Friday, June 28, 2024

Employee Advantage: a new book that may not have needed to be written

 From my Goodreads review: Meier gives compelling evidence for bringing employees more to the forefront of corporate strategy. Citing decades-old and more recent successes in large and medium-sized companies, while providing antagonistic examples of corporations that didn’t, the author shows how treating employees as partners—not just teammates, associates, assets—and allowing them to bring their full range of expertise, experience, knowledge and passions can build or rebuild a successful enterprise providing more value to customers and other stakeholders.

The author starts with the Gallup employee engagement poll which frustratingly shows that despite business press/schools emphasis on employee engagement, it has not changed since they started measuring it. And that many surveys show two-thirds to eighty percent of employees would leave their current jobs—another statistic that hardly varies—the “grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.” I once described this as the left hand’s four fingers thinking life is better for those on the right hand, and vice versa.

As someone who entered professional life in the rebirth of the quality movement more than 40 years ago, I feel like this book shouldn’t need to be written. The lessons have been there since the late 1920’s—Hawthorne Electric Works, where they learned asking employees what will help productivity actually worked—through the late 1940s with the Japanese industrial re-emergence inspired by William Deming and Joseph Juran. Leading through the other Total Quality gurus into Six Sigma and Lean, despite 3M’s misinterpretation of how it would/should affect employee input in the early 2000s, which the author cites and some of which I witnessed. Most of us, who sincerely took these management/leadership philosophies to heart turned around and built successful companies.The evidence is around us as noted by Stephen Covey, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and others. Less-known studies by the National Center for Employee Ownership emphasize that employee-owned companies—which engage employees fully in the mission and vision—continually grow faster, are more profitable and survive (or thrive) recessions better than their corporate counterparts.

Sometimes CEOs only look at what employees can do for them, while forgetting that without employees CEOs have nothing to run. I often describe that people want to go home knowing they’ve contributed to the company’s success and their own success. They’d rather not go home like a teenager from high school sullenly describing their day as “fine.”

While acknowledging that not all of his suggestions will work in every organization, I feel he has ignored a key consumer behavior. He adopts a model from other researchers suggesting that organizations should change in a way to increase employees’ Willingness to Supply (WTS). A long time ago, Kano defined a model showing that certain product (aka workplace) characteristics generate satisfaction if provided: characteristics like culture, environment, autonomy, policies, benefits, etc. Likewise, dissatisfaction is created if it’s not provided. But….there may be characteristics not provided that don’t create dissatisfaction. Likewise, there are characteristics that once provided, and the “customer” experiences them are delighted and wowed. And then the trick is to discover if “more” creates more value (WTS) or plateaus at some level of satisfaction/so-what/ennui and diminishing returns.

I encourage fellow travelers to heed the lessons here and enjoy your work, so that your partners in building an enterprise can enjoy theirs too.
I appreciate the publisher for allowing me to see an advance copy..

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