What People Want From Work

As in New Zealand, some policies and practices delighted, and others made you shudder. At one stage I was in New York and one morning an article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. It was the result of survey conducted among very large number of people in the workforce. It was trying to ascertain the factors that were important to people as far as their jobs were concerned. I’d have to say the results were predictable and mirrored research of years past.

Nothing new
The top seven were: open communication, effect on the family, nature of work, quality of management, control over work content, learning new skills and job security. In the long list that followed there were about another eight items before you got down to salaries and wages. It seems that the research of Frederick Herzberg is alive and well today. I wonder if we did the survey here, would the results be any different? I doubt it.
The next question is “what do we in management need to be doing about these things to make sure people are getting from their jobs the things they need?” The rationale is that only when we can organise that, will the organisation benefit as well.

Let’s look at some items:
Open communication

People are entitled to hear about what’s going on in their organisation. How well are we doing this? What information are people getting? I was amazed, looking at the successful organisations in the States, and the same happens in New Zealand, to see all sorts of data usually classified as top secret in lesser organisations, are fed to everyone in the successful runners – board papers, financial information, etc, etc. What makes it meaningful for them is that those in supervisory and management positions right down the line are constantly briefing people about the results. Standing up in front of small group and giving the message on regular basis is part of the job yet too often people feel uncomfortable about doing it or just don’t seem to have the time. But there’s no doubt communication is the oil that lubricates the total organisation.

Family and personal life
You hear the question all the time “Is it all worth it?” That’s for the individual to answer. However, we would have to say that at times we make the rod for our own back and forget that activity doesn’t equal productivity. The solution, without any doubt, is more planning, and if at times the time spent with the family is limited because of work pressure, then it must be planned and the time given made into quality time.

Work and control over work content
This offers wonderful opportunities for stretching your creativity.
Again communication is the key. What do people like about the job, what do they dislike? Can we arrange it to meet their likes and reduce some of the dislikes? Of course it can’t be with everything, but by just talking about the thing we show that we are interested and there may well be some opportunities for change.
As managers we have to remember that when we delegate, those involved are entitled to get on and do the job and have control over that job. You would have noticed high on the list of things that people want, or are influenced by, with any job is the quality of management. Those we report to can make or break our job. As managers we must have empathy with people. What is it that drives them? What can we do to create an environment where they can be at their most productive? If we can get this part together, then organisations will really tick.

Gaining new skills
Too often we forget an individual’s learning curve is connected to his or her motivational curve and those two curves are connected to the overall performance of the organisation. By giving people added skills and ability we are ensuring bottom-line performance – surely win-win situation.
There’s no doubt that the future organisation that succeeds will be more and more related directly to the learning curves of individuals. This is because individuals will have to change skills and directions if full advantage is to be taken of the opportunities that come up. So the manager must have as part of his or her plan, the whole responsibility of developing the skills and knowledge of people for whom they are responsible. The better we carry out this responsibility the better the results we will achieve.

Key issues and questions
? The wants and needs haven’t changed.
? People want to know how their organisation is performing.
? Is all this pressure really worth it?
? Is management letting me have say?
? Am I growing and how secure is this job?

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CEO vision

Do they know where they’re taking us? I visit lot of organisations and without exception people from middle management down ask “Where are we going? There’s been corporate plan done, we had some input, but we haven’t heard anything since. It seems like we’re stumbling along without any real direction.”
I think this is considerable problem in our country. In some cases an organisation hasn’t identified just where it’s going. In others, some good work has been done, but articulating the vision to people further down the line hasn’t been very successful.
When I discuss this with some execut-ives they are under the illusion that people aren’t terribly interested as long as they have job and the company is in business. As long as people can carry on doing what they are doing right now, they’re happy they think. Others say to me that staff down the line wouldn’t understand the complexities that go with the total corporate vision.

People want to know
Aren’t these executives on bit of cop out? Of course people are concerned that they have job security. That’s one of our driving motivators. But they want do know where the organisation is heading, even if it’s just to feel some permanency. Sure, in some cases, they don’t understand the details, but that doesn’t matter. The key thing is that when some key executive, preferably the leader of the organisation, gets up and eyeballs the troops, articulates where the organisation is going and how everyone will get there, that people derive great deal of comfort and confidence. Of course, senior executive can’t guarantee anything. People know things can change overnight. But they can also be told that, subject to unforeseen change, this is the road we’re going to take together.

Where do their goals fit?
There’s nothing like few messages along those lines to build up the cohesion and understanding in an organisation.
If we expect people to achieve challenging individual goals they must relate to the goals of the total organisation. It follows they should know where that organisation is going. It’s the responsibility of the CEO to articulate the vision. Remember the words of Confucius: “He or she who aims at nothing normally achieves it.” The same goes for organisations.

Key issues and questions
? They want to know where the organisation is heading.
? Articulating the vision right down the line is essential.
? Inspiration and enthusiasm is called for.
? Do people see fit between their goals and those of the total organisation?

Extracts from Managing and Leading in New Zealand, by Reg Garters, FNZIM, chief executive, NZIM, Canterbury.

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