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Fast Company: Squaring the Circle…in 5 Minutes! Expected Innovation/Quality vs. Employee Fear/Distrust

For the last few days, I’ve been prepping for an upcoming panel at Columbia Business School entitled, The Post-Recession Workplace.   My message is going to be simple—the world has changed; therefore, we need to change.  I will explain the new work+life flex normal, and what individuals and organizations need to do differently to succeed.

Here’s my challenge: There’s a canyon-sized chasm between how we need to manage our work, lives, careers and businesses in a post-Recession era, and where we are.  How do you square the circle…in 5 minutes, which is the length of my introduction?

First how big is the chasm? Big. You need to look no further than The Conference Board’s 2010 CEO Survey and the 2010 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study to realize it’s huge.

On one side: Leaders want, growth, innovation, quality and customers (Conference Board)

Every year The Conference Board asks hundreds of executives, “to identify and rate their most pressing concerns.”  In 2010, executives said they were primarily focused on:

  • Sustained and steady top-line growth
  • Customer loyalty and retention
  • Profit growth
  • Corporate reputation for quality products and services
  • Stimulating innovation and creativity and enabling entrepreneurship.

On the other side: Employees are afraid, insecure, distrusting and want stability (Towers Watson)

But what about the employees who need to execute this vision of growth, customer service, innovation, and quality?  Are they ready?  How do they feel? According to the 2010 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study of over 20,000 full-time employees in 22 global markets, they are afraid, insecure, and distrustful:

  • “(The) desire for security and stability trumps everything else right now, in part because employees see security as a fast-disappearing part of the deal.”
  • “Employees understand they are solely and chiefly responsible for ensuring their long-term financial and physical health and well-being, as well as career and performance—but have serious doubts about their ability to take on these roles.
  • “Mobility is at a decade-long low point—with significant numbers of employees sacrificing the prospect of career growth for a secure job right now.”
  • “Confidence in leaders and managers is disturbingly low—particularly in terms of the interpersonal aspects of their respective roles.”

Uh, oh. Houston, we have a problem…Not a recipe for the risk and creativity necessary for innovation.  And, fear, insecurity and distrust don’t usually lead to growth and quality.

How do you bridge this gap between what employers expect and what employees are prepared to deliver? (Click here for more)


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