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The Social Contract Driving Organizational Sustainability

What will allow the modern organization to thrive going forward? I believe the key driver of organizational sustainability is the strength of the social, or psychological, contract that develops between an employer and its employees. This often unstated and undervalued doctrine fuels not only employee commitment, but also an organization. The power of this social contract is fundamental and far-reaching — with an ability to shape attitudes and direct key behaviors that can lead to success.

Over time, this type of social contract has evolved significantly. The 1956 best seller The Organization Man depicts a qualitatively different social contract within organizations, as compared to those developing today. In that previous world of work, where organizations had the luxury of offering security and a predictable future, employee commitment was essentially derived from — and exchanged for — long-term employment. Today, these promises are not often made. As such, the operating social contract becomes dependent on other organizational attributes that might prove valuable.

What are some of the components that could influence the evolved social contract between employers and employees today?

  • Shared vision. Today’s employees wish to feel a part of an organization’s journey and have a “transparent view” of its mission and goals. Employees crave a more active role in shaping success and sustainability, no longer acting as passive “passengers.”
  • Meaningful work. Static job descriptions will do little to foster engagement and commitment, whereas dynamic roles that allow some level of employee input are optimal. Roles that allow flexibility (See Google’s 70-20-10 Model) could foster challenge, creativity and innovation.
  • Embracing risk and failure. Engaging in “calculated” risk has been traditionally accepted within organizations, but embracing risk with the notion that failure is acceptable, is a far different story. This process could create a psychological “cushion” for potential innovators, allowing employees to feel freer to pursue creative endeavors.
  • Ending the feedback “embargo.” Information is power — and there is power in transparent performance feedback. Utilizing feedback effectively within organizations could greatly enhance the strength of the psychological contract between employees and employers.
  • Encouraging “the collective.” Today’s employees want to be part of the organization’s DNA, and play an integral role in shaping culture. Culture should develop organically from within and emanate from employees, nurturing success and long-term sustainability.

What other components will help sustain organizations going forward? Let me know.

Editor’s note:  Dr. Marla Gottschalk will be a guest on the December 3rd #TChat Show, which consists of the #TChat radio portion from 7-7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 p.m. ET. Check out the #TChat Preview for more details on this week’s show, during which we will celebrate the four-year anniversary of #TChat and discuss the future of the employee-employer relationship. Please join us!

About the Author: Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and blogger who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. Her views on workplace topics have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, American Express Open Forum, CareerBuilder, CBS Money Watch, Deskmag and other outlets worldwide.

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

3 Ways to Influence, Not Control, Employee Commitment

If you’ve read various leadership forums, you’re probably familiar with the concept of control versus influence. Controlling and authoritative personalities in management motivate employees to act, but it’s usually out of fear or requirement — neither of which produce a sense of commitment to an organization.

When it comes to managing an employee’s psychological attachment and involvement in a company, it’s best to realize that “controlling” is impossible in this situation because we are dealing with attachment on a psychological level. If managers could control thoughts, we’d belong in a science fiction film.

Instead, the way managers communicate and act trigger an emotional response from employees, inspiring them to think and feel a particular way about their jobs, which influences a certain level of commitment.

While you can’t control employee commitment, you can influence it the following ways:

Check Your Culture and Revamp if Necessary

How’s your company culture? Have you checked in recently to see what values your employees are using to make decisions? Your company culture evolves over time, shaping your organization’s brand from the inside out. With the influx of new hires and the departure of veterans, it’s important to make sure your culture remains clear, strong, and on the right path.

A recent study proves that people choose whether or not to act on deviant behavior based on group norms. Just in the same, employees will conform to the norms of the organization in order to feel accepted as part of the group. It really makes you wonder what your new employees are learning from current ones, even you. Another study found that company culture directly influences employee behavior.

If your culture needs revamping, try implementing a few of these tactics:

Strengthen your communication. During busy work days, it’s tough to keep everyone in the loop about what’s going on. Try using mobile-enabled software that allows two-way communication between you and your employees through which you can send documents and updates.

Schedule a weekly tradition. Pick one that allows employees to interact with one another on a subject not related to work. Schedule a nerf gun war, lunchtime social, or post a “question of the week” allowing space for answers.

Create a place for exercise. If you can’t afford to pave a basketball court in back of your office building, install a basketball hoop in a break room. Or turn an extra office space into a gym, and welcome everyone to join in on finding inexpensive equipment to furnish it.

Play interactive games. Start weekly brainstorming sessions with quick icebreaker games like “I’ve Never,” “Pictionary,” or “20 Questions.” You can even theme them to the meeting’s topic.

Encourage office personalization. Encourage your employees to bring in items that inspire them, with which they can decorate their offices or desks. During the holidays, host themed office door decorating contests.

Show Your Humanity

We’ve heard the “lead by example” cliche, but there’s more to standing alongside your employees on projects. Employees really want a manager who is relatable. A human, not a superhero with unobtainable powers, or a tireless production robot.

If you strive to show nothing but perfection, employees will feel burdened by unrealistic expectations to perform at the superhuman level. Worse, they won’t have anyone they can watch to learn how to recover from mistakes. As a result, they may feel alone, or disconnected, which weakens commitment.

When you reveal your imperfections and address mistakes as something everyone faces, you can foster a sense of belonging among employees.

Involve Employees in the Vision

Often employees will feel detached from their work when they don’t understand what role it plays in the big picture. Generate excitement and a sense of significance in what your employees do by showing the direct effects of their work on the company in the form of numbers, positive customer reviews, or company ranking.

Not only that, but you can also generate a sense of ownership by allowing employees to participate in the decision-making process. Research shows employees are more committed when involved in making decisions. Feeling like an active force behind the direction of the company will keep them engaged.

When it comes to behavior, realize it can only be influenced by the actions you take. If you notice your employees are disengaged, try improving communication and engaging everyone in activities to create a sense of community. Remember, people commit to tasks because of how they feel about the people involved, and you can only influence employee commitment.

What are some other ways you can influence employee commitment? Share in the comments below!

Bio: Matt Straz is the founder & CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world’s most exciting companies. Connect with Matt and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

photo credit: L&L Transmedia Communications via photopin

Leaders: Is Your "Work" Self the Real Deal?

(Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking post was originally published by our valued content partners at SwitchandShift. We are republishing it for the TalentCulture community, with permission. Why? Not because we’re seeking more attention from Google — but because Ted’s message is important. It bears repeating.)

For years now, I have devoted my waking hours to interacting with leaders from all walks of life.

From bootstrapped young ventures to huge business conglomerates. Middle management newbies to C-suite veterans. Non-profits and for-profits, alike. You name it — if it’s about leadership, I’m there. Understanding what makes leaders tick is literally what I’ve been doing for a living for as long as I can remember.

A Troubling Trend

Along the way, I’ve seen a few patterns — and this is one issue that comes up again and again. Sooner or later, at some point in a conversation, a leader will say something like this to me: “I’m one person at home, but another at work.”

Sound familiar? Try this scenario on for size…

At home, I’m generous and giving.
At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
At home, with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy one another’s company, typically with no agenda.
At home, when I volunteer, I get lost in my work. When I’m done, I feel good for hours afterward. It’s the highlight of my week!
At home, I’m joyful.
At home, I’m the real me.
I wish I could be the real me all the time. If only!

On the other hand…

At work, I’m analytical and objective. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count.
At work, if you can’t prove it with hard data, don’t bring it up!
At work, I’m guarded. You have to watch your back.
At work, I make the tough decisions. It’s simply part of being a leader.
At work, I only give to my peers in strategic ways, if it’ll benefit me, too. I don’t want to be taken advantage of!
At work, a lot of my time is spent on pointless tasks. That’s why they call it work, isn’t it?
At work, I work my tail off. It’s draining. That’s why they pay me, right?
At work, I’m a stripped down version of the real me.

Does any of this ring a bell? Maybe a little too close to home?

The fact is, we’ve all felt it. Actually, many of us have felt nothing but these feelings throughout our careers. Many of us (especially those who cut our business teeth in the 20th century) have internalized the Industrial Age management philosophy still prevalent today. Many of us who are in this boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way — and we don’t even recognize that some leaders are actually living this better way, right now.

Give Your “Work Self” Permission to Be Fully Human

It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say “permission”? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful — at work, at home, wherever we are. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what you say or do to show them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped — those who would rather be “right” than be happy.

Some people are already on board with this whole-self-all-the-time concept. They’re ahead of the curve. If you are, too, then there’s your chorus. Focus on them. It’s important to gain new insights from their experience and let them recharge your batteries.

Your Reality Is Your Story

The vast middle? Those are what I like to call the “willing skeptics.” They aren’t sold on your message, but they’re open to being convinced, if you can back your claims with examples. Gather those examples! Share them early and often! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader does. Be a storyteller. Statistics won’t get you where you need to go. Examples of thriving companies running on modern, human principles? That’s what the willing skeptics are looking for. Put your willing skeptics in the position to think, “If they can do it, and they’re like us, then I bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.

People are hungry for positive, uplifting change. The 70% of workers who are disengaged and disaffected? They know there must be a better way, and they’re on the lookout for companies that are living it. They’re polishing their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize how they lead — the corporate equivalent of the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago.

The thing that doesn’t show up in surveys (but should) is this: It isn’t just workers who are unhappy. Even leaders yearn for a better way. They yearn to bring their whole selves to work – to bring their souls with them when they walk through the company doors each morning.

Is that you? Would you like to be a complete you — the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you — all day, every day — and not just when you’re at home?

Here Is Your Permission

Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ clothing company, Patagonia. Chouinard is the author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read hundreds). It’s a blueprint for how a company can grow to incredible success by embracing the “whole” of everyone in the organization — rather than just their backs, hands and left-brains.

Chouinard founded a company where bringing your soul to work is baked right in as an essential ingredient of the organization. It has served them well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.

And so I repeat — bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness. It’s also essential to the success of your company, as we tread ever deeper into this more “human” century.

(Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Leaders: Is Your “Work” Self the Real Deal?

(Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking post was originally published by our valued content partners at SwitchandShift. We are republishing it for the TalentCulture community, with permission. Why? Not because we’re seeking more attention from Google — but because Ted’s message is important. It bears repeating.)

For years now, I have devoted my waking hours to interacting with leaders from all walks of life.

From bootstrapped young ventures to huge business conglomerates. Middle management newbies to C-suite veterans. Non-profits and for-profits, alike. You name it — if it’s about leadership, I’m there. Understanding what makes leaders tick is literally what I’ve been doing for a living for as long as I can remember.

A Troubling Trend

Along the way, I’ve seen a few patterns — and this is one issue that comes up again and again. Sooner or later, at some point in a conversation, a leader will say something like this to me: “I’m one person at home, but another at work.”

Sound familiar? Try this scenario on for size…

At home, I’m generous and giving.
At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
At home, with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy one another’s company, typically with no agenda.
At home, when I volunteer, I get lost in my work. When I’m done, I feel good for hours afterward. It’s the highlight of my week!
At home, I’m joyful.
At home, I’m the real me.
I wish I could be the real me all the time. If only!

On the other hand…

At work, I’m analytical and objective. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count.
At work, if you can’t prove it with hard data, don’t bring it up!
At work, I’m guarded. You have to watch your back.
At work, I make the tough decisions. It’s simply part of being a leader.
At work, I only give to my peers in strategic ways, if it’ll benefit me, too. I don’t want to be taken advantage of!
At work, a lot of my time is spent on pointless tasks. That’s why they call it work, isn’t it?
At work, I work my tail off. It’s draining. That’s why they pay me, right?
At work, I’m a stripped down version of the real me.

Does any of this ring a bell? Maybe a little too close to home?

The fact is, we’ve all felt it. Actually, many of us have felt nothing but these feelings throughout our careers. Many of us (especially those who cut our business teeth in the 20th century) have internalized the Industrial Age management philosophy still prevalent today. Many of us who are in this boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way — and we don’t even recognize that some leaders are actually living this better way, right now.

Give Your “Work Self” Permission to Be Fully Human

It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say “permission”? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful — at work, at home, wherever we are. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what you say or do to show them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped — those who would rather be “right” than be happy.

Some people are already on board with this whole-self-all-the-time concept. They’re ahead of the curve. If you are, too, then there’s your chorus. Focus on them. It’s important to gain new insights from their experience and let them recharge your batteries.

Your Reality Is Your Story

The vast middle? Those are what I like to call the “willing skeptics.” They aren’t sold on your message, but they’re open to being convinced, if you can back your claims with examples. Gather those examples! Share them early and often! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader does. Be a storyteller. Statistics won’t get you where you need to go. Examples of thriving companies running on modern, human principles? That’s what the willing skeptics are looking for. Put your willing skeptics in the position to think, “If they can do it, and they’re like us, then I bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.

People are hungry for positive, uplifting change. The 70% of workers who are disengaged and disaffected? They know there must be a better way, and they’re on the lookout for companies that are living it. They’re polishing their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize how they lead — the corporate equivalent of the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago.

The thing that doesn’t show up in surveys (but should) is this: It isn’t just workers who are unhappy. Even leaders yearn for a better way. They yearn to bring their whole selves to work – to bring their souls with them when they walk through the company doors each morning.

Is that you? Would you like to be a complete you — the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you — all day, every day — and not just when you’re at home?

Here Is Your Permission

Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ clothing company, Patagonia. Chouinard is the author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read hundreds). It’s a blueprint for how a company can grow to incredible success by embracing the “whole” of everyone in the organization — rather than just their backs, hands and left-brains.

Chouinard founded a company where bringing your soul to work is baked right in as an essential ingredient of the organization. It has served them well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.

And so I repeat — bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness. It’s also essential to the success of your company, as we tread ever deeper into this more “human” century.

(Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Engagement As Energy: #TChat Lessons From #HRTechConf

“Employee engagement?”

She furrowed her brow and challenged our use of the term. And that’s when things got interesting.

Or maybe that’s when things got accurate. Historically accurate. Holistically accurate. Painfully accurate.

Meghan and Kevin LasVegas HRTechConf 2013 (2)“Why are we using that word? When employees meet each other in the hallway, do they ask each other ‘Are you engaged today?'”

All of us on the panel shook our heads and smiled. She continued, “No, they don’t. What we’re really talking about is improving individual and organizational energy, drive and focus.”

We all nodded.

The “she” in this story is Marcia Conner, collaborative learning thought leader, author and Principal of the SensifyGroup. She was one of five panelists at a very special “live”  #TChat roundtable in a jam-packed Peoplefluent booth at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas. (And by the way, thank you, Peoplefluent for hosting the event!) Others on this stellar panel included:

Employee Engagement: Why Should We Care?

TalentCulture at HRTechConfMy TalentCulture co-founder Meghan M. Biro and I gathered this panel of smart HR executives and industry influencers to look closer at employee engagement employee energy, drive and focus, which has become the holy grail of HR and business leaders, through every aspect of the talent lifecycle — from recruiting and onboarding, to continuous development and performance management.

Again we ask the question: Why? And why so much fuss over something so seemingly out of HR’s control? We’ve seen the dismal research results for years. We keep sharing industry jargon surrounding this issue. And yet most initiatives designed to improve the status quo haven’t moved the needle much, if at all.

Engagement — energy — whatever you choose to call it — is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. Nor is it likely to be resolved without continued awareness and dedicated effort. But there’s a lot at stake for those who crack the code, and that’s why the smartest employers remain focused on finding solutions.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that employee engagement is a top priority for all three of the practitioners on our panel. They recognize that emotionally connected individuals simply perform better, day to day. In turn, this increases productivity, improves performance, reduces attrition and boosts overall business results.

Employee Engagement: What Matters Most?

But clearly the best answers won’t come from a one-size-fits-all approach. We know that more emotionally committed employees invest more discretionary effort at work — and some individuals are more committed than others. It’s always been that way. A myriad of variables determine commitment. But if employers pay attention to the most important factors, perhaps commitment (and by association, energy, drive and focus) will improve. That’s the goal.

Meghanandfriend (2)All three of the practitioners on the panel shared examples of how they’re addressing key factors to influence engagement levels across their organizations. The initiatives range from community building, to culture immersion (at Buffalo Wild Wings, one restaurant at a time), to coaching and mentoring, to performance-specific rewards and recognition, to highly configurable collaborative communication platforms.

None of these ideas were lost on the TalentCulture community, as the #TChat Twitter stream lit up with questions and comments throughout the live discussion. It was truly an engaging meeting of the minds.

And that’s when Meghan and I suggested we focus all of that energy and drive into one grand, collective #TChat hug. A figurative hug of course — but a group hug nonetheless. C’mon, bring it in…