Whether you say organizations need to transform, evolve, change, or adapt doesn’t really matter. The only thing that does matter is the way organizations do business, and how they are designed and structured is changing. For a long time, we had the assumption that the organization that makes the most money or has the largest market share wins. It’s because of this assumption that we have always treated people as if they needed to work for us instead of trying to create an organization where they want to work for us.
Today, it’s the organization that outlasts the competition that wins. This is a fundamental shift in thinking that must push leaders from short-term thinking and quarterly profits to playing the long game. The business world has, of course, talked about this for many years, yet little has changed. The long game has nothing to do with innovation, profits, customer success, or product. Focusing on the long game means redesigning your organization to put your people at the center. Everything else will come from this. So how do we put people at the center? There are three things organizations can start with today.
1. Promote People Who Care
Organizations have traditionally promoted people who are good at their jobs: those who close the most deals, bring in the most money, and deliver the best results. These people are great individual contributors, but that doesn’t mean they should be responsible for leading others. Instead, we must take the employees inside of our organizations who are great at engaging, inspiring, empathizing, and supporting others, and then promote them (and give them the typical management training). If we put people in positions of power who don’t genuinely care about others, then it’s not possible to focus on the long game. You can’t teach caring.
2. Grow Ears
We have become obsessed with copying the likes of Google and Facebook, because clearly if something works for them then it must work for us. Instead, organizations around the world need to grow their own ears. This means investing heavily in people analytics and real-time feedback technologies, and in teaching managers how to have actual conversations with their employees (and vice versa) — to get know employees as individuals instead of just as workers. To truly create an organization where people want — not need — to show up, do so with your employees — not for them.
3. Think Like a Lab and Not Like a Factory
Factories are linear, focused on the status quo; they believe in command and control and are riddled with old workplace and management practices. Laboratories embrace failure, leverage data, test assumptions, and collect feedback. Organizations must transition from one to the other. The future of work is not as a factory. The best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to test it.
I absolutely believe that in the coming years, the organizations that focus on their people will win. In fact, I have the data to prove it in my new book on employee experience.