During the last twenty-five years I have worked for several companies and saw different cultures at each of them. While trying to find similarities and differences it showed to me that the view on employees had a big influence on shaping the individual culture. And because culture can attract or expel employees and therefore influences mid-term corporate development it's time to share some of these thoughts.
I have identified five levels of perception depth that are explained here in detail. Each level can be read using the four quadrants borrowed from Ken Wilbers work to get a comprehensive picture;
- What is the manager views on the employee? (individual outside)
- What does this mean to the employee himself? (individual inside)
- What is the team's view on the employee? (collective outside)
- What does this mean for the culture? (collective inside)
Before stepping into the levels keep in mind, that there are huge differences for example between producing firms and consulting firms. So the levels are not evaluated as good or bad practices, but should find there right context to achieve their individual benefits. Managing people in a producing environment like having consulting people is an equally bad practice as vice versa.
The first level is the simplest possible and a pure quantitative one. Do we have an employee or don't we? Companies measure employees in headcount and use terms like workforce. The managers and the team think in ideas that if they double the number of employees they only need half the time. It's that easy. The employees are glad to have a job. They gain for security and stability. They don't need to see the whole picture. They just get the tasks they have to solve and the results will be toughly controlled by the manager. If an error is made the responsible will be punished. Errors delay tasks and missing task completion delays timelines and for missed timelines the management will be punished. And before this happens the manager will punish his employees to prevent it. All employees are objects and there are none to few attributes to distinguish them from each other. The employee is like a battery, replaced when exhausted. This is no environment to keep high skilled or high potential people on the long term.
Besides the quantity on the next level the knowledge is added. Education, study path and experience are important attributes looked after during recruitment. Salary is based on education and also the career will be dependent on it. Manager and team will try to put task and required knowledge together, to gain a certain quality level. The employee has studied some topic to get a job like this one. He will constantly provide the team with his knowledge and he will let you know what makes the difference if you don't have this education. And he wants to see the part of the plan that is related to his expertise. Education is definitely an attribute to differentiate employees, which will lead to different classes of employees. But still they are mostly seen as object without interest on the individual.
Besides knowledge skills become important. Employees are categorized into some set of typing for example artist, craftsman and technocrat. And it is recognized by the manager and possibly by the team that you wouldn't give the tax declaration task to the artist and the paint-a-portrait task to the number crunching technocrat. Delegation has the perspective of skill-based matching of task and employee, so that high quality and low effort comes together. Intrinsic motivation rises on a broad basis because employees have to solve tasks that are somehow made for their individual capabilities. And now they want to know about the plan for the next years, they want to imagine where their environment is developing to and what their contribution could be. Colleagues understand the capabilities of their team mates, which creates a culture of respect. The first time the employee becomes a subject and a team member and your payback will be a high loyalty.
On this level the intention of the employee is taken into account. And because intentions can change over time the scope should be limited to some duration for example three years. And watch out, this is a huge change. For the levels quantity, knowledge and skill is was sufficient to observe the outside of the employee. Now we have to dive into the inside of the employee, into his thoughts, emotions and intentions. These can only be assessed by talking to him. And even if the employee doesn't knows about his intention you could help him to uncover it. It is important to distinguish, if the employee wants to learn from the company, if he wants to make money or wants to take effect on the company. Respect employees intention to support him on his way and to create a long term collaboration. The employee will not only make his job, but will recognize that his individual growth is supported. The employee becomes a part of the family. He will stay for a long time.
Additional to the employees intentions at work on this level most of his values are taken into account. With this step you leave the exclusive scope of work and understand the priorities of work, family and free time. You can balance the work with his life. The employee becomes a friend for a lifetime.
The perception level will directly influence the fluctuation rate. If you have fun to invest your efforts repeatedly into adjustments into a new job, just keep going. But from my point of view it really makes sense to invest into the good people and keep them forever. If you don't have good people, overthink your recruiment strategy as well.
At the bottom line there is not one strategy that fits all. Take the perception level, find out where you are and where you want to be. Act on that and you're fine.