Start with your employees

In Leadership by Stephen Zakur0 Comments

I was in a meeting last week with a large group of executives. It was one of those meetings that you leave after an hour and feel like it was time well spent. We were casting our goals and objectives for the coming months not only in terms of business outcomes but also in terms of culture change.

Stephen CoveyDuring the discussion we talked about employee engagement. Those are really big words for saying: Are our people happy and does that happiness translate into them being “all in” to achieve objectives and satisfy customers?

I’m a finance guy by trade though I’ve spent the better part of the last decade in the IT shop. The goal of any businesses enterprise was drilled into me early in my career; shareholder value is the game. Full stop.

While I still believe that, my approach has become far more nuanced than it was in those early days. And while I don’t think employee happiness is an end, it is one of the most important means. It’s hard to be engaged constructively in the outcomes of our clients and shareholders if the organization creates disharmony and misery.

So, that’s where we’re starting. With our employees. But what does that mean?

Well, we know where many of the pain points are and we’ll have to iterate aggressively to make sure we’ve got them right. Here’s a short list of places I’ll be looking.

  1. Eliminate processes that only serves the bureaucracy: We all know what these are, we just need the intestinal fortitude to kill or modify them so they’re less painful. We’ve been on this for while. We’re going to go faster.
  2. Invest where we want to grow: Our employees have trouble aligning what we’re saying with what we’re doing. We need to get rid of the confusion. We will make tough choices about where the future is and shift our money and our people there.
  3. Give employees the tools they need to do their jobs: This is another one of those investment things. You can’t drive to the future in your father’s Oldsmobile.*
  4. Align organizations: Efficiency has driven us to compartmentalize work in ways that don’t make sense in delivering end-to-end value. It’s time to bring it back together.
  5. Adopt Agile practices: Not just in development, but in everything we do. Daily stand-ups anyone?
  6. Communicate the hell out of what we’re doing: Probably the most important item. I need to create visibility to the end game so that everyone understands where we’re going, fear is reduced, and engagement, there’s that word again, is increased.

*Yes, I have now dated myself. For you kids, this is what my father’s Oldsmobile Cutlass looked like. It was brown with a white roof.

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