Late last night, I enjoyed a conversation with a former employee who connected with me to see about possibly returning to our organization. She has been successful in her work and her current employer wants her to stay. Why should she want to return here, when we cannot ?buy? her services with a really great compensation package?
Then I thought: ?Why has this business been around 20 years, surviving a couple of major recessions, technological changes and no shortage of really dumb (business) mistakes??
My conclusion: It comes down to sustainable values.
?Values? is a small word with big meaning. We can attach moral connotations to the word but I?m not sure that all long-lasting businesses win because of moral correctness. (I?ve certainly seen plenty of people with dubious integrity appear and reemerge for what appear to be second, third and fourth comings in the past two decades.) And (after some painful lessons) I learned that my intrinsic values need to be tempered with some practical controls.
So what are these values:
We all have a life and life is far more than our business. If employees need to contort themselves into behaviors inconsistent with good health and life quality to ?survive? in the business they shouldn?t be here. For example, I hate ?rush hour? and structure my life to avoid that agony (most of the time) Should our employees have to endure the painful commute themselves?
We all have an obligation and responsibility (at work) to do what we really enjoy, where our skills most naturally are expressed and with respect for our peers. I worry if I see an employee ?working for the pay cheque?. Of course employees need to be paid fairly but if money is the primary driver we are missing something important.
We have the obligation of treating the organization and our clients the same as we expect to be treated ourselves. (The Golden Rule). If we are to enjoy the freedom and life quality we wish for ourselves, then clearly we also need to respect the needs and values of the people around us, including our colleagues and clients.
In a few days, we will be gathering for our mid-year planning review meeting. One of the topics on the agenda is to dust off and review our (almost lost) business mission statement. The values here can only be part of the picture: The business has to have a specific purpose which transcends the respect for clients and employees. However, without these core values in place, I doubt we have much reason to continue for another 20 years.