NZIM The Power Within – People are the energy of enterprise

Change will affect everything and everybody in tomorrow’s workplace. As employers become more aware of the sources of change they realise how these could affect their businesses in future. Research suggests there will be three influencing factors in the next decade.
* Changing demographic patterns
People living and wanting to work longer, graduates and skilled people seeking better work opportunities offshore, changes in ethnic population ratios and fewer younger people entering the workforce.
* The pace of technological change
Changes in IT, biotechnology and nano-technology leading to shifts in the nature of products and services, in the organisation of business and in business relationships and communication.
* The effects of economic globalisation
Rapid transfer of knowledge and technologies, faster and wider transmission of information, shifting product demands and offshore production, increased knowledge-based work, lifelong education, training and retraining, increased decentralisation and outsourcing, and changing working arrangements – self-employment, project work, flexible hours, job-sharing, more work-life balancing, mobile skilled teams.
The problem for most managers is to determine how best to achieve targets and improve performance while structuring the organisation to cope with immediate and expected problems.
Managers want some assurance of stability and employees want assured employment and appropriate recognition of their efforts.
The common critical factor is the continuance of satisfied customers. Without them no organisation survives.
Managers are exploring wide range of options – outsourcing, diversification, customer surveys, downsizing into smaller business units, democratisation of the workplace, new thinking about leadership and teamwork, and other initiatives – to deliver better bottom line results.
The move away from command and control leadership styles to decentralised management and employee empowerment is one of the more significant of emerging changes. Groups of skilled employees linked by electronic networks and operating in project management relationship, will replace multi-layered corporate structures.
But employees now march to different drum. Pay rates are based upon an assessment of the knowledge, skill and experience needed to perform assigned tasks, the degree of responsibility embodied in that performance, and the market rate for similar positions elsewhere. Employees are paid to produce output to meet requirements, not for outcomes.
This is the us and them syndrome, linked in an enterprise which should meet the needs of both, each dependent on the other, but with different agendas.
Motivational theorists have pointed the way toward reconciling this dilemma. For instance, 50 years ago Douglas McGregor postulated that the main force keeping people productive in their work is their desire to achieve their personal and social goals. People seek many satisfactions at work including pride in achievement, enjoyment of process, sense of contribution, pleasure in association and stimulation of new challenges. People who understand and care about what they are doing can devise and improve their own methods of working.
This probably defines what most employees would want if they were asked but, the perception persisted that the reality of the situation would produce responses along the lines of: “I feel I earn my pay – I give value for money, for meeting the requirements set. What is the incentive to do more? I’m paid for what I do – not for what I could do.”
And management, conscious of work demands and cash flow, deals with deadlines and crises as they arise and so the established patterns of the workplace continue.
Some senior managers, meanwhile, get performance bonus payments almost as of right. These may have been initiated as recognition of value added over and above performance expectations, but employees no doubt wonder why there is no similar incentive for them to offer their proposals for increasing productivity.
But management faces wider issues.
It is primarily concerned with marketplace volatility and the ongoing viability of the enterprise. Survival may depend on strategic decisions made, perhaps, under time pressures, and this overrides everything else. The resultant changes may affect operational processes or staffing structures and then the inhouse grapevine goes into overdrive.
Management must act quickly to supply factual information to all employees and be ready to respond to questioning. Noticeboard announcements or email messaging do not allow informed discussion and often fuel rumour. When uncertainty takes hold, precipitate action may follow. When the ship is thought to be in danger strong swimmers often leave first. Damage control needs preparation for expected loyalty must be earned.

Planning for tomorrow
Most employers are trying to add value, increase productivity and reduce costs while simultaneously stressing the importance of building and strengthening teamwork to accomplish this. This traditional and expected approach will, in part, be effective. Teams need time to coalesce, to build their relationships and culture, to adjust to assigned tasks, to develop and reinforce operational procedures and the pressure of events and the movement of people may limit this. Manager-led teams can compartmentalise people and diminish opportunities for informal and wider interaction.
Informal links with different levels of the workforce and, perhaps, with customers and clients, build networks and can create wider culture, ultimately increasing output.
Some research suggests that if people assembled for particular purpose are sufficiently motivated, they will create their own team structure with leader, problem-solver, detailer, coordinator, gofer and so on. People move into their comfortable roles and adjust as needed. Natural teams emerge.
Managers who direct employees may feel they are in charge but in reality employees choose what they supply which will either depend on quantity, quality, cost and time allowances, or be acceptable but “could do more if pushed”. Each employee is “10-metre expert” within his or her work area. They know where improvement to achieve more, better, cheaper or faster is possible and, with encouragement, will provide ideas.
This is the tipping point – the pivot between what is and what could be. The password is communication and the four ingredients which can lead to culture change are shared information, mutual trust, clarity of intent and continuous feedback.
• Shared information
People want to know what is going on and because they are involved they need to know. They want information beyond what they can access on the screen and because they can see things from different perspective they can sometimes add to what’s available.
• Mutual trust
Trust involves reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth and reliability of the issue. This is generated by shared information with no hidden agenda and respected confidentiality.
• Clarity of intent
Objectives are clear and progress towards their attainment is discussed. Difficulties are identified and tackled.
• Continuous feedback
People hate being talked at. The flow of words passes over them, their eyes glaze over and the impact of the message is lost. • Discuss – don’t just tell
Every business, private or public, is under pressure to improve performance, to add value, to maintain revenue flow, to build and maintain the customer base. The resources for doing this lie in the product or service provided and in employees’ capacity to meet the ongoing commitment.
Managers and employees use different skills to perform their assigned roles but to achieve operational targets they are inextricably linked in working partnership, interdependent and indivisible. One cannot exist without the other – and each must be aware that their partnership is dependent upon shared information, mutual trus

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