Beyond Business Model: Why A People Model Will Be The Next Differentiator (2)

people model_2

This is the concluding part of the series ‘Beyond Business Model: Why A People Model Will Be The Next Differentiator’. If you missed the first part, you can click here to read it. I strongly suggest you do for proper understanding of what’s going to be discussed in this article.

Inspiration and values.

This speaks of quality of leadership; organizational values & behaviours; reputation of organization; risk sharing; recognition and communication. Would you channel your “discretionary effort” into your work if you believed that your organization’s leadership was second-rate or that its values were either off-base or ill-defined? You probably wouldn’t, regardless of how much money you made, or how good your benefits and other perks were. That’s why “Inspiration and Values” is the most important of the six drivers in the People model for Engaged Performance.

Inspirational leadership is the ultimate perk.

In its absence, delivering on the other five elements of the Engaged Performance model is unlikely to engage employees. Everything rises and falls on leadership, so avers John C. Maxwell. The whole objective of a People Model is for the organisation to be able to engage the hearts and minds of people. Quality of leadership (from top to bottom), shared and upheld values is the fulcrum that swings the lever. The purpose of all leadership is to create a context in which people will perform to their potential.

This “mental space” according to Tony Manning is where they discover and test themselves and where they reveal (or conceal) their magic. The first task of a leader is to provide a clear point of view – “There’s the hill we’re aiming at… these are the results we want … this is how we should conduct ourselves … here are our priorities … this is what we’ll do to get where we want to go.” Managers can’t engage people by making announcements. They have to invest time in coaching and developing people … time to really listen to people … regularly scheduled & unscheduled time to talk about their performance, career aspirations, learning needs etc.

Quality of work.

In designing a People Model that engages employees, we need to help them resolve questions they have concerning the quality of work that they do.  “Of what value is this job that I am doing”? “How much is it a challenge or an interest”? “How much freedom and autonomy does this job hold”? “What is the quality of relationships that I can build on this job”? A key leadership task is to elevate the stature of apparently mundane work, to engage people by getting them to believe they are building cathedrals, not merely laying bricks. How can organizations do that?

By setting high standards; pride in work gives employees a sense of purpose and meaning. It is also a huge motivator. One of the best ways to instill pride in a workforce is to set high standards and challenge people to meet them. Next thing to do is to connect employees’ work to company goals; provide them a clear line of sight to company objectives. Then make sure managers value employees’ work – and show it! Employees’ most important relationship is with their line manager, research shows. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. Imagine working for a boss who does not believe what you do is important?


Future growth/opportunity.

The objective here is to create opportunities for learning and development beyond current job; career advancement opportunities and performance improvement & feedback. Studies on retention show that one of the primary reasons employees leave is that they are not adequately using their skills. Employees think long-term about their careers and want to know that they are using their skills to advance. They want to know if they are also picking up new skills – they want to be enhanced! Engaged Performance is about instilling enthusiasm and passion for work, to the point where people find such meaning in their jobs that they no longer compartmentalize their “work” and “private” lives.

Meaningful answers to questions such as “How am I doing?” and “What are my long-term prospects with this company?” and “What learning and development opportunities can you offer beyond my current job?” are essential to engaging people in their work. What if jobs don’t appear to offer enough opportunity? Create it! A robust Performance Management System requires managers to discuss with their direct reports regularly, on organizational, departmental and personal goals. We all know that “what gets measured gets managed.” But we conveniently forget that it’s only what is spoken about – constantly, passionately, consistently – that will be either measured or managed. Talk about the right issues in the right way to the right people, and extraordinary things happen; but get the conversation wrong, and you’re sunk.

Enabling environment.

This covers the physical environment, tools and equipment, job training (current position), information and processes and then safety/personal security. An enabling environment is one which includes a friendly, well-designed, safe physical space; good equipment; effective communication; and good training. To create an enabling environment in a cost-effective way, employers have to understand their employees’ real needs. They need to manage by fact, considering how investments in employees will affect the bottom line and delivering where it matters most.

Work/life balance.

This speaks of a supportive environment, employer recognition of employee life cycle needs/flexibility, security of income, a social environment, etc. If employees are willing to blur the distinction between work life and personal life, and put their hearts and souls into their jobs, it is only fair that employers do the same. In a negative sense, employers have already blurred the distinction between work and personal life; when they request weekends, or when they ask employees to postpone or ‘sell’ leave days and ensure they’re in the office when they should be with their families. But how should an employer proceed? The answer depends on the make-up and needs of your workforce.

People’s needs change depending on what phase they are in within the life cycle. Employers who are able to develop HR policies that recognise such needs will be the winners. Recognising these needs and building-in flexibility to accommodate and address life cycle needs is the key. Any HR Policies and Practices document that only succeeds at complying with Nigerian labour laws is in the least draconian, for the labour laws are outdated – based on outdated HR thinking and also out of place with today’s realities and inconsistent with the yearnings of today’s generation.

For those willing to imbibe work/life balance schemes, the first temptation will be to adopt international practices. Instead I recommend that we adopt the basis for those practices and then create our own local ones which may be entirely new but of real need. The theme for our work/life balance policies and practices should be: real and flexible solutions for the 21-century professional.

Tangible rewards.

This includes competitive pay, good benefits, incentives for higher performance, ownership potential, recognition awards, fairness of reward, etc. Salary, incentives and benefits are external motivators and rarely give employees meaning. It’s not that they’re not important to achieving engaged performance. They are. If you don’t give people competitive pay, if your company’s benefits are sub-par, or if people feel that good performance does not result in higher compensation, they can become disengaged. Perhaps it’s best to think of pay and benefits as merely a ticket to the game. If you meet threshold levels for both, you get to play. But you’re not going to win the game unless you do a whole lot more.

When it comes to tangible rewards, there are at least two measures, in this area, smart companies take to engage employees. First make sure employees know your reward system is fair – fairness within the organisation and fairness across industry. One major de-motivator for people is to find other staff that earn much more than they but don’t have comparable skills or experience. Another situation that disengages employees is for them to believe that colleagues in peer organisations are better remunerated. For a compensation and benefits program to be successful, it must be seen to be fair and objective.

Secondly, it needs to be simple to understand, having clear parameters. Then it must be communicated sufficiently. The factors for attaining the different levels must of a necessity be clear and known by all. Where a pay-for-performance program is adopted the parameters for success have to be known by all within the organisation – when we ask ten employees about it there shouldn’t be discordant tunes. All managers, not just human resources, must be schooled on the components, principles and practices of the reward package.

Next create a culture of recognition. Managers everywhere dramatically underestimate the power of spot recognition for example, simply complimenting employees on their work. Praise they say is the simplest yet powerful but rarely used form of motivation. Managers should be trained to catch their direct reports doing something good. Celebrate little successes. Remember it’s the little things that count. Recognition is a gift that is truly valued – especially because it is not required of the manager.

Results of a survey by the Council of Communication Management confirm what almost every employee already knows: that recognition for a job well done is the top motivator of employee performance. Yet, how many managers consider “appreciating others” to be part of their job responsibility? The benefit is huge. The cost is small. Creating a culture of recognition starts at the top and cascades down an organization.



People don’t become engaged at work simply because they get paid a lot – no, those days are gone (or at least going). And people’s hearts and minds need to be engaged so we can deliver the premium results of today’s delicate business models. To tap into employees “discretionary effort” would require a coherent and integrated People model. Some may be tempted to quickly cut and paste one or more aspects of this model.

For our new business models to succeed, will require not a superficial People model but one that is a synergy of ideas and practices. And certainly one that is sponsored and modeled by the CEO. It requires a new outlook and research into people and what really engages them. Let it ring out; new business models will be required but painstakingly crafting a People model will be the next differentiator.

(References: “Making Sense of Strategy” by Tony Manning, “Engage Employees and Boost Performance” by the Haygroup, and Wikipedia online encyclopedia).