In most all of the companies I have had a chance to either consult or work for we reward those people who “go above and beyond” the call of duty. Most often these are the people who work long hours. They are the people who are focused on the work all the time and are the first one to come to the office and the last one to leave.
And we reward this kind of behavior. They are the ones that get the recognition. They are the ones the boss comes by and hands an extra bit of money to. The reasoning is, “They took time away from their regular life to make an extra effort.” and while that is a noble sentiment, it reinforces the behavor and sets an example and precident for others to do the same.
And that kind of behavior is not in their, or the companys, best interest.
When asked what they wished they had done more of, people who are older in life or even those who are close to dying, they do not say they wish they had worked more. They focus on spending time with their family and being involved with things outside of work. They wish they had not spent as much time at work. They reget the time they were away from those they love. In the end they regret the time wasted doing something to forward the interests of other people instead of building relations with those they care about.
When we look at businesses and what they are designed to do, we typically focus on how the business meets the needs of the customers it serves. The people paying for the service or good the company sells. The entire marketing and sales departments are designed to get into our customers heads and focus on learning what our customers want.
Rarely does a company focus on what their employees want and there certinally is not a department focused on that. “Wait, that’s HR’s job” may be your response, but that has not been my experience. Instead HR is dedicated to making sure we keep in compliance with laws, finding good benefit packages, and dealing with personel issues which may result in a lawsuit or needing to let someone go. Rarely do they focus on the employee experience within the company. They are too busy putting out fires.
Rarely are companies focused on the experience our businesses provide to the employees within it, and usually that job falls on the direct managers of the employees and is therefor inconsistant across the board.
More often than not we fall into the trap of thinking about the company employees as resources we use and allocate to meet the needs of the customers who purchase what the company sells. They are replaceable and they are a necessary expense. In fact, from an accounting perspective, we try as much as possible to move as much of their expense to the favorable parts of the balance sheet in the form of direct labor costs to the product we provide. This leads to the idea that “employees are a necessary expense” to deliver the product.
Employees within a company are as much a customer as the people who are paying for the product or service of the company. They are the people who produce the product. They are the people who sell it. Who handle the problems with delivery. They are the people who make the company what it is, and our primary responsibility as managers and employers should be to make their experience as good as possible.
Companies should focus on what experience they deliver to their employees just as much as the experience they deliver to their customers because in a very real way, those employees are the vehicle though which that experience is delivered. Some companies, like the Virgin group, focus on their employees and then the employees are empowered to take care of the customers. How is that for flipping the model?
Instead of rewarding people who spend so much time at work, we should be focusing on the people who are doing things efficiently. The people who do not need to stay after work. The invisible employee who makes things just a little better. The employee who takes time off and comes back and makes the entire office better with the positive attitude and the renewed life and vigor a vacation can provide.
We should give employees more time off. We should provide them with better compensation and, most importantly, more meaningful work. We need to give them the chance to be involved in special projects and make a difference outside of their regular sphere of work or responsibility.
Sure, we need to do these things in moderation, but too often we look for how much we can get out of our employees and do not look enough at how we can help grow and serve them instead. We get hung up on our objectives instead of looking at why they are coming to work in the first place and what is keeping them here. We need to focus on the employee “love group” for our company and help everybody move into that group.
Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash.