Ways We Are Going Backward to Move Forward

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When I study organizations that are ahead of the curve regarding innovative cultures they create, it seems like we are going backward in some ways; back to what we already knew and experienced as human beings 150+ years ago (before Industrial Age). Let me explain what I mean:

Work as an extension of who we are: Before the Industrial Age took over, people had to look at their talents, skill sets, and what they like to choose how they can make money. That is how they chose to be a farmer, a baker, or a singer. They also worked at their timing. They took care of their families and work at the same time. They were always "the whole person." When we started working at organizations, we stopped paying attention to what are our talents are and what our likes are. We stopped being a "whole person" since we were told we had to compartmentalize work and personal life. We lost our flexibility since big bosses required us to be at the office at certain times of the day because we needed to be under control.

Now we are going back to being flexible, recognizing the whole person, and using more of our talents at the right jobs. These arrangements are not simply nice to have but are strongly linked to improved performance and employee retention.

Hiring: In the past when we needed help on the farm, we cared if we could also get along with that person. Even if some lacked the skills, we were willing to teach. When the big organizations came along, it was too hard and time-consuming to build the relationships. So with technology advancements, hideous application forms that take hours to fill out were invented that asked the same things that are already on the resume. These processes lack all kinds of human touch, has no way of seeing the unique passion and talent that person might be bringing to the table.

Now we are going backward in our hiring processes too. People are not hired to fit a predefined job definition, but they pick up roles using their unique talents. The best version of hiring I witnessed was last year when an institution was looking for consultants; they never asked for a resume, they only asked what the candidate's passion is, what he/she would change in this world, what is his/her purpose and why he/she is applying. The whole application process was so much more rewarding to me. There are more and more companies who are willing to take the time to get to know the candidates on a personal level now.

Clients: In the past, we built real relationships with our customers. The customers were our neighbors, friends, our community. We were able to call them by their names. As the organizations got bigger, they lost touch with the clients not understanding what their needs are. I remember taking a course at one of the companies I worked for that was called "creating a need." Even if the client did not need anything, you would have to kind of "trick" them to make an investment. Why? Because my company came up with an arbitrary sales number to hit not every year but every quarter. With these type of selfish practices, we lost their trust; they became distant strangers.

Now we are trying to be more personal again (addressing them with their first names in emails), asking their opinion on our products as much as possible; engaging them on social media. It looks like we remembered relationships and transparency matter for our clients.

Where we work: When we first started working, there were no fancy offices to go to. We worked from home, went to our land, to small shops in our town. We worked together, we talked about work and life, and we collaborated. Then we moved to big offices and started dividing the space up. We did not want people to talk to each other so much, not to waste company time. I will never forget my experience working as a marketing manager at a company and trying to create closer relationships with the sales team who were basically my customers. I was told by my general manager that I should not talk to them as much.

Now we are going backward again; we are creating co-working environments and open spaces. Good companies create break rooms or fun rooms so that people can connect. They do not expect you to be at the office either or punch in a time card as long as you deliver the results.

Management: In the past, people did not need "a boss" to tell them how to do their jobs unless they were getting trained. Then came layers and layers of people they called managers who supposedly "knew more and better" than you did. You were expected to obey; at least not object too much. Organizations started using golden handcuffs to keep good employees in place. While such efforts might boost workplace happiness in the short term, they fail to have any lasting effect on talent retention or performance.

Now many advanced leaders and companies are moving toward self-managed teams. Finally, some leaders see that people can be trusted at work as they are in their personal lives. People are capable of making decisions. People have their brains, their power, their talents, and their passion. As Frederic Laloux explains in his phenomenal book Reinventing Organizations, we are moving away from the mindset that says "workers are mostly lazy, dishonest, and in need of direction" to trusting workers want to do a good job. There is abundance, wholeness, and purpose in the workplace. One my best examples is when I met Barney Hellenbrand CEO of HBW Insurance & Financial Services, who gave a speech about family 12 years ago. I was so surprised that a CEO of a company would spend so much time talking about the value of our loved ones at an annual company event and even have a special session for spouses. I loved it.

Besides what we already knew 150+ years ago, thanks to science –especially relatively new branches like neuroscience and positive psychology- and a lot of research, we also learned a lot about human behavior that we did not know before. So it is great that many conscious leaders are grabbing what was important in the past, but also embracing the complete new facts we now have to move forward.

About the Author: Brooke Erol is an advisor, a speaker, and an author who is interested in future of work and how organizations can thrive in this new world. She works with executive teams to increase employee engagement, lower turnover rates, and hire the right people based on both culture and job-fit using a three-phase methodology that uses Emotional Intelligence practices. She is the author of Create a Life You Love. Her purpose in life is to help as many individuals and organizations as possible to find their purpose and actualize it. You can connect with Brooke on her website or on Twitter (@boerol1).

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