Do you know Herm? Herman Nature. I didn't Think so.
I recently gave an answer to the question: "Why does employee engagement lead to higher profitability?" There were multiple posts, and it doesn't serve of much value to rehash them, but it did finally spur me to address this buzz word du jour, "employee engagment" formally known as "employee satisfaction." While it may be that it could use some refinement, I thought I would share my response....ok, verbose response....which I hope has stirred some thoughts. I would value yours.
Ok, this is either going to come out as too contrarian or simplistic genius. Given its 1:45 a.m., I know where I would put my bets right now. All this stuff about "designed to influence human behavior".....why don't people wake the heck up and get the fact that when you try to change human behavior, or more specifically, human nature, you are paddling the canoe upstream. It is the essence of futility.
Take the same effort and instead of modifying people to fit organizations, design organizational roles, systems, functions that are congruent with human nature. Employee engagement is a fool's game.
Organizations that value people, hire people for roles which they are capable, set up systems that measure their effectiveness in those roles, communicate openly and honestly, adapt as needed and come out on top. What's the big deal then?
Say hello to my little friend…..Herm…Herman Nature: When greed enters in....you are screwed. When negative defense mechanisms enter in, you are screwed. ie. Justifications, displacement of blame, repression, projection, having an external locus of control, selfishness....you get the idea.
How many times is the friction a result of unrealistic demands by leadership or to meet an analyst's expected earnings per share for the quarter? You are officially screwed. The big brown snowball gets pushed down the hill to those at the bottom expected to do a Clark Kent in the phone booth and come out Superman when it just isn't happening. Hell-o-o-o-o turnover wagon, please take a chunk of our cash, burn it and we’ll recycle through your replacements.
I can’t' just gripe and moan w/o offering an alternative.
Start with the product or service you want to provide as a company. Who/what needs to be done to deliver it. What is each person capable of, without operating at burnout pace....what would I be willing to be held accountable for if it were me in those shoes.....then build the organization upward from that level of skill and output....with what is congruent in the market to recruit. Relatively normal people with a duplicatable, recruitable skill set and competencies. Does it add up to profitability? No? Then retool the product or service, but quit thinking you are some guru that can come and change human nature or make much in way of long-term changes in human behaviors beyond the programming they have had over a lifetime when they showed up at your doorstep.
Call it bottom up product/service development, but if you take any other approach, you are going to play catch up and wonder: “how can I change human behavior/nature and pull one out of the hat here?” If you will just go to the Grand Canyon first, change the course of the Colorado River, then you may be at the beginning of being able to change human nature. Herm is one stubborn dude. You can work with the flow of that river, but not against it. Why try? So if you haven’t stopped to reflect on human nature, before and during any organizational design or change, you should get in the habit of doing so. It could be the thing that elevates you well beyond your peers. Make buddies with Herm….he’s a good friend to have.