Is your organisation full of people who are worth working with?
At Impact our guiding purpose is to fill the world with organisations worth working for. We are passionate about the need for all organisations to be the best examples of human ingenuity, enterprise and creativity. Why? Well mainly because it is only through our organisations (private companies, government departments, institutions, NGOs etc) that we will meet the global challenges that we collectively face. Our organisations don’t just have to be efficient, they have to be effective and they have to inspire and motivate employees, customers, shareholders and stakeholders alike.
Too many organisations are not worth working for. For too many people their experience at work is stressful, negative and unproductive. In the UK our organisations are struggling to be efficient or effective as evidenced by the UK’s continuing difficulty to elevate our productivity levels beyond a 2008 high water mark. Productivity in our organisations is a global problem; it is a complex picture but the OECD talks about the need to ‘work smarter, not harder’ in its recent analysis of the global productivity figures.
We also continue to see global employee engagement rates stagnating, with Gallup reporting global employee engagement rates at just 13%.
One of the challenges in thinking about how to design organisations that are worth working for is that organisations as an entity are a bit of an abstraction. That is to say, they don’t really exist. A quick test by way of example; if a visitor from another planet wanted to meet your organisation where would you take them and what would they see? A building, an office, a room, a factory floor, would you introduce them to the CEO, the company accounts, the CFO?
In truth any organisation only exists in the hearts and minds of the people who have a relationship with it and, some would say, it is created and recreated every day in the interactions and relationships that it nurtures and builds.
But despite this, most of us continue to talk about the place that we work as if it's real somehow and blame ‘it’ for things that it ‘does’ to us that we disagree with or find demotivating.
For us a great place to start in building organisations worth working for is with ourselves. Recently at an internal meeting where we were reviewing our collective progress against our objectives and planning for the year ahead one member of staff had a clear view of her personal performance objective for the coming year. She told her colleagues
“I want to be someone worth working with”.
This stopped us all for a few minutes and subsequently led to a rich conversation about what that meant for her and for all of us.
As the conversation flowed it became clear to us all how Impact can continue to be an organisation worth working for (we think we are and we keep winning awards from the Great Place to Work® Institute). We realised that if Impact is created and recreated every day in the interactions that we all as staff have with each other, then taking care of those interactions is in turn taking care of ourselves and our organisation.
In many ways this now seems obvious. But as I have discussed this with clients and others it seems that this is a simple but powerful way of recognising something that is missing from so much debate about organisational change, agility, innovation and all the rest of it.
What’s missing is that any organisation is, at heart, just one group of human beings who are in service to another group of human beings. We can lose sight of that in our pettiness, in our frustration (at our organisation, its culture, its intractability etc) and in our cynicism. Too often our organisations become places that are reduced to a process where one set of self interested issues jostle against another set.
But if we’re to return to the idea that our organisations are human to human places, where each of us has a responsibility to bring our humanity to work, to reach out and connect with people, not as co-workers or colleagues or job titles or roles or bosses or customers, or suppliers but with people; just like ourselves.
And in doing so, day-to-day we were to ask of ourselves, “am I someone worth working with?” then the quality of our interactions, our intentions and relationships would build the foundations of an organisation worth working for.
And then we would see productivity rise. We would see employee engagement rise. And we would see our organisations flourish and help our world to flourish in turn.
And then we would all be a lot happier.
Grahame Broadbelt is Global Head of Communication and R&D at Impact.