Thursday, October 27, 2016

Service Without A Cause

People asked, "What if you spend all this money on training an employee - and they leave?"  Their reply was, "What if we don't, and they stay?"  - Pal's Sudden Service

What's old is new again, with another book within the organizational development genre of success through renegade teams of rule breakers and this time unleashed by Harvard Business Review, an overarching idea first brought onto the OD/management scene years ago with the wildly successful (and deservedly so) First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham, a title aimed at how managers could instill fresh thinking into otherwise stodgy stale workplaces by turning some traditional management ideas on their heads; the groundbreaking book was well thought, based upon 25 years of research by Gallup and over one million workers, evidence based research is there ever was, and The Citizen has regularly promoted their findings.

HBR, however, riding the tail end of still oddly popular employee dis-engagement phenomenon which has spawned innumerable books, seminars, and new experts over the past five years, now re-brands the needed engagement of all employees at every level in any size of organizations as that of "rebel" behavior through their new offering w/catchy title, Rebel Talent, supposedly because any approach to workplace success which challenges the status quo must be seen as that of courage and bravery; and supposedly to siphon off some success from Buckingham, et al, yet doesn't do it very well. 

As we find outside the world of academia, there really is no need for rebellious behavior, as both line and grand poohbah workers of all stripes and flavors can become engaged, productive, and happy, simply from the time-tested foundations of good management including clear expectations, follow through, and respectful inclusiveness of all employees' opinions and efforts. Done sincerely and actually done, it's really that easy.

The rebel motif works
in some places...
Will this new dis-engagement-turned-rebel model become the new hot wave in management fads over the coming years? Not so, IMHO, as the sensible hands-on management style which shows to engage anyone, in any relationship, better than simply ignoring them and setting them free to be "rebels" and figuring it all out on their own, soon returns to help all manager of all stripes both up and down the staircase make sense of it all. Rebel tragedy: "Tell workers what needs to be done, but not how to do it." In rebelworld, this assumes, of course, that workers already know how to do it, whatever it is. And if there's a process, this statement assumes it must be holding the worker back from self-actualization and engaged happiness of some sort, simply because someone else has thought of it first, therefore, it must be "status quo" and as we all know, status quo is evil?  One person has said one thing, and someone else says another. Yet maybe on private estates, this isn't so cool as in the movies. Tell the housekeeper the slate floor needs cleaning, yet forgo the standard of information about the special pH formula which the installer recommended so it doesn't etch and it need to be replaced in six months and let everyone figure it out for themselves?  Um... be careful about too much rebellion!

The author's end goal is admirable: increased company productivity through helping workers bring out the best in any process, old or newly invented, and wrapped up and delivered as for the purpose of engagement. There's better ways then theirs, however, not the least of which is, ironically, mentioned in their first article on the subject, at Pal's Sudden Service. I'm a bit surprised they included Pal's in their article, as there seems to be little-to-none rebelworld behaviors in their work group other than encouraging workers to help come up with solutions (par for the course in good management, already); perhaps they are confusing rebelliousness with a company culture of high standards and accountability? Odd, yet, let's peel away the onion just one layer, and one could say that's somewhat rebellious for their industry to have this fantastic model of training and accountability, especially the sheer amount of it a Pals team member must go through before even being considered for working the front line. And we're talking burgers here, not Bentleys.

Pal's is employee engagement done right, indeed - yet not done rebel. Productively with each customer interaction is far and above any of their competitors, turnover is far below their industry's standard, and the company is highly profitable and has no financial worries. And the employees feel engaged!

And the employees there are truly happy. Why? It's because someone there cared enough about them to establish accountability against a set of standards that make sense, and help the worker to actually succeed 100% - every day.

And all workers are following the status quo, following processes and procedures which they not only must learn through over 130 hours in initial training (Burger King, by contrast, gives it's new employees, um, two hours of training) and on top of that, skills testing of each team member up to four times per month, whereupon each must become re-certified in any number of daily
Could staff training and accountability also work
at places with less interesting sculptures installed?

Yes, re-certified. Sounds corny? Maybe not so. That means no room for tedious egos and hands-off staff members at Pal's; everyone must both pull their weight and prove to their co-workers, managers, and most importantly, themselves, they're on top of their game, every day. Can you imagine? A workplace that cares so much about it's workers succeeding that it spends the time, effort, and money to provide continuous training, testing and holding each person accountable? What do the workers think? Most people are initially surprised that workers want to be held accountable and have the opportunities to demonstrate high standards, until they realize that it's the good workers in a company who naturally gravitate toward this high level of accountability... the others naturally drop away and go to work at, well, some other place that only requires two hours of training and then let's the team devolve into rebelworld.

Bringing this into our corner of the world, what type of domestic worker is attracted to an environment where they know they will be required to demonstrate high proficiency on a daily basis, and be working with others who are moving through the day in a positive, high energy display of their talents? And what type of domestic worker would say "no thanks, I'll go work somewhere else that doesn't expect so much teamwork out of me?"  You get it.

Can you imagine the Pal's model thriving on your estate?  Is there someone in place on your estate who cares enough about your success in performing skills to established high expectations that no matter how many years the staff has been there - each are still tested and retrained as needed to keep their skills sharp - and to have the opportunity to demonstrate to all around them? And to offer and expect the same level of professionalism from all of their co-workers, each who are just as excited and happy to be employed in such a place of positive, supportive, full engaged and hands-on style managers? And done in such a respectful and positive way that the workers are actually happy to give 200% every day, and they don't want to work anywhere else?
...but maybe not so well on teams.

Would there then be any need for rebel talent on that estate? Or would that service... have a cause?

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