The Overwhelmed Employee

If we magically transport back in time and walked into a company, we would see employees working at desks located near their managers who trained them and then saw everything they did. A typical company worked with a predictable economic equation achieving optimal output using raw materials, capital equipment and labor. The main focus was acquiring the required raw materials since labor was easily substituted one for another.

Our current economy looks much different doesn’t it? Companies have shifted their main focus from raw materials to acquiring and retaining highly skilled, talented people capable of making independent decisions. In fact, talent is a highly specialized key asset of production earning a high rate of return.

In return for this high rate of return, companies expect a great deal from these talented people and we are now beginning to recognize they are overwhelmed. Employees are tethered to the workplace through their mobile devices and are connected 24/7/365. The average person looks at their Smartphone 150 times each day. Most of us work more than 50 hours a week and many spend 2/3 of their waking hours at work.

Many companies have not even recognized or dealt with this issue. There are some companies that have begun to deal with it by setting up rules like email free weekends, holidays and vacations. However, a few companies on Fortune’s Best Places to Work like Google, Boston Consulting Group, and SAS have created a “Simply Irresistible©” workplace that helps employees thrive by performing meaningful work, training and career mobility. Their workplace is, in many ways, simplified.

These companies have also replaced the old “rank and yank” performance management model with leaders who coach, provide feedback and develop. Their managers do not motivate through criticism or by threatening poor performance reviews and termination. Research shows that many top performers promoted into management were not interested in being a performance manager. Companies can rethink the entire concept of management by encouraging leaders to emerge at all levels and in all positions rather than designating managers. This is particularly important since our workforce is becoming older and younger and global and virtual.

Nurturing leaders and coaches at all levels can help to address growing concerns about how to manage emerging and next generations, rapid obsolescence of skills, learning and mobility. Companies with a reputation for being a great place to work, progressive management as well as authentic passion and purpose will have an easier time recruiting and retaining top talent.

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