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Working Conditions From the Past

If you ever wondered why we need to change look no further my lovelies. Companies with their "thinking outside the box" narrative can quickly be taken apart especially when it comes to their people. We are working under century-old conditions under new fancy logos, company tag lines, and slogans. We don't need slogans and logos. The workforce would rather have the practices changed. Let me give you a history tour around work and you will see how unimaginative we are today. 


  • The eight-hour workday has its origins in the 16th-century Spain but the modern movement dates back to the Industrial Revolution. Tell me that nothing has changed since then. 

  • The first organisational chart: The Scottish-American engineer Daniel McCallum (1815–1878) is credited for creating the first organisational charts of American business around 1854. We are still working based on this structure despite social structures and have changed which has an impact on how people view hierarchy. By the way, look at his very complex chart, it is mesmerising. The traditional way companies were set up made more sense because they included experts which organisations kind of abandoned. Today, charts and hierarchy are all about promotion; supervisors, managers, directors, VPs, senior VPs and god knows what. But where are the experts who do not want to have anything to do with people management but want to contribute intellectually? We have made this completely redundant and complain about stupid people and decisions at work. Well, maybe if we re-looked at our charts......

  • Time clocking dates back to BC. but let's not go that far, 1888 is enough. We must figure out better ways to manage performance and not the time people spend at work. You are not paying for their time but for their skills, knowledge, ideas, expertise etc. When are we going to understand that????

  • Annual appraisal my old-time favourite corporate non-sense has been around since 1930 and went through several updates still yields no result. We go through the process every year only to keep Debbie from Talent employed. There is no other reason for it because let's be clear here, we do not use that data for anything. And even if we did, annual appraisal is bad data full of biases, subjectivity, and personal opinions. But most importantly, they do not impact performance. The theory might make sense on paper but it forgot to consider the humans behind the process. 

  • Data-driven decision-making dates back to the 1950s and ever since ignores two things. First, it takes the responsibility away from decision-makers. Leaders often justify bad decisions by saying "This is what the data is telling us to do" so they cannot be blamed for their failed decisions. It's a complete copout because relying on the past to make decisions for the future is not such a great idea given the speed of change and the unpredictability of the environment. Data is needed to establish what is but not necessarily how to move forward, so maybe we should ask the question what does this data tell us that might be useful to know to find out what we don't know? The second problem with data-driven decision-making in the context of humans - which HR has proven over and over again - is that the most important things cannot be quantified i.e. employee experience. When we try to put numbers to human experiences we are almost guaranteed to mess up. I mean, five decades of billions of dollars in investments into employee engagement and the needle just doesn't want to move from that magical 15% of an engaged workforce. What exactly is the reason we don't abandon this failed experiment? The data that Gallup and others are constantly pumping out about increasing engagement. Gallup sings the "this and that increases engagement by 30%" while publishing their annual data about the global score of 15%. The math ain't mathing. 

  • Leadership styles: Can we move away from this nonsense??????? Kurt Lewin carried out the first major study of leadership styles in 1939, and his classification of leadership styles into Autocratic, Participative (or Democratic) and Laissez-Faire was extremely influential and is still used today. The way people lead and manage others is embedded in their genetics, their natural talent. Watch here. Leadership is talent-based!


Looking at these dates linked to the processes, we can establish that we are working in the last century and we keep pushing these outdated practices on everyone. At this point, I started to believe that we are into sadomasochistic behaviour because I cannot think of any other reason why we are inflicting pain on everyone and somewhat find pleasure in it. Do you think HR or managers want to run another engagement survey or prepare another action plan related to it? NOBODY wants to do that! 


PS: It is time to stop listenting to the old generations (Dave Ulrich and others who deal with organisational design and leadership) about how we should run organisations in the future because they come with past data (data-driven) and their experiences which are sometimes utterly useless for the future. Let's use their data (do not discredit their work!) to ask the question, what could be helpful to know that we don't and how can we find it out? ONE element to it is past data but 99% of the rest must not be past data. 


Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!:



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