Businesses and the people in them share a tension: They want to succeed and feel woefully short of the time and money to do so. They are so wound up, they hesitate to even imagine what they could do if they had access to a deep well of additional resources. That source exists, though it is regularly ignored, avoided and underestimated. It is the emotional motivation and energy of employees.
There is an immense quantifiable opportunity to create healthier, more successful businesses through affective action: Winning by engaging the hearts and spirits of employees, not just their hands and heads.
WHY EXECUTIVES SHOULD CARE – A LOT
The Carrot: Free Money
No other opportunity that can match the return on this.
The growing body of studies on just the value of employee engagement shows staggering numbers*:
- At the national level: More than $370B annually just in the US
- At the company level: A 27% increase in profit
- At the personal level: 2x the likelihood of being a top performer and 43% less illness time
All that money is just sitting there or, more accurately, blowing away. And it costs nothing to harvest it. In fact you save money while doing so.
In addition, unlike technology-based growth and profit drivers, this one is accessible to every organization and industry.
The Stick: Industrial Age model crashes and burns in the Information Age.
It has probably been over 10 years ago that I heard Gary Hamel note that the prevailing management models are based all too closely on the control systems set up for factories in the Industrial Revolution. At this point I know you are off checking Wikipedia, so I’ll wait. …Oh good, you’re back. As you now know, this means that we are using 200-year-old models in the Information Age. This must stop. Industrial workers were often treated as extensions of machines and that control-oriented management migrated to offices as well. Business management theory progressed — and became an industry in itself; but even so it usually still bears hallmarks of the factories of the 19th century:
- Direction from the top executed by the middle and bottom
- A belief in devising the “right” plan and executing on it more and more comprehensively over time.
In the Information Age, a management system in which small numbers of people direct large numbers of people to perform repetitive tasks in an ever more solidified strategy/infrastructure will surely fail. What we need are systems in which all employees actively regenerate parts of the business as needed or opportune.
WHY EMPLOYEES SHOULD CARE
You do what a friend of mine calls “your highest and best work” in a work environment where you:
- Feel inspired and emotionally engaged
- Understand, use and expand your particular talents
- Are expected to be an influential change agent.
Anything short of this is underutilizing you and your time. Happily, individuals can help create these conditions for themselves and others.
USING “THE FORCE” OF AFFECTIVE ACTION
Future posts will explore useful tactics that individuals and managers use to create inspiring, engaging and generative work environments. By “generative” I mean naturally generating and exploiting a stream of innovations that propel the company forward successfully in the face of continuous change.
This topic is not entirely new or isolated. As Figure 1 illustrates, it overlaps and complements several established management and individual development topics. Many articles and books offer rich and valuable advice on those topics.
On this site I want to focus on going beyond improving within current norms. We need to create and thrive with new models that match the possibilities of the 21st century.
Imagine what would be possible in a workplace if:
- 100% of the employees were active and effective scouts for important opportunities for the company
- Everyday communication created as much inspiration as information
- Customers proactively shared all the information they have that is relevant to your decisions
- Every initiative was executed with fervor, not just a sense of duty
- Market uncertainty was a source of competitive advantage rather than a threat.
The dynamism demanded by the information age won’t come from extracting more bursts of brilliance and superhuman effort in the old model. Luke Skywalker tapped into The Force. We can tap into Affective Action, creating new, generative organizations by helping people find deep personal connections to their work and each other.
* Source: These are extracts of statistics from ”99 Incredible Employee Engagement Statistics“, a very interesting document put together and made available by a company named Beyond Morale (beyondmorale.com).
- The lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370 BILLION annually.
- Those business units in the top half of engagement scores had 27% higher profitability than those in the bottom half.
Watson Wyatt study:
- Highly Engaged Employees are more than twice as likely to be top performers.
- Highly engaged employees missed 43% fewer days of work due to illness.