Employees will be less committed to organisations in the future’– is this true?

Research from the 2020 Agenda indicates this may happen, so do businesses need to
re-assess their approach to managing people and teams?

Faisel Choudhry MVO, is a rare man and potential future leader to observe. He is still relatively young with a long road still ahead of him, but this is a man who believes in learning and being open minded to change. He has an impressive platform to build his career further from, having already worked within organisations such as The Bank of England and The Royal Household. He was appointed as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in the 2015 Birthday Honours list, and has played active roles within both the Territorial Army (T.A.) and within the Muslim community. 

Faisel’s MBA Dissertation is entitled “Understanding the impact of leadership and the role of emotional intelligence on organisational commitment”. The objective was to understand the link between leadership, emotional intelligence and the role these factors play in an employee’s commitment to an organisation.

In Hospitality emotional intelligence is an important skill and yet is not often written about in comparison to other key leadership attributes such as vision, strategy and commercial acumen. It is for this reason and the questions that the study poses, that has real value.

Faisel’s dissertation struck a chord as it does focus on a subject area that EP has been writing much about in recent times – the importance of Human Capital within a business and whether enough is really done to develop this asset to maximise its potential. Faisel opens his work with the comment:

“Increasingly organisations are competing in a global economy, where competitive advantage through factors such as technology, patent and product is temporary due to the increased pace of change and competitiveness. Therefore, organisations need to look inwards, to determine how they can make better use of the human capital within their organisations, as increasingly more are reliant upon this as means of competitive advantage than ever before”

It is the right starting point as there are no few research projects stating that the percentage of people working on a freelance basis within the next five years will stand at anything between 40–50%. One has to wonder how organisations can expect to remain competitive when it will become harder and harder to communicate, engage with teams and bring them together to work with increased commitment to the benefit of the organisation – and this has to be the heart of the strategy. Regardless of Brexit, Britain needs to be competitive on the world stage and this can only happen with great teams working as one on behalf of their business. Surely a freelance culture threatens to undermine this competitiveness?

One of the most common questions across boards throughout the country is why are there not more young leaders breaking through and replacing the baby boom generation?

EP has been debating this point in recent issues and there is a belief that almost a generation has been lost through the 2000s with the advances in digitalisation and with increased profitable businesses until the crash of 2009. We arguably lost almost ten years of leaders through reductions in training budgets and increases in processes, technology and the management of risk. The result was that the estimated skill set and knowledge of middle management fell by an estimated 30%. New leaders were simply not being prepared. On top of that, process and risk management have almost hindered teams learning and accountability.

Now is the time to re-assess how great teams can be developed and new leaders nurtured. Britain’s businesses need to be competitive and this requires a greater and more thoughtful strategic approach towards the human asset. And hence the importance of Faisel’s work as it touches on this subject and is being written by one of the modern emerging leaders.

As part of the research, Faisel interviewed participants from board level down to senior management level with an almost equal breakdown in gender (male and female).  So what were the key findings from the study for consideration? Some of the findings were as one would expect:

  • The results demonstrated a direct link between a line manager’s leadership and positive outcomes such as increased commitment through positive communication and the opposite being true with a negative approach.
  • Empowerment behaviour had a direct link with increased commitment. Q Training/supportive behaviour linked to positive increase in commitment/job performance and satisfaction.
  • A clarity of vision/direction was shown to have positive effects. Q A direct link between the line manager’s Emotional Intelligence abilities and increased employee commitment – most especially expressed via “empathy”.

However, these were supported by a number of thought provoking and very relevant points for the modern era: Competitive advantage in today’s world can be gained through committed employees increasing organisational performance. Therefore, there is a real need for companies to work harder with their human capital and through key leadership behaviours and training seek to improve overall performance.

This is an interesting observation as one can make the argument this was the bedrock principles of success from the 1980s when training and the development of the human asset was seen to sit at the core of business. The Forte Empire is a great example of such a philosophy. This arguably became lost in the 2000s when Britain was in a period of a sustained boom, and maybe some of the core principles that lay in the foundations of business were forgotten and are only now getting renewed.

The leaders of the 1970s and 80s lived through some dark days from the three day week to the oil crisis to three recessions. These were some of the hardest times in post war Britain and this generation of leader lay their belief in training and the importance of teams. It is no coincidence that there is a new rising belief in how the companies can support human capital. However, the difference is that there is greater awareness of the need for flexibility and understanding of individuals that play key roles within organisations. Arguably this is a more complex period of time with employees of many different cultures and religions, and therefore there needs to be greater education and emotional intelligence displayed.

In his work, Faisel notes how leadership theory has evolved and developed considerably over time. It is true, it has from the days when the qualities of the leader were analysed to how leaders responded in differing situations to research on behaviours and functionality, through to the modern theory of the transactional/transformational approach to leadership and its further evolution into gender, culture, integrative and emerging forms. Faisel rightly argues that the evolution is driven by the macro-environmental factors that leaders operate within. It all just serves to emphasise the importance that the HR function can play in the modern business. There has never been a more important time to develop greater approaches to the development of talent and teams.

Communication skills are critical to increased commitment. The communication style should be:

  • Authentic
  • Clear
  • There needs to be a conscious acknowledgement that remote working should not lead to a decrease in face to face opportunities
  • It is simply not enough for an organisation to produce a vision statement. It must be an active part of an employee’s day-to-day interaction with and for the organisation.
  • Through empowerment, it is important that managers encourage employees to take risks and not to create a blame culture.
  • Training/supportive behaviours are critical to commitment. Organisations need to have formal structured yet flexible training programmes.
  • Treating employees as individuals.
  • Organisations need to understand that whilst Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be taught, it is not an easy process. There is a need for self-awareness within management.

Faisel writes: “As all individuals are unique, so too are their needs. Leaders must adapt their style and behaviours accordingly and those leaders with EI will be best placed to do this through greater levels of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill to develop and inspire their employee’s commitment, thus leading to increased productivity and in the end, to personal and organisational success.”

One of the aspects that make Faisel’s work stand out is that at its heart it lies with the pursuit of knowledge. He writes:
“You should be more knowledgeable today than you were yesterday, and more knowledgeable tomorrow than you are today, since if you do not make some improvements on a daily basis, in effect you are going backwards; the world would have changed and improved and you would not have progressed accordingly”

One of the other great debates that has been going on is the challenge in managing Millennials in comparison to the skills and behaviours possessed by the Baby Boom generation. Arguably the Baby Boom generation was driven more by an action culture that reflected the ethos of the 1980s being about personal responsibility and personal accountability. It was about creating actions to power growth in wealth and the economy. It was Thatcher’s ethos. It wasn’t all good; it wasn’t all bad but for a period of time it was very effective. This generation has led the industry for close to twenty years very successfully. Their legacy is safe and secure as having been at the heart of a golden era.

The problem is, this is a different era with a different ethos. The emerging generations do look at life in a very different way – one where knowledge and community sit at the heart. Faisel is an example of this new breed. Faisel is certainly not afraid of actions having worked hard to build his career, complete his MBA whilst working and playing a role in mentoring other young leaders. He is as action focused as anyone. The difference is that his outlook is different and at the heart lies a desire to learn and improve.

The Millennials have taken some intense criticism in recent times – some of it is fair, they do often lack the life skills that the Baby Boomers naturally possessed but is this their fault or have they been more protected in their developmental years? However, this is also one of the first generations to emerge from University with debt and they view life with, not concern or stress, but a greater belief in knowledge, globalisation, community and social agenda. There is a belief in the good from capitalism being combined with the good from social agendas to create new solutions.

The whole concept really started growing again in the mid to late 1990s and great examples include:

  • The   Eden   project
  • John Lewis Partnership
  • The Big Issue
  • Co-op
  • Cafedirect 

A survey conducted for the Social Enterprise Unit in 2004 found that there were 15,000 social enterprises in the UK. This was 1.2% of all enterprises in the UK. They employed 450,000 people, of whom two-thirds are full-time, plus a further 300,000 volunteers. Their combined annual turnover is £18 billion and the median turnover is £285,000, of this, 84% is from trading. In 2006, the government revised this estimate upwards to 55,000, based on a survey of a sample of business owners with employees, which found that 5% of them define themselves as social enterprises. The most up to date estimates suggest that there are approximately 78,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the UK economy.

Using the EU definition of social economy, the annual contribution of social enterprises to the UK economy is four times larger at £98 billion because it includes the contribution of all co-operatives, mutuals and associations that produce goods or services to improve human well-being.

The rise of the social enterprise is just one example that shows the changing nature of business between generations. Emerging leaders such as Faisel have recognised the changes and appreciate that they need to be made. Today, perhaps more so than ever before, people are becoming lost because they lack some of the essential skills needed for professional growth. Those who possess strong networking skills are in many ways more successful at reinventing themselves – an experience which can make a real difference in a career and in a life. Often not enough time is spent or invested in the core skills required. For the industry to thrive and prosper there is a greater need to focus on the development of skill sets and broadening thinking.

The underlying point is that this has been a growing development since the advent of Tony Blair and a more social conscience from the mid-90s and the emerging talent are only a product of this age. The real need is for business to understand the emerging generations and to develop new flexible approaches to maximise the exceptional potential that sits within.
As Faisel would remark – this is a time when Knowledge can be king. 

Profile of Faisel Choudhry

Faisel undertook his first role working at the Houses of Parliament for a Shadow Cabinet Minister aged 14, this first foray into the working world of Central Government sparked his interest and passion for Public Service.

At age 15 he began his first paid employment working for a small computer company in the West End (Tottenham Court Road) beginning in the Sales team, whilst undertaking his GCSE’s and progressing to General Manager at 18 during his A-Levels.

After graduating Faisel’s formal career began at The Royal Household in 2002 as a Technical Specialist, and progressed through several roles into management positions within Technology during his 12.5 years at the organisation.

In 2012 Faisel undertook a part time Executive MBA at Henley Business School to further his understanding of strategic business thinking and to build upon his leadership skillset, whilst continuing full time employment. He also became a Chartered Manager of the Chartered Management Institute and was the second youngest member, who was both a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Institute.

In 2015 Faisel began employment at the Bank of England within the Technology Directorate, managing a team of approx. 60 staff leading on the customer service aspect of IT, and contributing to the Bank’s mission to promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability. Faisel is currently undertaking a secondment to the HR Directorate to broaden his organisational HR knowledge.

Faisel also gives annual talks on leadership and personal development to a select number of aspiring young Muslim leaders at Oxford University, as part of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. As an alumnus of the Young Muslim Leadership Programme, Faisel has spoken since 2010 at the programme setup in cooperation with The Prince’s Charities.