I have found myself recently sharing my perspective on the long history of efficiency, process and production line mentality that has underpinned the majority of our organisations over countless centuries. The impact of the industrial revolution being but the latest in a long line of drives towards greater output for less input and cultures that are essentially devoid of humanness.
The swirling discussions around the continued impact of technology and AI will only add to this trajectory in my view. The real revolution that needs to be started in our organisations is a move to a deep and heartfelt recognition that they are populated by people – human beings.
This is a revolution that, when successful, can and will lead to a step change in the performance of a business – but as an outcome, a lagging indicator if you will. To achieve this step change we firstly need to take the time to really reflect on what it means to have people in our business and recognise all the ways in which we negate their humanness.
For example, using language like ‘assets’ when talking about employees. Using that well known and hackneyed phrase ‘people are our greatest asset’ and then promptly following it with behaviours that drive people into the ground with workplace stress and overload as we focus on task after task. Or adopting an ‘accountant’ mentality where employees are numbers on a page not real people with real lives.
Then there’s the target setting and business metrics that are entirely focused on money and productivity with little, if any, focus on real people measures. Sure, these are hard to pin down, just like people, and in my view engagement surveys whilst a start, are something of a blunt instrument in this regard. Even more so when they are flaunted when they show positive numbers but ignored when things are going badly.
That said this isn’t about finding clever metrics. First, we have to break the fixation with hard measures that must be expressed in terms of financial value. When we do that, we will find other ways to establish the value of our shift toward a human-centred rather than a money-centred culture. We will define and measure the wealth and value created in, and by, our organisations in terms of prosperity for all – employees, clients and all stakeholders including communities.