I believe we have fully moved into an era where people are the product. The widget or the service we sell are not the only things we brand and market. We have created a single SKU to account for our “people product.” The theory that a happy workplace will increase the overall currency of the organization is ever growing. We have seen companies create unobstructed flexibility in the workplace by providing unlimited vacation time or recreation time in the company “chill-ax” room. While some companies have successfully proven the concept that increasing the “people product” culture in the workplace can significantly increase the over all success of the companies sales, most are failing.
Why is that? Why can some succeed while most fail? I believe there is an unknown factor to why many companies have failed. I believe the missing piece of the equation is accountability. “An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” I believe if a company cannot set realistic expectations to sustain or increase currency with its employees, the organization will fail every time. The fact that employees can have unlimited time off, spend time in the ping pong room or only work 4 hours per day so they can go fishing and not worry when the project is not complete is utterly insane. To be clear, I am an advocate for flexibility in the workplace, just not the way the majority of organizations are structuring it.
We learn from Malcolm Knowles, one of the great educators of adult learning, that there must be autonomy (the freedom to learn and engage). Whether you are the learner or are just simply being taught, there is an agreement between the teacher and the learner. Just as in most organizations there is a “contractual obligation” between the employer and employee. Knowles teaches in order to have autonomy, the learner must be taught responsibility and to work within guidelines to succeed. Likewise, the employee must accept the contractual agreement of the employer before flexibility and autonomy can occur.
In order to increase culture and currency in the workplace simultaneously, there needs to be a set of expectations, a set of rules, a set of limitations that governs the flow of a productive workplace. The workplace needs to hold itself responsible for the decisions that ultimately effect the currency of the company. I truly believe companies that think they can haphazardly create a culture of flexibility and freedom and not set the expectations of how they increase currency will ultimately fail every time.
In order to increase culture and currency, the expectation must be rolled out to the entire organization. I am dumb-founded every time when I see an organization that sets the system of priorities and metrics with its “ground troops” and cannot hold their middle management to the same flame. The structure of accountability must be injected into all parties because the failure of middle management will crush the companies opportunity to increase currency.
If you are planning on developing or creating a more flexible environment with the intent to increase the currency of your organization, think about these three things. One, is there a need to create more flexibility in the workplace. Two, are there set expectations or ground rules that can measure an employees continual output and third, does your plan include your entire organization.