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Wrong things most modern companies do.

by Driven Organization

In this article, we describe some of the most common business practices that do not foster employee engagement and a positive organizational environment. Some of these incorrect practices are so ingrained in our modern business world that it is not always easy to see the concerns with them. We will try to highlight some of them here. I only ask you to remember that, at one point, the majority of people thought the earth was flat.

1. The boss knows better.
In years past, the boss, say a clock maker or shoemaker, acquired expert knowledge through years and years of working on clocks or shoes. For many years, managers followed the same approach, learning the ropes of the industry and the company for many years. 

Today, the world is changing at such speed that one person cannot gather knowledge as fast as it is created. This is why, instead of following the traditional model where the boss sets direction and commands his troops, the organization must find the way to include, in the decision making, the expertise that resides in each individual. Instead of relying on the capacity of only one person, as capable as he may be, the organization must garner the expertise of each independent, accountable, and committed tentacle that will "think" his best to improve the organization. 

The boss's role changes from the one who knows better to a facilitator that garners the expertise of each of his team members. This, by the way, must happen at every level and not only at the top.

2. The use of money as the primary reward tool to motivate workers. 
Look back at your own life. Think about the times that you've been motivated the most. Was it the time you had the highest salary in your life? For most of us, the answer is no. There was something else at that job that made us highly engaged, but it wasn't money. 

The problem of money is not that it doesn't work. The problem is that it does work but it creates some perverse behaviors, such as:

  • An emphasis on the goal beyond the means is created. A CEO becomes 100% focused on raising the company stock that year, and not setting up the company for long term success. 
  • Joyful activities become work. With children and adults alike, it has been proven that when people are paid to do an activity they previously enjoyed, they find it less fun. It literally becomes work. 
  • Money takes away the higher value. Several studies have shown that when people are paid to fulfill a civic duty, they feel less inclined to do it. The civic duty now had a price and it wasn't worth it. For example, people stopped donating blood when they were offered monetary compensation.
  • Lost of creativity. Because workers are motivated to reach the end path as soon as possible, they would follow the usual path, and not wander through other paths that may take more time, but discover better opportunities in the long run.
  • The other side of a reward is punishment. When workers don't get the reward, they feel punished and often resented with the organization.
  • Rewards often hurt teamwork. Because the best worker will get the reward, often workers compete with each other, instead of creating an environment of cooperation and support that will yield better results.
Money should not be used to motivate people. It must be a fair number that takes the issue out of the worker's concerns, letting him freely do what he does best. Over the long run, this worker will outpace several times the performance of the money motivated one.

3. Using people as tools or devices for the company's objectives.
Have you heard that "People are the most important asset of the company"? 

Princeton defines asset as "anything of material value or usefulness that is owned by a person or company." Allow me to ask... Seriously?  

What if instead of thinking of people as assets that can be deployed to do a job, we consider the company as a tool for workers to be everything they can be, to follow their mission in life, and even to be happy?

Now, although the company exists for all its stakeholders, it primarily does for its workers. In helping them learn, grow, help others, and become everything they can be, workers become engaged and committed agents, who will do their very best to help the purpose and objectives of the company, making it highly successful. Customers are happy and shareholders are too. 

Of course that not every employee can fit in the company. There has to be a specific person whose natural inclinations match those of the company. The questions to ask would be, Will this employee use the objectives of this company to become the best he can be? Does the purpose or mission of the company reverberates in his heart? Will he be happy here?

Work is perhaps the best tool that exists to help people be happier. This is why a company can be a hugely powerful agent to improve the lives of many. Instead of assets of the company, workers are the reason for its existence.

Tags: leadership, engagement, Salary
Published on 02 Oct. 2012


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