The days of lifetime employment are gone for most. No longer do employees commit to organizations for their entire careers. No longer do organizations commit to take care of their employees for the rest of their lives. Instead, organizations view people as assets to leverage to create value for their owners. But the new deal goes both ways. All employees are volunteers over time. Keeping them engaged requires a new employment deal.
The new employment deal involves treating everyone as though they were self-employed, working for you as contractors only as long as it’s in their best interests. That means they will stay as long as they understand how what they are doing is:
- Good for others
- Leverages what they are good at and
- Is good for them.
Good for others
It’s not about you. It’s about the cause, the problem to be solved, the people ultimately impacted for the better. As hard as it is for the older generation to understand, the new generation is not really motivated by helping owners get rich at their expense. Of course a charismatic, caring boss can instill loyalty over the short term. But over the long term, people care about making a meaningful impact on something important.
Some companies are embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR). Many use some of the profits from their main business to help society in some way. But that’s inauthentic. The best organizations’ main business helps society itself.
Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. The meaningful purpose is what is good for others.
Good at it
A big part of enabling your employees is removing things that get in their way. The more you distract them from doing things they are good at, the less happy they are. These disablers range from asking them to do things that don’t leverage their core strengths to administrative work to meetings.
Let’s pause for a moment on meetings. It’s almost guaranteed you have too many of them with too many people, lasting too long.
- Reduce the number of meetings. Switch your weekly meetings to monthly and your monthly meetings to quarterly. Batch subjects and meetings to cover more in each meeting.
- Reduce attendance. Let one person represent other colleagues and report back to them afterwards.
- Reduce length. Employ tight agendas to manage time.
It’s always a good idea to have your employees spend more time more focused on your customers and less time talking to themselves.
Good for them
Employee happiness is dependent on their doing things that are good for others, things they are good at AND things that are good for them. Part of good for them is compensation. But pay is a hygiene factor. The real leverage is in other, non-financial benefits like the feeling of belonging, recognition and strengthening their own personal brands.
You can no longer guarantee employees’ lifetime employment. But you can help them have lifetime employability. This goes to training and development. More and more companies are cutting back on training and development. Their logic is that the increase in employee turnover reduces the value of training and development. The flaw in the argument is that reducing training and development makes it harder to recruit strong employees in the first place and reduces their level of engagement even while they are employees.
Investment and engagement
As I’ve said before, organizations get the employee engagement they deserve. If all you need is compliance, all you have to do is things that are good for your employees. If you want them to contribute, do things that enable employees to do what they are good at (and stop doing things that get in their way.) If you want employees to commit to the cause, inspire and enable them in that direction.
Bottom line, the new employment deal runs two-ways. Be clear on what you want and what you’re willing to give up to get it.