The post-entrepreneurial company is erasing the line between work and home. What is the employee getting in return? By Peter Yeomans
There is no single model for rewarding employees that will suit every organisation. A characteristic of the post-entrepreneurialism adopted by some groups is the recognition of employee participation in company performance, with pay structures reflecting contribution rather than hierarchy. Organisations using this approach value teamwork and employee involvement in corporate planning, and offer incentives to stimulate productivity and company loyalty.
The modern workplace puts increased demands on workers in longer working hours and pressure to contribute to corporate success. A correlation may exist between long hours of work and job satisfaction, but there is also the factor of insecurity; the need to prove that one is an indispensable member of the team, and to achieve more with less.
Higher remuneration may be attractive, but opportunity can create overload, with the relationship between work and family a cause for concern. In response, employees are seeking various kinds of support to restore the balance: for example, access to child care. Companies aware of the need are using strategies to relieve the tension between the personal and working lives of employees by establishing priorities, delegating authority, and streamlining processes.
Upper-level employees are those most affected by post-entrepreneurial concepts. The steady climb up the corporate ladder is no longer the norm. Company restructuring and the outsourcing of services have eliminated many jobs and, as a result, knowledge and contribution matter more than the level in the hierarchy. Advancement may be available, but not through allegiance to one organisation. Instead, it will be through working for many employers over the course of a career.
As job security disappears and with it company loyalty both employer and employee are affected. The quality of the work the company offers and its approach to training and skill development assume more importance in the retention of staff. Enhanced employee productivity comes at the expense of greater levels of personal anxiety. The result is a delicate balance between the challenge to motivate employees and encourage loyalty on the one hand, and the impermanence of employment and lack of a defined career path on the other.
Many companies are gearing up to be competitive in the global corporate Olympics. Although their approaches will differ, in general they are pursuing an agenda based on the development of:
- Synergy in the corporation, with a focus on core business and the maximum contribution of each employee. This may involve reducing staff, but it must also include measures for enhancing co-operative relationships.
- Alliances with related organisations for mutual benefit in combining resources and expertise. This requires new forms of management that move beyond hierarchy to information sharing and the promotion of beneficial partnerships.
- Ideas, inventions and innovations into business opportunities. These depend on mechanisms to bring forward new proposals and a preparedness to take risks.
These strategies require new forms of organisational structure. Corporate centres are shrinking and there is more emphasis on employee empowerment, and on closer bonds between the corporation and its suppliers and customers.
The new approaches need a new kind of leader, with the skills of:
- Influencing and working with others to achieve outcomes.
- Humility and willingness to learn.
- Focusing on process as well as content.
- Flexibility being able to establish multi-disciplinary teams to do tasks.
- Being results-oriented, tying personal reward to performance and outcomes.
The nation’s education system is an important underpinning for developing the skills of leaders and other employees. Corporations must accept responsibility for training staff on the job, however schools can prepare students in the two important areas of technological literacy and facility in other languages.
In addition, public policy measures to enhance competitiveness would include union involvement in workplace change, tax incentives, assistance for the re-establishment of redundant employees, and portability of pensions and other benefits.
Vic Zbar, Key Management Concepts review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter, 1994.
Confronting the corporate challenge.
How not to
How not to flog a dead manager
Management comment on the internet: The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that, when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, modern companies use a range of advanced strategies, such as:
- Buying a stronger whip.
- Changing riders.
- Threatening the horse with the sack.
- Appointing a committee to study the horse.
- Arranging to visit other countries to see how they ride dead horses there.
- Re-classifying the dead horse as living impaired.
- Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
- Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.
- Doing a productivity study to see whether lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
- Declaring that, as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly and therefore contributes much more to the bottom line than do some other horses.
- Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
How not to get rid of someone
Jennifer Paterson, former star of the TV series Two Fat Ladies, was famous for getting the sack, and turning up next day as if nothing had happened. When she was cook at The Spectator magazine, she was dismissed three times, either for saying provocative things to visitors, or for attacking members of the staff for their slovenly habits (she even remarked unflatteringly on British social commentator Enoch Powell’s bald pate).
Undaunted, she would arrive the next day. Said one Spectator editor: If more employees realised how hard it is to sack someone, they might try this more often. The fact is, most bosses only have enough energy to sack someone once.
Eventually Paterson, who was noted for her bouts of extreme eccentricity, went too far. Furious at the mess in the kitchen on a Friday afternoon, she pitched all the crockery out the window. The window happened to open on to a funeral parlor, which suddenly looked more like the scene of a Greek wedding than of solemn mourning. This time there was no way back. Happily, Paterson went on to become one of Britain’s most popular television personalities.
A similar drama was recently played out in a large Australian corporation. A middle manager, who had become unpopular with senior management, was asked to leave. He decided he did not want to, so he stayed where he was.
The board insisted, but the manager decided to wait for the board to go.
So unusual was his response that no procedures were in place to deal with such an eventuality.
At the time of writing, the manager remained in his position, pending further developments.
The Slithershanks File
Slithershanks used to think that putting one foot in front of another was called “walking”. He has since learned that it is in fact a prioritisation of the transmission of vital human resources from point A to point B with all points in between extensively covered in a proactive, needs-based fashion.
This has proved to be a tremendous relief, as he was otherwise considering outsourcing his vital perambulatory core functions to a wheel chair, and staying right where he was until he was told to move.
But now he can stay precisely where he is and call it “generating a database for the assessment of vital points of existing resources from a static perspective”. Having a quiet snooze is clearly an examination of the “time budget” in respect of its valuable reflection on the optimal utilisation of the available intellectual property.
Where did Slithershanks find his inspiration for this insight? Good Company by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters:
“The second step in our human-capital initiative was to identify needs within the company. Though this transcends the database project, the needs assessment is built into the database, so we can match the resources we need with those we have. To inventory our true needs, we created a prioritisation process.”
Slithershanks used to think this was just “working out what to do with what is available”, but it just sounds so much better when you put it this way.