What is valuable and precious to a business?
A long time ago, I saw this ad on TV juxtaposing how a family transports an antique porcelain vase with that of their children. The vase was gingerly wrapped in blankets, mindfully put in a box and carefully secured so that it couldn’t roll around inside the car, for it might break; perish the thought! The children, on the other hand, they were just let into the back of the car, without car seats or being strapped-in with safety belts! As an outside observer, what would you conclude is more valuable to the family; the vase or the children?
Funny enough, this same irrational line of reasoning applies to how businesses treat their employees. After all, if people are the most precious assets and when companies allocate much time, money and effort on recruiting the best available talent, then why do they treat those same people like a line-item under “expenses” once they become employees? What’s the pivotal moment or event that makes leadership view talent as a liability rather than an asset? By the way, who invented the notion of a “War for Talent”? Why are people fired to preserve profits? Why are many corporate cultures fraught with fear? Why do managers keep secrets from employees? Why are few employees really engaged in their work? Why are employees blamed for being disloyal? Why are employees and new hires expected to “learn-by-Osmosis” rather than through a formal training and educational program?
Ha, gotcha … companies don’t invest in engaging and educating their employees and sharing strategic information because people are fickle and only interested in improving their own position. How could anyone expect any company to invest in people who cannot wait to leave for a competitor that pays more for the same job? You’ve heard that line of reasoning before, haven’t you?
Not so fast; isn’t that circular reasoning? Which argument do you think has more merit?
Employees are treated as an expense because they are disloyal?
Employees are disloyal because they are treated as an expense?
You be the judge!
Please continue reading if you think the latter has more merit.
Business is a team-effort and just as in professional sports, you wouldn’t leave the training of each individual player to chance; trusting that they’ll learn by Osmosis.
Osmosis is the flow or diffusion that takes place through a semi permeable membrane (as of a living cell) typically separating either a solvent (as water) and a solution or a dilute solution and a concentrated solution and thus bringing about conditions for equalizing the concentrations of the components on the two sides of the membrane because of the unequal rates of passage in the two directions until equilibrium is reached
Team building that relies on a policy of “Learning-by-Osmosis” is based on blind faith; an irrational expectation that employees will start thinking and behaving in a certain way without any conscious guidance on behalf of the leadership.
This “Leadership-Style” is often justified by saying that all employees are professionals and we treat them as adults, who are expected to take responsibility for their own development. All they need to do is make a proposal for their learning needs to Human Resources.
How about the needs of the business? How does a business instill its norms and values upon all employees? If you are some how expected to know something and you don’t, who do you ask? Will they think you’re not up to your job? Would it be better winging it and making up some form of excuse if you thought wrong?
It’s not difficult to see how Learning-by-Osmosis causes uncertainty and the fear of failure among employees. When everyone is expected to develop their own interpretation for dealing with day-to-day business issues, how can any business safeguard its integrity, uphold the brand-identity, and instill trust and confidence among employees and clients?
Mind you, I’m NOT promoting micro-management but providing clear benchmarks for success to guide corporate behavior. Everyone should know WHAT they are supposed to do and WHY their success depends on adherence to specific guidelines. Then they can figure out HOW to do it.
What employees need to be educated about is:
the Vision for the company,
the Purpose of the business system for realizing that vision,
the Mission of the company,
the Strategic direction,
How the business functions as a singular, unique and integrated system so that you base your decisions on how to work WITH the system rather than AGAINST it.
This guidance of employees requires CONSCIOUS thought and should not be left to chance; that is of course if you honestly believe that employee talents are your most valuable assets.