I posted yesterday about the proposed merger of two of New Zealand’s bigger unions. My point of view was that unions are generally legacy organisations that do little or nothing to progress employees longer term personal strategic interests.
Lucy replied with the following question…
“I have to say I agree with you 120% there. What would it take to get an employee value culture embedded nationally do you think? Who does it well”
Being a glutton for punishment I agreed to give my perspective on this debate.
My viewpoint was initiated many years ago after reading Ricardo Semlar’s book Semco. To give a synopsis of the book, Semlar inherited a large diversified business in South America. He proceeded to tear it apart, allowing employees autonomy and in many cases sponsoring their establishment of independent businesses that could supply both the mother company and it’s competitors. Basically Semlar developed self-determination at a micro level across the business.
My thinking was further developed by some experiments around employee autonomy and profit sharing at a medium sized New Zealand manufacturer. Similarly the sweat-equity structures of many high-tech businesses were contributing ideas.
Upon further reflection I’m not completely convinced by the above approaches. The Semlar approach fails to react to the fact that a significant proportion of blue collar workers want to be just that. Don’t ask for or want responsibility and prefer to be told what to do (a proportion I said – not all). How does the Semlar model take account of these workers?
Similarly profit share seems inequitable – unless people are prepared to ride both the highs and the lows of the business roller coaster, it seems profit sharing is a one sided solution. Sweat equity similarly hasome detracting features – some workers are not in a position to salary-sacrifice for equity – thus an inequity is introduced into the system between those who can forego salary and those who cannot.
Recently I did some consultancy work at an organisation in Napier. This business is 100% owned by one individual but what struck me about the business is how committed and “bought in” all the employees I talked to were.
So what did it take in the case of that business? Things I saw which must have helped;
- The employees were encouraged to self develop – whether it be increasing the depth of their knowledge or increasing the breadth – the majority of people I talked to were on, or had been on, external development programmes
- Employees were well rewarded for their efforts – good pay rates are a start, but employee lunches, free time, flexible time and little or no formal time keeping also help
- The principal respects the employee’s points of view. While he may disagree with them, or even countermand them, the respect shown for the employees is obvious
- The organisation has a clearly defined strategic objective set and employees are encouraged to participate in the process of articulating it
So….. what does the that leave us with? Back to Wikinomics I guess. Trying to find a new paradigm for a networked, collaborative, dynamic and rewarding organisation.
Anyone keen to change the world with me?