One of the biggest challenges for companies in recent years appears to be finding the right people. An even greater challenge is holding on to them. Companies talk about how much they invest in and value their people and yet, year after year, the workforce is on the move. We have all been there, disillusioned with that job that once held so much promise. Maybe we want more money and less stress, maybe it is the boss, or the team that does not gel, or maybe it is just the values of the company. Whatever it might be, all we need is an inkling that the grass will be greener in another job, and we are off.
"People won't move a muscle without a motive," says Dr John DeMartini, who has consulted thousands of businesses around the world. It has always been this way, he says, but the freedom to jump ship has never been so obvious and easy. Sadly, the corporate world often fails to take the time to understand how their so-called "valuable people" think and behave as human beings, rather than employees. We all want to be valued, and while some companies encourage it, others shy away from empowered employee suggestions.
Recruitment companies have never been so busy, but the focus is now on flexibility, with people taking greater control of their careers. You will find about a quarter of the workforce have only been working with their current company for around a year, says Patrick Sacco, the manager of Logistic Recruitment Specialists in Dubai. Even more spectacular, he says, the working landscape will continue to change dramatically, with the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 not having existed in 2004.
Disharmony in the workplace is more obvious in times of change, and yet the big bosses often have their heads in the sand looking for a sense of corporate sameness. I agree with DeMartini when he says that the big mistake that companies make is they really believe they can impose a "culture" on their staff. I once worked for an international company like that. The money was good, the challenge looked appealing, but the values were miles from my own - and yet it took me a while to see it wasn't working. The "I hate this job" syndrome lingered for too long and I just could not see it at the time, but now I know - people really work for their own values, not for those of their company. The lucky ones realise this, do a bit of advance due diligence, match their values with that of the company and seriously love their jobs.
We often seem to try to defy universal laws as we strive for "positive solutions" in our lives. The frustration begins when people have unrealistic expectations. Too often we expect people to live outside universal law, which basically needs a positive and a negative. We expect human beings to be one-sided, rather than the normal two-sided combination. We want peaceful, happy employees and relationships, forever kind and sweet, only giving and open - and when it does not work, then we experience extreme disappointment, stress and often anger. The human being is multi-dimensional and companies often only want part of what's on offer. Dr DeMartini lists seven powers that need to be fulfilled by everyone: spiritual, mental, professional, financial, familial, social and physical. He says these are the seven primary human powers, and given the choice, human beings would rather increase and develop them all, rather than specific parts just to keep their employer happy.
Have you ever noticed that in times of stress, people tend to react rather than act? People need to start asking the right questions, look for alternative options and not dwell on the negative. "How do I fire Dina, the underachiever?" This question immediately limits the response. What about asking if Dina is in the right job and exploring ways to improve performance, or maybe moving her where she might be more productive and maybe even empower others. "Human beings have the power to alter their lives by shifting their perspective," according to Dr DeMartini. It is all about communication, especially during change, rapid expansion and/or downturn. You need your people most at stressful times, and any disruption in the workplace is little more than a warning sign that it is time to rebalance and take action to get back on track.
I watched Dr DeMartini "collapse" traditional thinking and have people re-examine their values, and how they match with the values of their company and environment. It is a series of laborious brainstorming sessions, expressing and writing down the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages, the hopes and aspirations and the practicalities of achieving goals. It can be a tough process and I found it quite emotional, but it does really help get a bit of clarity and perspective. You realise you are often running around without a starting point, not real sure where you are going, instead of taking stock once in a while to determine the base position and then set expectations and a strategy in a reasonable timeframe to achieve your goals. It is not a one-off process, nor should it be viewed as a monumental event. Once in place, you need to internalise it and do your own checklist on a monthly, weekly, maybe even daily basis.
We have all been through tough times that once appeared hopeless, and yet we have all survived. Dr DeMartini says we must have the faith and trust in our own ability to become empowered. It is really our own system and strength that provides the feedback to help keep us in equilibrium. Employers and employees need to learn how to recognise it, deal with it and ultimately, the clarity will come and we will begin to appreciate the balance. "Managing stress" according to Dr DeMartini - and I now agree, and am desperately trying to remind myself every day - is little more than the ability to adapt to a changing environment. "The wise man or woman will find equilibrium; the manic man is but a fool."
Eithne Treanor is a Dubai-based communications specialist and founder of www.etreanor.com