Engagement does not equal loyalty. Loyalty does not equal engagement.

Tamara Erickson argues that the relationship between employer and employee has fundamentally changed. Now, in return for providing interesting and challenging work the employee will give us their “discretionary” effort. That’s the effort needed to make good work excellent. Without an excellent effort, it will be time for the relationship to end.

There are two interesting consequences of this, the first of which Tamara points out herself:

  • employers have to get really good at the “on-boarding” process and exit process, so that people feel like they can come back and work for you again.

We’re not going to be able to offer interesting work to them all the time so we need to find a way to “hire” the right people for the right work at the right time. This is confluence of treating our employees like customers with having engaged employees. What does this mean?

When we have engaged customers they give us the feedback and the recommendations that help us grow our business. They give us those recommendations because we  make it easy to work with us, we give them face-to-face personal contact, and we help then solve their problems. Why wouldn’t we treat our employees the same way? Why wouldn’t we want it to be easy to work with us (fast & effective on-boarding & re-hiring processes), face-to-face personal contact (one-on-one feedback on a regular basis with their manager), and help them solve their problems (remove obstacles to completing work)?

The second consequence is a little more subtle:

  • without interesting work and no trust, employers have a bigger problem keeping some of their employees engaged.

Let’s face it, not everybody is a surgeon. Somebody has to scrub the operating room floor. So what? If we can’t offer interesting work, we have to offer our loyalty instead. Unless you’re willing to over-pay for under-performance. The best people, even the ones that scrub the floor, always have an option to go somewhere else.

It’s like my Sergeant used to say: “Two people never to piss off: the pay clerk, or the quartermaster. It means the difference between getting paid and having bullets, or not.”

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One response to “Back to Work Without Trust

  1. Pingback: What Employees Want | Practical Managers

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