Demotivated employees? Who is responsible? Who will pay the price?

Here’s another one of those questions similar to the proverbial chicken and egg question. When the workforce is demotivated to the point of burnout, who is to be held responsible and who will pay the price of prying them out of the trough? Is it the employer who let the situation get this far? Is it the employee, who is contractually bound to fulfil their role notwithstanding the pressures that they are confronted with and subjected to? Is it the union, whose role it is to stand by the employee in situations of difficulty? Is it the state, who have passed laws with suffiiciently large loopholes to allow the employers and employees alike to benefit from?

That said, there was probably some sort of an answer in that Globe was cited as the “Top Company to work for” across the Asian continent at 2014 edition of the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability Awards” in Manila on the 9th of December last.

ACES recognises leadership and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in companies throughout the continent and Globe has so many programs and initiatives aimed at promoting the employee by staying with the company that one is tempted to ask oneself  why is this only a first for them?! But then again, the old adage says it, “better late than never.”

For those who wish to achieve such levels of performance and competitiveness, Zeinoun  (2014) in his article, provides us with some initial measures for companies who have thus far placed their workforce somewhere near the bottom of the beneficiaries ladder such as offering more positive than negative feedback, being more flexible for employers, giving the employees the opportunity for personal growth, and using monetary gain as the proverbial carrot.

Linders (2014) in an interview for InfoQ gave Belgian VDAB’s CEO the opportunity to voice his belief that organisations can increase their agility by letting empowered employees be the drivers of their own careers. It is basically taking a liberal approach of “commodities market’s” competitiveness approach to the “job market” turning the job seeker into nothing more than a commodity. The question in this case is, what is in the best interest of the job seeker and his employer in any context?  For him to be a resource (read human resource) or a commodity? And who will stand to gain in either case in the longer run?

If we consider the terms etymologically, as per the Oxford Dictionary we get:

commodity: a useful or valuable thing

resource: a A stock or supply of assets that can be drawn on by an organisation to function effectively.

The questions now have changed to:

Is allowing control over one’s own career really a move that empowers the job seeker or is it allowing anarchy to seep through to the job market, as it becomes just yet another case of belief in the old Darwinian theory, i.e. survival of the fittest?  And what will the society do about the less fit then? Banish them? Push them beyonf the borders of “their” economy? On the other hand, is referring to the “human resource” of yesteryear as a “commodity” to be considered a relegation by yet another step on the organisational management ladder?

So is VDAB’s CEO voicing an opinion only a civil servant’s dream that will eventually be lost on the meandering corridors of bureaucratic interpretation allowing employers to make the best of the gaping loopholes left open by the interruption of this, at first novel and noble-sounding initiative?

In responding to VDAB’s CEO, I am tempted to quote Slaven’s (2014) suggested six-step approach to implement strategy:

Now State, Future State,Planning Stage, Implementation Stage, Review Stage and Change Management whilst taking into account the fact that the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes for change to be sustainably implemented, and that duration is further lengthened when the organisation is a Public Service organisation such as the Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (Flemish Agency for Employment and Vocational Training) .

As in the past, it has been known to most if not all of us that when a leadership team comes into power, as was the case in previous ministerial reshuffles or when changes were provoked by new elections, the entire team of support, adninistrative staff went through a change. An example in case is the ousting of the City Manager of San Jose, California, USA, when a new mayor was voted in by the city’s inhabitants.  In the words of Rosemberg (2014), “Shikada’s eventual replacement was not unexpected, as new mayors often tap their own city manager, but Liccardo surprised some by moving to end the city manager’s contract six months early.” and the author continues further by pointing out, “The move signals the mayor-elect is beginning to line up a team of leaders that would lay out his fiscally prudent, technology-focused and urban vision for the nation’s 10th-largest city.”

However, taking Slaven’s suggestion into account, if the new mayor only gets a single terms, his six-step strategy might have to be compressed within the duration of his maiden tenure at the helm of the city council. However, if he does show promise and/or failing the appearance of a better candidate on the horizon, the foreseen strategy of change shall not only have time to be sustainably implemented but might even bring some results that he undoubtedly hopes will play in his favour at the end of his current term.

However, if things did not go according to plan, and if he, in his turn, were to be ousted by the people in the next democratic voting process, the demotivation will not only be amongst the employees of the council, his own support staff but also amongst the citizens as they will ultimately end up paying for the leader’s miscalculations and absence of the expected results. In extreme cases, the city might well be just another addition to the long list of ghost towns known to the nation as the inhabitants will wander off to greener pastures in search of better opportunity in a bid to minimise their losses of the amassed earnings and/or assets. Sooner or later, it is the State, which ends up paying for such blunders as was also the case with those banks which did end up getting government backing following the sub-prime crisis, but to name one in a series of recent financial crises, which most of us will remember only too well for many a year to come. Another question that arises from this observation is: have these lessons taught us to improve our attitude and approach in any way?

One question has been eternally and universally valid by it’s pertinence at all times: “Was there ever a time that was more uncertain than today?” (Llopis, 2014) The author then continues “Are leaders prepared to manage change in ways that strengthen the teams around them?” And we are comforted by the fact that it is not just another philosophical thinker than yours truly, who will end up asking more questions and thereby unthreading more seams than he has managed to close. But then again, if I were to start sewing the holes back, your garment will only seem to be a lopsided and ill-fitting one.

Being a commodity, the jobseeker becomes passive and lets the government, the ecxonomy and the market take it’s course wherein he will find himself a little niche and stay put for the rest of his career as most civil servants are reputed to do. If the jobseeker will take his career in his own hands, then the entire job market will resemble and ape the economy: they will make hay while the sun shines and leave the economy in need of a drink when the shit hits the fan.  Being entrepreneurial brings it’s own set of features which must be taken into account.  Like most other processes, analogies can be drawn in other management fields, e.g. investment, wherein when you are being passive, you put your money in secure bonfs and stable stocks to reap in a smaller percentage of longer term earnings. By becoming active, these investors take control of the market making it even more unpredictable than the numbers of a roulette to a casino newbie. If that were to be translated to the job market, no one can even begin to imagine the havoc that such erratic market behaviour could possibly cause to the market and the economy at large, especially when the initiative can only be guaranteed a start and not any length of sustainable implementation or existence.

Initiatives such as the appointment of a new management team at the helm of a company after two years of below par results leads to such aborted efforts at the organisational level and can lead to the workforce feeling disorientated in a more or less lengthy transition period even though the successor is appointed amongst the ranks. Experience and points of view being different, it is quite evident that

To add to the Slaven’s six steps, responsible leaders who aim to become change agents must be mindful of the five bases which they should cover with regard to their team in the process of change:

clarity of issues, embrace diversity of thought, strengthening the ecosystem, create a competitive advantage and encourage critical and strategic thinking. (Lloris,2014)

As for the Chief of Marketing of Wendy’s recently appointed, and other marketing experts who enjoy their positions in various organisations, here are a few tips from CEOs and other experts brought to us by Whitler (2014).  The tips comprise of the following points:

– systematically lay the onus on innovation;

– having better access to data and information than the competition;

– putting oneself in the consumer’s shoes;

– driving customers awareness and understanding by maintaining a two-way contact communicative contact with them;

– creating interaction rather than investing in advertising slots;

– systematically analysing anyonymous consumer behaviour;

– making your presentations more professional.

Although the aim of being a good marketer is primarily to sell products and services of their organisation by increasing their visibility, the sales in turn, will have a direct impact on the morale levels of the workforce by keeping them occupied and earning top dollar and increasing the chances of their retention within the organisation. It will still be the consumer who will pay, but he will pay in exchange of quality goods and services rather than to raise the morale of demotivated employees.

It is by being an exemplary team of emplyers that organisations acquire recognition from consumers, increasing their market share but also of their peers and receive awards such as the ABLF Business Innovator Award 2014 bestowed upon Yes Bank of the UAE as per this article.

So, as Murphy (2014) puts it, “At its root, change management is about persuading people to break with the status quo.” Because as he goes on to explain, “getting employees to accept change is easier when the situation is dire. (…) But when employees get comfortable because everything in the organisation is good, they get complacent with the status quo.”

So while innovation is aimed at improving the organisation’s condition, it inherently also improves the workforce’s condition and prevents their motivation, the whole being remunerated manifold by the customer base, whereas if the workforce becomes demotivated, then the same customer base and many more take on their role of taxpayers to finance “remotivation” efforts, whilst questioning in a bid to criticise the organisation’s management, but mainly profit-sharing approach leading to a change at it’s helm.

Reference:

B. Linders (2014), “Emplowered People Control Their own Career”, C4Media Inc., available le at http://www.infoq.com/news/2014/12/empowered-people-career

G. Llopis (2014),”Five Ways Leaders Strengthen And Prepare Their Teams for Change”, forbes.com, PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2014/12/18/5-ways-leaders-strengthen-and-prepare-their-teams-for-change/

M. Murphy,(2014), “The Status Quo will kill Change Management Efforts”,forbes.com,PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2014/12/18/the-status-quo-will-kill-change-management-efforts/

M. Rosenberg,(2014),”San Jose city manager ousted as new mayor starts leadership changes”,  San Jose Mercury News,Bay Area News Group, California, USA, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_27156696/san-jose-city-manager-ousted-new-mayor-starts

F. Slaven (2014),”Living the Strategy Dream”, CIO Executive Council, IDG Communications, available at http://www.cio.com.au/article/562582/living-strategy-dream/

K. Whitler,(2014),”Advice for Marketing Leaders From CEOs and Other Experts”, forbes.com, PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2014/12/16/advice-for-marketing-leaders-from-ceos-and-other-experts/

P. Zeinoun (2014),”How to inspire unmotivated workers”,BrandPost, LogMein Rescue, Boston (MA), USA available at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2855645/how-to-inspire-unmotivated-workers.html