We have all seen the variations on this image. There are probably no less than a dozen floating around on LinkedIn right now, and I believe they may be creating the wrong perception about employer to employee expectations. Many of these graphics use terminology which indicate that an employer owes his or her employees not only compensation for a service performed but also training, motivation, personal encouragement, and future job skills. Now, before some of my fellow agilists try to hang me from the lamppost, I am not anti-employee engagement or incentivization! If organizations want or need to do this for their employees and believe that it is a worthy investment, awesome! I just think there is a need to return to the idea that employer and employee are two partners which exchange services for compensation. If there is to be a powerful partnership, then all themes to retain this partnership must be bilateral. Below is a brief description of what is meant by the graphic above.
Empowered with purpose derived from the vision
Without a good, empathetic, and more importantly visible vision, organizations fail. Employers must be able to set a vision, tell the story of the vision, and set a direction for his or her employees. And then step back. Employees, especially highly skilled ones, should respond by becoming purposeful and adding their color to the way that vision is exercised in the strategic, tactical, and operational actions of their job. Two ways: set the vision for the employer and do something about it for the employee.
Allowed to create purpose collaboratively with the mission of the organization
Vision? Check. Now the mission. How is the employer or how is the employer not going to achieve that vision. Mission sets the stage or the morals or the organization. If the employer can do this, then it gives a greenfield for employees to design their own way to do their work. If organizations not only laud but display mission, then team members know that it is important and will value the mission of the organization.
Provided with autonomy aligned with organizational goals
According to Daniel Pink, workers are after a couple of key things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Each concept, however, is an outcome of an if-then statement. Autonomy is an outcome of inputs from both employer and employee. From the employer comes a deep and concerted effort to do more than teach the organizational goals, but to use these as, effectively, non-functional requirements for every feature, project, or engagement. From the team member, showing alignment with these goals will then set the stage for autonomy. Then it is the employers turn again – actively engaging by indicating they recognize this alignment and providing autonomy!
Engaged with a mutually beneficial career path
We have gone into many organizations that use either antiquated career paths such that promote really good people to really bad managers, don’t honor craftsmanship with incentives, or ignore skill focusing solely on tenure. If we want to attract and keep high-quality talent, developing “agile” HR practices around organization are a must. That being said, it must align with the needs of the organization as well. One organization that I know of created a career path for product owners even though it didn’t align with the goals of the company so when there was a need for correction, they ended up laying off all of these folks en masse. Not good! Build what you need as an employer with the flexibility to reward quality work! I could probably write a whole blog on this principle alone (maybe I will!).
Communicated with even when there is little to disclose
I remember one time I was communicating with who my son used to call, “my bosses boss.” The company was going through some extreme transition and I was asked what my thoughts were to help give confidence in the organization to the team members. I told her, “have a town hall style meeting and tell everyone what is going on.” This VP then told me there was nothing to tell. To which my response was, “then tell everyone that.” The point of communication and conversation is not always to inform but to build relationships. We do this to express that we care about the other party. In this VP’s case, she needed to set the stage that she thought highly enough about everyone that she would communicate and create open dialogue even when there wasn’t anything else to say.
So next time, I’ll cover the other five. These are:
- Provided opportunity to fail well
- Shown their value to the organization
- Encouraged to self-improve and learn
- Incentivized for contributing to organizational improvement
- Equitable exchange of compensation to services
I hope you check in on this. And your thoughts are welcome!