Increasing productivity through strong support services

There is a genuine issue today in productivity, in leadership, with talent acquisition and development –  they are all closely interlinked. There is a strong argument that, as we stand, we are harming both company performance and individual well-being, and more – business has accidentally undermined the traditional social structures that are important to productivity as they are the foundation stones for people’s security.

It is very simple. Strong social structures and leadership allow people to trust that there is help for them in difficult times. This allows people to feel secure and able to be themselves but this base has accidentally been eroded.

We need to start correcting the issue.

There are a number of key red lights flashing:

  1. A growing decline in trust in leadership, in institutions and in government across the globe.
  2. There are growing health concerns being caused by the long hours and work-family conflict across most developed countries.
  3. There are genuine rising health issues in the developed world being caused by stress such as diabetes and cardiovascular and circulatory disease. There is a large amount of research that suggests that diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome — and many health-relevant individual behaviours such as overeating, under exercising and drug and alcohol abuse — come from stress.
  4. There is a greater understanding that workplaces have increased stress levels.
  5. There is a highly patronising approach towards millennials and younger talent that is illogical. There is a school of thought that argues that school league tables changed the psychology of the young and companies to have not done their bit. In a recent Think Tank, we hosted it was noted that the average UK company commits 1% of their turnover towards talent development in comparison to Germany’s 4%. One can argue over what is needed but the one truth is that culture allied with trust builds successful teams and higher sales.
  6. Trust can not be underestimated. It is important that there is trust between colleagues as everyone needs to feel both friendship and support at work – and yet this has fallen to record lows.

In simple terms, the evolution in workplace culture has taken us to a negative position.  

This fact can be easily supported by the rise of the gig economy which surely is not a positive occurrence. People are naturally tribal but the young are opting out of their tribes. Why?

There is strong evidence that the traditional pillars of society have been broken down and eroded by some move towards a “transnational society”. In days gone by, the doctor would visit the family home. The bank manager was central to the community. So was the school teacher. Today the bank manager is centralised and there is no personal connection of a and that creates real stress – finance. There is greater financial insecurity and the banks have become highly transnational. This lessens trust. The GP is now aloof and removed as is the school teacher. The whole psychology of service in the community has been eroded and lost. Every service has become dominated by cost control and budgets – by finance. It is too easy to point towards austerity – the service culture has declined in society. There is less care and compassion by business towards community structures and to people.

Most will joke how hard it is to take out an insurance policy as one is asked 500 personal questions with no real personal touch or care. Banks are cold and transnational with poor service levels. Government is seemingly out of touch with modern life. With two Vice Chancellors being highlighted last year to be earnings salaries in excess of £400k when student debt has increased and is over twice the salary of the PM, then perspective has been lost.

There needs to be greater leadership in society. Society needs to be placed as a priority.

At the same time, the levels of stress on the family units have increased. The work hours that companies are demanding of their employees are causing the breakup of marriages, burdens on raising children and general disruption to family life. And the family unit is an important source of social support.

Companies do not need to be leaders in society but they do need to consider the internal working environment. Without trust, cultures naturally are weakened and trust can be built off good practices, care, compassion and high service levels. If the leadership show strong behaviours then this radiates down. If the leadership invest in their people, it will be returned.

It is interesting to note the example of the Saracens Rugby Team culture where the players are designated one day per week to spend with their families as the club understands the importance of the family unit. The All Blacks Rugby team made each player take up an enterprise in the community and they believed it improved the understanding and decision making process of each player.

It is one of the strange ironies. As the world has become more PC and more transparent so everyone’s behaviours have become increasingly guarded and there is greater levels of day to day aggression – from both genders. Life has become increasingly controlled and managed by process and this is creating tensions. There is a need for a more enhanced personal approach and understanding.

Just think about the rise of job boards and recruitment. It has made the acquisition of people be led by a process. The psychology is naturally changed. Too much of the time, recruitment today is focused on the CV and far less upon the person. CVs are valuable but they are not the whole story. So much time is focused on a controlled recruitment process that people almost become commodities rather than seen as potential talent for development.

Ask yourself how much talent has been lost through not interviewing them as they do not possess the right skills?

One such person could be Kate Haywood who was an Olympic swimmer, committed to her career from the age of 16 (she was BBC young sports person of the year at the age of 15), presents herself very well and is very engaging – and yet she has struggled with the recruitment process. She has great talent and yet we almost hinder her chances and she has found it hard going. Why? Because she committed herself to sport from the age of 16 to 25 and her CV does not tick the boxes – but she appeared at two Olympics, Worlds and faced pressure and demands that very few ever need to experience. She would be an asset to most companies.

That is one example but there is a deeper point. Much is written about the fear of failure. Those who have achieved great results in their exams through school and university often develop a fear of failure in the workplace for fair reason – they have been taught to aspire to only A grades. This fear of failure has become a real issue. However there are many exceptional CEOs over the years who built their careers up from the ground, through passion, fight and attitude and you embrace that fear of failure and overcome it. We need such characters. They create a balance and they bring attitude, passion and a hard work ethic to teams and business. They break barriers that others will not and lead the way for the whole team to succeed.

There is an arrogance that hinders recruitment if the belief is that the CV should be the primary judge of who should be interviewed?

Arrogance? Yes as the logic is that an intelligent person will generally beat the person with naturally talent and attitude – even a belief that the intelligent person will be more socially competent than the person without an University degree. There is an argument for this case but it is not always correct and we need to get back to a mind-set that recruits on attitude, passion and social skill as much as on intellect.

We talk about the fear of failure but we have ourselves created the imbalance and we need to re-engage talent for talent’s sake so that a good balance can be found once again. Our proposal is that we need to once again create a recruitment process/methodology that focuses on talent, passion, attitude and social skills – not just the CV.

What can be done in Business?

Simple – create strong employee experiences at work that aim to support the person at home and work. Generate higher service levels and show a commitment back to the role of the company in daily life, to people and the problems will ease.

What does this mean in practical terms?

  • Create stronger internal comms that does build greater trust in the business
  • Develop a strategy for internal support services to ease pressure.
  • Ensure that the recruitment processes are open minded and personalised – recruit for talent and attitude as well as on intelligence and qualifications.
  • Develop real strategies for how a company does interact with the community. There is no reason why teams can not play even minor roles on community issues that build greater trust with the community and help rebuild structures.

Every red light is flashing. We need to understand that we need to place people first once again and rightly so.

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