Employers face an apparent dichotomy:
- their major ‘people issue’ is to attract – and keep from being poached – the best people for their type of business, and
- the best potential recruits are often employed and prized by another firm – perhaps a direct competitor – and would have to be poached to get them.
Poaching can therefore be a solution and a problem.
Being able to attract, retain, nurture and sustain the right people is becoming an art form. Money, status or even flexible working conditions aren't enough anymore. People want to work for companies that offer “the right feel”, a very individual perception that is not easy for an employer to second guess. It means having to take a hard look at that vague expression, the workplace culture, which I define as the way we do things here.
Nor is it a case of one culture fits all. A successful team is like a mosaic - recognizing and nurturing the unique individual talents, skills and abilities of each person to achieve team goals. To attract and retain good staff now requires seeing people as more than just the person who turns up at work each day.
For the individual employee – including the CEO - the line between work and personal life has become a blur. So we get into looking at flexible work options and the wider question of work life balance.
Work life balance is interesting. It's largely time-based, with a battle between employers and employees as to how much time is spent on work matters and on personal matters. Even with the growth of flexible work practices and time management, there just isn't enough time in the week to get everything done. It is getting worse and if we don't find a better way we are eventually going to run around in ever-decreasing circles until we go bust. This links to the other major cost factor in business today - the rise in work-driven stress-related illnesses and claims, depression, divorces, and heart attacks.
I found myself looking at the bigger picture. We are trying to still fit square pegs into round holes. While the huge changes in 21st Century living are making us look at life and work very differently, the business machine is still grinding under the industrial age principles of the work ethic. People are increasingly seeing work as a means to an end, not an end in itself. However, in the world of business and economic development, work is everything – it’s the driver on which material success depends.
People want to express and develop their talents and feel they are contributing something of value through both their work and their personal life interests. This flags the need for a new direction to replace work life balance with a theme of work life harmony in which each person creates their own unique harmonious mix of energy-burning and energy-generating work and personal life obligations and interests. This with two vital motives in mind:
- developing a diversity of opportunities to creatively express their talents and maximize their life potential through all their interests, and
- sustaining the mental energy and resilience needed not just to survive but to positively thrive in the constant, competitive jungle of the business world.
Harmony, as in choral or orchestral music, is found in diversity, not uniformity. People thrive on diversity in so many areas of life and it is this fact that makes the concept of work life harmony so attractive, realistic and feasible. It also implies the absence of conflict and discord and encourages collaboration, co-operation and mutual enjoyment for the conductor, the participants and even the audience (customers).
The “right feel” workplace culture to which I alluded earlier goes deeper than simply giving official recognition and blessing to the work life harmony concept. It goes to the very core of building a strong ethos of
‘we employ the whole person, recognizing and encouraging the development of all their unique talents and abilities at work and in personal life and drawing on the energy and self esteem that these interests generate.
It has to be an ethos that every person, especially the chief executive and senior managers, emotionally embraces in their own lifestyles – in this case the buck starts at the top!
To keep your best staff from being poached, or if you want to poach staff from your competitors, your workplace culture can become your greatest asset. The result will not only benefit the employees' total lifestyle but add significantly to the stability and viability of your business.