It’s Time to Adapt to the Employees
In their newest book, Why Should Anyone Work Here?, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones turn their attention from leaders to the organizations themselves. Traditionally, companies have sought employees who fit in well with their cultures. Goffee and Jones argue, however, that today organizations need to adapt to their employees, and not the other way around. To attract the best and brightest, companies have to be prepared to be more flexible and accommodating.
In Why Should Anyone Work Here?, the authors lay out six imperatives for companies to become what they term DREAMS organizations (the acronym is taken from the first initial of each imperative: difference, radical honesty, extra value, authentic, meaning and simple rules).
The first imperative, difference, is not the same as diversity, which is often focused on traditional categories of people, such as race, age or gender. For difference, organizations must let people be their unique selves. This means that organizations must accommodate and encourage different perspectives, habits, world views and assumptions.
At the end of each chapter focused on the imperatives, the authors list a series of action steps. One of the action steps related to letting people be themselves is to “hire for difference” — to deliberately seek out different perspectives and backgrounds. The authors also encourage organizations not to be afraid of a clash of emotions, to build slack into organizational time to allow for experimentation, and to allow for individual creative expression.
Radical honesty is the second imperative. Radical honesty is not just a superficial communications mindset in which setbacks are managed and information is carefully controlled. Communications is often about defensive maneuvering. Radical honesty means telling the truth before someone else does. Action steps include using many communication channels (notably to differentiate among generations), keeping communication as simple as possible and building in feedback loops.
The third imperative is what the authors summarize as extra value. Value, according to the authors, is about enabling people to develop and grow. Thus, people add value to the organization as the organization adds value to them by building on their strengths and interests. One important takeaway is that organizations should help their star employees to shine, but also offer their weaker employees a path to improvement. The authors also suggest that companies look beyond the organization — developing collaborative and consultative relationships with clients and wider stakeholders will also build value for the firm.
Authenticity is the fourth imperative. Authentic companies stand for something real, the authors write. It’s not enough to have a slick, beneficent mission statement on the website. Some of the markers that reveal an authentic company, according to the authors, include: the company’s identity is consistently rooted in its history, employees demonstrate the values that the company espouses, and company leaders themselves are authentic.
Another imperative for companies that want to attract the best employees is meaning. Today’s employees will not just work for the paycheck. They are looking for meaning in their work. Meaning, the authors explain, is at the root of engagement. Thus, organizations must ensure that daily work is “intrinsically satisfying.” Meaningful work, the authors write, is built on the three Cs: connection, community and cause.
The sixth and final imperative, according to the authors, is simple rules. Efficiency does not emerge from entangled bureaucracies or myriad regulations. Simplifying the rules, however, is not as easy as it may sound. Paperwork or processes can proliferate almost without warning. And sometimes the best intentions can lead to the wrong outcomes. The authors warn, for example, not to attempt to codify fairness. “Fairness arises from shared values and agreed-upon rules — other elaborate rule-based interventions may collapse into a tick-box charade,” they write.
For each of the six imperatives, the authors offer a multitude of pertinent stories and case studies as well as a diagnostic tool consisting of a handful of key questions that highlight the core issues related to each imperative. The action items mentioned above further reinforce the practical and prescriptive value of Goffee and Jones’ latest book.
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