I have a passion for understanding organisations. Getting underneath the strategy, financial goals and organisational charts to really understand how it works is probably the main reason I became an expert in internal communication.
I have spent most of my career in-house and working with an employee base that is predominately remote. Remote meaning they work in a shop, on a train, on a factory line or are out on the road all day.
In January the Gatehouse State of the Sector survey told us that remote workers were one of our biggest challenges yet we seem to do nothing to explore why. It’s the reason I’m doing a research project with SocialOptic to understand what we really need to do to make a significant change in how we engage and communicate with this group of employees.
But how did we get things so wrong? I’m speaking to the business leaders out there. The CEO’s, the CFO’s, the management consultants, the investors and the analysts. How have we created cultures in organisations where all we focus on is the money? And we focus on it so much, it is to the detriment of people’s well-being, motivation and engagement. Why?
We are talking with people who are working 12 hour shifts, often working to serve the general public and help them eat, get from a to b, clean up after them – the list goes on. Why do we think it is ok to focus so much on the money that we stop talking to these people, we stop listening to their point of view and we stop working together to make the organisation a success?
I can only think it’s because we believe we don’t have the time. We don’t have the time to find out what people really want or need and then we don’t have the time to analyse that and work through what it means and how we can change.
It’s all a lie. We do have the time, we just choose to prioritise focussing on cutting labour, driving efficiencies and adding in processes to protect loss or waste.
What would happen if we took that focus and pointed it towards conversation, coordination and collaboration? If we decided to work with management consultants who are specialists in communication (like me and others I know well) and spend 3-6 months understanding an organisation to make it better through more open dialogue and listening to understand (not to tick a box) we might, might, actually make a difference. A difference to the bottom line and those thousands of people, those human beings who strive for social connection. They want to be motivated through autonomy, mastery and purpose and they want you to remember that relationships at work are important – it doesn’t matter where you are on the org chart – we are all human.
When I shared this post with Benjamin Ellis from SocialOptic he commented: “Leaders seem to forget that profit comes from people – for a services business, the people determine the quality of the product, just as they do in a product business. People think profitability comes from process or systems, and forget that people are a critical part of the “people, processes and systems” mix.
The trick is talking in ‘hard/quantitative’ language to get them to fix the ‘soft/qualitative’ problems. These people think in numbers, because they don’t have the skills to think any other way.”
If you are reading this and you are leading one of our FTSE businesses think about where you’re allocating your budget and why. Because I guarantee there are answers to all the problems you think you have across your organisation and I’m sure you believe that everyone has the right to be listened to. To unlock the potential, consider how you motivate your teams and how you equip your line managers to have conversations that enable them to listen and take action.