Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Most Valuable Resource?

Hey There Bloggers and Blogettes!!

Eventhough Pink Lady is a business woman, this blog has - up until now - strictly avoided business topics. The idea being that the blog is a weight on the side of "life" in the work-life-balance scales! ;-)

However, today I am inspired by Peter Drucker to write on the subject of business. Let's start with a quote:

"Peter Drucker has suggested that companies have to treat their employees like volunteers: every day they have to provide compelling reasons why their most talented employees should keep coming to work. This is not just about money; chiefly, it is about building socially valuable corporate communities in which individuals feel valued. Managers who create such communities and inspire their most creative employees are like gold dust: Finding community-building talent is the single most precious resource in the modern world (high-lighting mine)".

Now what say you to that!!??!!! I bolded the words "socially" and "community", because those are traditionally not words used by the top management of large corporations. However, ever since I first started working for a large corporation, I have strongly felt that they can, at best, be like "village communities". Now I am very much a city girl, so I've never had a sense of community with my neighbours. Mostly, I've moved around so much that I've practically never had the chance to even get to know my neighbours. (I calculated at one time that I've moved, on average, every two years! The average may now have gone up a bit). So when I started working for a large company, I strongly felt that it provided a community of sorts. I made heaps of friends there and many have remained my friends for the past ten years. My closest friends are former coworkers. I even met my boyfriend at work!

The sense of community was, however, much stronger in previous years than it is currently. The economic situation seems to have changed everything. Employees have gone from being the company's "most valuable resource" to being seemingly expendable pawns to be laid off at the drop of a hat.

Now don't get me wrong, I am very, very much a capitalist at heart!! But as I state in my profile, I am all for ethical capitalism. Many other bloggers list this as an area of interest, but it seems that when I try to find information on the subject, I find information either on how to make sure that the management does not break the law (!!!!) or on environmental issues. The former point should be so obvious as not to even merit discussion and actually so should the latter these days.

But when I talk about "ethical business" or "ethical capitalism", I mean neither of the aforementioned. What I mean is ethical in the HR policy, i.e. in the way that employees are treated. And I don't just mean not exploiting them!! Lack of exploitation does not equal good treatment. I mean the kind of leadership that allows employees to fully commit to the company with their hearts and souls. But here is the interesting point: many managers would see this as being "soft", as in not being able to make a profit. I completely disagree.

I believe that a totally committed employee, one committed at the feeling level, is about 20 times more valuable than one just going through the motions. I don't know how much research has been done to back this up, but I have read it somewhere (it may have been The Pursuit of Wow by Tom Peters?). To me this is just so obvious!!!! Why is it so hard for managers to understand? Strong, ethical leadership is not soft at all, it's simply good business sense!! I guess managers don't read enough Dilbert. ;-)

I do hope that this idea will catch on. It seems to be very slowly spreading in the literature. I have recently been reading John C. Maxwell and saw that he has also written a book called There's no Such Thing as Business Ethics. Judging from the title, it sounds like it might be a book on this very subject; will look into it. Stepher R. Covey also thinks along these same lines. And I seem to recall having read that the companies with the most satisfied employees are also the most profitable. Why does top management pay so little attention to such stories?

Here's another quote from Peter Drucker:

"Knowledge has become the central resource. But the productivity of knowledge workers is incredibly low. Does anybody here believe that the teacher of 1991 is more productive than the teacher of 1900? The productivity of service workers is even lower.... Over three-fourths of our workforce are service and knowledge workers. By the end of the century, 90 per cent of total workers will be knowledge and service workers. Productivity of knowledge work and dignity of service work are the two great priorities."

Firstly, aren't we all "service" workers these days? Don't we all serve someone? Secondly, if soon nearly all of us will be in fields where productivity is the main competitive advantage, doesn't it simply make good business sense to treat employees in such a way that they be as productive as possible? I do wonder why so few companies actually do this...

Pink Lady has spoken

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