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Three great unanswered questions….

For over twenty years, I have been working with clients to address challenges and opportunities in all sorts of organizational and marketing scenarios. Remember when “quality is free” (hats off to Phil Crosby) was all the rage…when “free-in-the-mail” premiums and $5.00 rebate checks filled your weekly Vlassis inserts…when continuity programs offered a “piece-a-week” of drinkware, tableware and cutlery…? Ah, for the simpler times….

Okay, enough of memory lane. Today, there are real, big issues, with huge implications, both upside and other, that confront global corporations. Two of the biggest, most frequently heard questions are:

  1. How do I engage my employees? Or, put another way: How do I keep my employees from running out the door as soon as the job market opens back up? (Hint: You may have plenty of time to think that one over…the employment market for non-professionals is going to remain tight for the forseeable future…your bigger problem is in replacing your senior management and experienced roles, as the succession pipeline is going to start running thin).
  2. What do I need to do in order to reduce our company’s healthcare costs? Is there something I can do to promote healthier lifestyles and wellness in an efficient, effective manner?
  3. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and every imaginable social media network out there…why isn’t my business getting better?

These are three very common, and, unfortunately, very difficult questions to address. I won’t try to tackle them all in this posting. I might recommend that you visit the Archives on ideationz to review “I’m Not Married To The Company…But I Am Engaged…” (Parts 1-4) for some insight into the employee engagement issue…

The reality is this: There are a lot of half-right solutions out there… There are consultancies, training companies, employee recognition and reward providers, as well as authors, speakers and “thought leaders” who will readily contract with you to define, develop and implement a solution that is guaranteed to make an impact, but certainly won’t do much to stem the problem.

What you need to do is step back from these (incredibly big picture, highly complex and immense) issues to recognize that there is no silver bullet, no one-answer, no cure-all. Instead, there is a big need that must be addressed both holistically and granularly. Unless you are the CEO, and wield enough influence to dictate direction and policy, you probably are not going to be able to drive a solution far enough into your organization. So be prepared to put on your “internal sales” hat, and load up on data, perspectives and analyses in order to approach the executives who, if they really want to get after these issues, are going to have to swallow bigtime change.

What kind of change will it take? For starters, put all the sacred cows in a corral and get ready to slaughter most (if not all) of them. Your culture is going to require more than a facelift if you want to keep your future leaders engaged. You need to think more about employee development than you do right now.  You will have to rethink what it means to be a company, when/where you expect your employees to work, and far more about latitude than attitude.

We can’t get inside the unanswerable in a 600 word blog post. But I can warn you that you need to dispense of your preconceptions, stop listening to the promises of “vendors” who want to “sell” you a solution-du-jour. And, most of all, you need to get out from behind your desk and get out onto the shop floor (figuratively speaking) and spend time getting to know the people you are counting on for the future of the enterprise.

One more thing: face up to this – It isn’t your future anymore. What lies ahead is going to be the domain of those coming up the ranks…yes the young men with their shirts untucked wearing the Converse All Stars and the young women who seem emotionally bluetoothed to their smartphones.

Let’s plan to talk about this some more. I can’t tell you how much I would love to hear from you on any/all of the “great unanswered” questions facing your company. I learn something every day from those who are the age of my own kids. If you are still preaching “the way things used to be”, you are on your way out of business. Buck up, mister or lady, you need to realize that the future never got here this fast before. 

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