Leading Employees: Assets or Adults?
6 June 2017
Businesses often say that their employees are their best assets; the best way to represent their company values, brand and culture. So, what would you think if I were to say to you that employees should absolutely not be seen as assets at all?
In fact, when I attended the HR Network Conference a few weeks ago, these thoughts were confirmed by guest speaker, Lucy Adams, former HR Director of the BBC.
Her view is that employees are adults; consumers; humans. Business leaders need to start treating them as such. We need to trust our employees instead of holding their hands. After all, they make plenty of decisions for themselves and their families out with the workplace. Why do we feel the need to take on that responsibility for them the rest of the week?
Businesses often tend to parent their employees at best and mollycoddle them at worst. A most basic example of this can be found in workplace signs: ‘Now, wash your hands’, ‘Hold the handrail’, ‘Remember to tidy up dishes’. We don’t need these signs in our own homes to remind us of everyday tasks, so why are they often found plastered across our walls and doors?
This type of parent / child working relationship needs to be replaced with an adult / adult one. Placing trust in your employees can only be beneficial for both parties. You don’t have to stand over workers ensuring every little task is done, freeing you up to be engaging in more strategic decision making and activity. In return, employees don’t feel like they are working in a dictatorship and are free to pursue their daily tasks in a manner which suits their working style.
Workplaces also need to learn to reflect the growing demand for personalisation that occurs outwith businesses. Think about it this way: When you log in to your Netflix or Spotify account, would you want to be greeted with choices that suit your own particular tastes or just something generic that has no relevance to you?
The same reasoning needs to be applied to how HR departments tackle the needs of employees. We are all individuals, in and out of the workplace. Treating employees like a homogenous, global lump will not work. People need varying levels of support, career guidance and training. Some people are ambitious and will always be seeking out more responsibilities; others will be happy progressing at a steadier rate.
The point is that no two employees are the same. We don’t learn the same way. We don’t even have the same approach to our daily workloads. The rest of the world is screaming about personalisation or ‘create your own’, so businesses need to start thinking along the same lines.
This is where the issue of adult / adult relationships come in. If you trust your employees and their abilities, you should be comfortable with a more ‘personalised’ workload. Perhaps this means working from home or flexitime.
The example comes from the top. Being a strong leader can often mean taking a step back and allowing your employees to make their own choices. Don’t be a parent, be an adult.
If you would like to speak to me about taking your business forward and building excellent relationships with your employees, I would be delighted to help. Click here to see my details and I can discuss your business needs confidentially.
Written By Barry Lee