A few weeks ago, I started teaching my first undergraduate course, Organizational Development, and the learning content includes looking back at the pioneers of the field. Currently, I’m reading an article by Douglas McGregor on the human side of enterprise. Published in 1957, this article was written over a half-century ago yet couldn’t be more applicable to today’s business environment. Particularly relevant is the author’s focus on the people aspects of management. You’ll often hear me talk about how management practices need to change to be more about the people, and it’s telling that the same issues alive in 1957 are still happening today.
In this article, Douglas McGregor states that conventional management theory assumes the belief that the average worker does the minimum possible, is naturally resistant to change, lacks ambition, is averse to responsibility, and is “gullible and not very bright”. Conventional management theory has a rather negative view of the employee and assumes that the only way to motivate is to punish or reward.
Although conventional management theory has evolved, and we have come a long way in our view of the average worker (no one is going around saying that the average worker is not very bright) it still informs the management style used in many workplaces today.
These styles vary by manager and organization, yet the great resignation and quiet quitting have shown us that workers are unhappy with the value proposition in the modern workplace. If the common quote “people don’t leave organizations they leave managers” is to be believed, we have a management crisis in the American workplace. After all, would millions of people collectively resign or disengage if the work environment gave them what they need?
People bring their unique set of values and behavioral inclinations to work; their motivational drives are sourced from these. We must discover these drives and integrate them into the modern workplace. We cannot manage people the way we do a machine. We must prioritize the person, their needs and well-being and create a collaborative and trusting environment.
So how do we bring the focus on people back into the management equation? How do we create a workplace that is beneficial to the organization and is supportive and affirming of the individual?
First, we need to have confidence in the people we are hiring. We must get the right people in the right seats, and we do that by utilizing people data. This allows us to look beyond the resume and past employment history and into the core of what makes the employee who they are – their drives and their motivations. Once we have the right people we must give them the onboarding tools and training necessary to effectively start their tasks. Encourage dialogue to ensure understanding of expectations.
Next, we need to empower our employees to do their jobs and allow them a voice to demonstrate ownership and pride in their work. Give value to their input and suggestions to improve their day-to-day performance. Supply them with the tools needed to support their suggestions, encouraging them to excel in their position. Refer to their behavioral assessment to outline their career path, ensuring this path aligns with their core values and motivational drives. Give regular reviews and input to discuss their progression and provide guidance and resources if they’re falling behind.
Finally, remember that people have a sincere desire to do well, contribute, make a difference, and be recognized (contrary to the conventional management theory). They have needs beyond “just a paycheck” and these must be considered if we are to create an organization that is beneficial for both the employee and the employer.
According to famed management consultant W. Edward Deming ”The role of the manager ought to be to help his people to do a better job. He should be working with them all the time and not be a judge. He should be a coach.” Deming believed in bringing the people “on the front line” into the conversation. He statistically demonstrated that the great majority of quality and productivity problems are systems problems and are the responsibility of management and not the worker. Management should be tasked with creating systems in which each worker can do a good job.
At Positive Delta we believe that bringing people into the conversation (whether in a change initiative or in a “business as always” environment) is crucial to success, yet it is a missing ingredient in many organizations today. If you feel your organization is losing its way (or veering from your original culture and values), Positive Delta can help get you back on track.
This article was originally published by Adrienne Guerrero on LinkedIn.