We have often read that the recent “great depression” has led to a “great rebalancing.” Highly respected analysts at McKinsey, Morgan Stanley and Deloitte have all dissected and discussed various ways in which organisations, companies and societies witnessing rebalancing in the aftermath of the downturn. These references, however, point to the shift in the centre of economic growth from developed to developing countries; financial flows; or even corporate strategies.
Recently while travelling, to speak at the Australian Human Resource Institute National Convention (AHRI 2011), I couldn’t help wondering: Is “Employees First, Customers Second” (EFCS) the “great rebalancing” that is truly needed today?
Think about it. With the uneven post-recession economic growth, we are witnessing a great talent paradox. High global unemployment rates have not created a talent surplus. On the contrary, there are talent shortages expected across key vertical industry segments. The competition for talent continues to heat up fuelled by the demands of an economy that has become even more global and competitive during the recession. How can this be so?
There are many theories and at present, few clear solutions. One thing is certain and it was echoed by many I interact with both at the conference in Australia and when talking to fellow CEOs around the globe, business executives and HR professionals worldwide are challenged to find the focus on a moving canvas.
As pointed out in the Deloitte report Talent Edge 2020: Blueprint for a new normal, as part of the strategic rebalancing, executives clearly anticipate a growing emphasis on talent strategies aimed at more effectively recruiting, connecting, and managing an increasingly global workforce.
I believe that the greater problem that must be addressed head on in “The New Normal” is structural. We have witnessed a widespread a suffocation of productivity through the creation of hierarchy. We’ve created a mismatch between company expectations and employee motivation.
Here is where the concept of EFCS comes in. It has the potential of bringing about a “great rebalancing” of organizational hierarchy to make a significant impact on business effectiveness.
It has the power to invigorate passions at a time when:
- trust of senior management by their employees is at an all-time low
- employee morale and employee engagement and enthusiasm is also greatly lagging
- most organisations I encounter are under tremendous pressure to transform the way they work and treat their most valuable asset: their employee base.
By internalizing change, management is given the power to lead external change.
Why do I feel this is the time when EFCS could have maximum impact? The reason is simple. Today, Gen Y forms 50 % of the world’s population. As a result the demographic profile at our workplaces is undergoing a dramatic change. And these young employees do not connect with the traditional leadership model.
We also must consider two important factors. First, there is a lingering – and arguably – growing trust deficit in corporate leadership. Second, that the value zone in the knowledge economy has shifted to the frontlines, where employees interact with customers, as compared with the apex of the control pyramid where it was in traditional economy.
To regain the trust of the younger generation amongst our people, a starting point would be to push the envelope of transparency by sharing more information on business, by being obsessively communicative, by making managers as accountable to their teams as their teams are to them.
And to maximise value creation the most effective path today is collaboration – not only among our employees but also among them and our customer’s employees.
Gen Y is collaborative and exploratory by nature. They seek answers rather than directives, rendering command and control management methods ineffective. This generation of digital natives works well in communities of mutual interest and passion, not structured hierarchies. Consequently, to help them succeed, organizational structures need to look more like Facebook and less like the pyramid structures that we are used to.
Gen Y is hungry for empowerment and responsibility. It is time to transfer the responsibility for change and value creation – even leadership – to these front-line employees. In turn, the leader at the top of the traditional organisation pyramid would have a new, even more crucial role: to enable and encourage all of these new leaders, value creators and change agents at every level of the business.
That is the power of putting your employees first.That is the “great rebalancing” that might be the missing link to success in the “New Normal.”
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