The New Workplace Social Contract of Go, Go, Go

I remember the fear of actually finishing something. Then the fear of executing that something. And then the fear of never quite being good enough. And then the fear of being crushed under the weight of overcritical judgments again and again.

And then again, I remember the pleasure of being pushed to perform, even in the face of failure, to reach for the sky.

Get to 80 percent and go, go, go.

No words have ever been sweeter for employees today. I heard them recently. Have you?

I certainly hope so, because if you work in a risk-adverse, top-down-tyranny culture where entrepreneurial employees who are adaptive and innovative are not welcome – well, you are in a world of personal pain. And if you’re one of the high performers, even in the face of tyranny, then you’re more than likely to go, go, go.


Yes, we keep talking incessantly about how bad the relationship is between employees and employers. Yes, we get it. It’s bad.

But even with the limited solutions that are offered today in the world of work, none has been actionable enough; we just keep playing misery shuffleboard.

Unless your company moves beyond its misery and doesn’t worry so much about getting the go-to-market branding strategy 100 percent perfect to market and sell your stuff. (Your company does market and sell stuff, even you’re a non-profit, you know.)

Combine iterating over and over until you almost never get it right with working for a leadership team that punishes you either way you go, go, go, and again, you’re gone.

Employers aren’t going to succeed long term in such an increasingly competitive environment. Instead, they must feverishly work on keeping their employees engaged, something that has become all the more difficult in recent years (and most of whom fail).

And that means encouraging continuous adaption, innovation and good old-fashioned failure. Because within a highly communicative and collaborative culture, regardless of how dispersed your workforce is, getting to 80 percent of go-time is where it’s at.

That’s why the continuous impetus to improve engagement is clear and is the new social contract between employees and employers; the fact that we need to move fast, fail together, and ultimately excel tangibly and intangibly. This is how companies will drive long-term business outcomes and retain high performers.

The 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research report found that the vast majority (78 percent) of business leaders rate retention as either urgent or important. Moreover, research from many sources continues to show that employee engagement is still a major issue for companies around the globe, with only 13 percent of employees worldwide considered to be actively engaged.

This is likely due to the traditional and transactional “contract” between employees and employers; employees are expected to do their job, and they get compensated for it – no questions asked or else. However, this approach does little to actually engage employees who increasingly want to feel that they are valued and have a bright future with the company – a paycheck isn’t enough.

If individuals don’t receive the experience they increasingly want – where they feel the employer is committed to their ongoing development and helping set the stage for a long and successful tenure of reciprocal growth, they will seek to go elsewhere. In order to truly engage and encourage continuous collaborative execution without fear of failure to succeed, organizations must evolve their talent performance management practices to drive talent engagement strategies and determine how they can provide a more rewarding experience.

Exactly what Marla Gottschalk, Ph.D., Industrial & Organizational Psychologist and Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, and Chip Joyce, CEO and Co-founder of Allied Talent, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show.

The fact that building a new bridge between employees and their employers starts when we take the time to understand each others’ needs. Helping each other manage priorities that ultimately propel the business in a positive direction (on most analytical accounts) will make all difference. Part of what makes an organization healthy is keeping organizational goals aligned with employees’ goals.

But it’s not just about work; it’s about making a difference through the belief in what we’re doing. Employees want to know that they have an opportunity to make a difference at work and perhaps in the world. This can’t happen until employees and employers have the necessary “relationship” in place, and we can’t get there unless we can adapt, evolve and advance – i.e., change for the better.

Our PeopleFluent marketing team recently had the opportunity to meet with Claire Schooley, principal analyst for Forrester Research on Application Development & Delivery Professionals. We discussed a variety of topics, but the most insightful one was on change management. The fact that the speed of business leaves most companies and their workforces in the dust shall we say, and they need to be able make changes quickly and keep employee continuously developed and aligned with company goals. This is how we stay “frosty” and competitive in today’s complex global economy. One of the keys is that HR professionals actually play a leadership role in managing this critical organizational change in order to drive successful business outcomes.

We can talk all we want about creating a new workplace contract, but unless we invest in changing the culture and sustain change management, we’re not go, go, going anywhere.

It’s time for the new workplace social contract of go, go, go. Hey, I’m feeling blessed at 80 percent.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman is currently a Marketing Director at PeopleFluent, where he’s responsible for content marketing, product marketing, and social media outreach. Kevin also co-founded the TalentCulture “World of Work” community and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro.

photo credit: Gavin Craigie via photopin cc

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