Strategies for Social Good?

Group of people seen from above gathered together in the shape of a "thumbs up" symbol standing on a white background
Arthimedes/Shutterstock

Most of us are motivated to contribute something positive to the greater good of the world around us.

This motivation does not stop when we enter into our respective workplaces. When we spend forty or more hours a week working as part of an organization, we want to feel that our combined efforts are part of something bigger. We want to belong to an organization that gives back, not just to each one of us as employees, but to the broader social community. In recognition of this motivation, many Canadian companies are building their organizational frameworks on managerial strategies that allow for a reach beyond the workplace, into the broader community, to contribute to a social good.

Three examples of Canadian companies that have built their strategic frameworks on the principles of ‘good deeds’ are outlined in a recent article published by Canadian Business.

Click here to read about the initiatives implemented by Oliberté, Nude Bee Honey and Canada Goose.

From a compensation strategy perspective, each of these Canadian companies seems to include an element of reinvesting their rewards back into their communities, the environment, and their workers. As noted in the article, each of these profitable organizations must have the buy-in of their staff if they want to be successful in bringing about environmental or social change.

As a result, these strategies come at a price for consumers at the point of purchase. In the same way that employees may be motivated by doing good, these companies are successful through the targeting of socially conscious consumers who may be willing and able to pay in order to be part of a broader good.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does a prospective employer’s commitment to social responsibility influence your career choices?
  2. What types of managerial strategies are evident in Oliberté, Nude Bee Honey and Canada Goose?
  3. How is employee citizenship behaviour rewarded in each of these companies?
  4. Would you pay more for a product if you knew that the profits would be used for social good?

Work to Earn?

Profit-seeking concept with businessman runs for a bag of money hanging on a fishing tackle
Who is Danny/Shutterstock

“What would you do if your income were taken care of?”

This is the question that many European countries are asking of its citizens. Finland has answered this question by providing a basic guaranteed income to its unemployed workforce as a strategic initiative during challenging and changing economic times.

 

Click here to view the video about the guaranteed income plan in Finland. 

As noted in this video clip, the guaranteed income scheme is an experiment based on the compensation concepts of motivation and rewards. In this case, the reward provided by a guaranteed income for two years should act as a motivator to those who are unemployed. It allows them to take on a low-paying job without having to file reports or pay back the government income.

It seems that this incentive plan is based on the positive pull of income as reward. If a basic income is guaranteed, will a person want to increase the level of their potential rewards by taking on low-paying work without risk of losing the guaranteed pay? Does a guaranteed reward lead to motivation for more rewards?

On the other hand, as mentioned in the clip, if the person wants to stay on the couch and do nothing for two years, they have that choice as well. Will the guaranteed income represent a reward for doing nothing?

The hope, or theory, is that the pull of positive potential should outweigh the drag of negative inertia.

If Canadians were able to build a similar strategy built on possibilities and belief in human potential, how far could it go?

In a Canadian context, if such a plan could be offered to our own unemployed workforce, perhaps it would allow for young workers to take on unpaid internships; for workers displaced by automation to try something new that builds on unused skills; for older workers who have been laid off, to become productive again instead of discarded and left out.

No matter what the outcome will be over the next two years in Finland, this innovative experiment exploring the basic links between the value of work and the value of rewards will likely have impact around the world.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you had a basic guaranteed income for the next two years, what choices would you make to improve your current situation?
  2. In a Canadian context, how could employers benefit from a basic guaranteed income strategy?
  3. What are the risks associated with this experiment?

From Checkers to Checkmate

All the right HR moves.

playing wooden chess pieces
Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock

Move toward, move away – very specific and directive, vague and creative. This is what a manager should be thinking about if they want real performance out of an employee. Marcus Buckingham who is a leading management consultant and performance coach emphasizes the concept; if you let people play to their strengths they will perform better for you at work.

He expands on that concept in his Harvard Business Review (HBR) article called “What Great Managers Do.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Marcus Buckingham brings in the analogy that good managers are playing checkers but great leaders are playing chess. If you think back to Fredrick Taylor and his theories of scientific management, all managers should be playing checkers: each job is subdivided into the smallest unit that anyone can understand, make all workers the same and interchangeable. Scientific management parallels the concept of the checkerboard very nicely. That concept may have flourished during the early years of the industrial revolution but not anymore with knowledge workers and fierce competition of globalization demanding higher level skills from workers and managers.

In today’s organizations leaders need to play chess, each worker has a differing purpose, a different move and interacts on different levels with individuals in the organization. Buckingham talks about the three levels every leader needs to know about their direct report:

  1. Learn your direct report’s strengths.
  2. What are the triggers that activate those strengths?
  3. What is their learning style?

Doing the above with every person you work closely with will give the HR professional the ability to leave the checkerboard behind and work with individuals like a chess master.

Discussion Questions

  1. The first step in any great workplace performance is the ability to know yourself. Ask yourself what are your strengths? What triggers those strengths into exceptional performance? What is your learning style?
  2. Now imagine you are having a meeting with your new boss. Create a written two-minute speech on how the boss should manage you to get your best performance.

Inspiring Health and Safety Culture

Happy child playing with toy wings against summer sky background.
Sunny studio/Shutterstock

Would you rather do something because you had to, or do something because you wanted to?

In either case, for most of us, we will be motivated to get the something done. The difference between these two choices, however, will determine how well we get that something done and whether or not we will be motivated to do it again.

These concepts apply directly to our individual approaches to Health and Safety management. As Human Resources professionals we must take on the role of leadership in Health and Safety matters. How we take on that role will determine whether we are able to influence a positive and pro-active Health and Safety culture, or are limited to a compliance based approach that gets things done but goes no further than the minimum requirements. We can take on the health and safety mantle because we ‘have’ to, or we can shape it in order to effect constructive organizational change.

Shawn Galloway, president of  ProAct Safety, is a passionate advocate for Health and Safety organizational leadership. In a recent interview he discusses the difference that leadership style has on the creation of an inspirational health and safety culture that motivates all employees to do better than the minimum requirements.

Click hear to see the interview.

As Mr. Galloway identifies in the clip a ‘command and control’ culture does get results. This approach speaks to the achievement of the minimum as the target or the goal. In other areas of our Human Resources studies, we look at the concept of a ‘threshold’ requirement which is the same as a minimum standard. It is an acceptable standard in some cases, but it does not offer the opportunity to go beyond the minimum into the realm of excellence and inspiration.

How do we proceed when the minimum is not enough and the measure for compliance is a standard that is, simply, too low?

We must take on the challenge of inspirational leadership, especially in the creation of a pro-active safety culture. We can do so by setting high standards. We can do so by constantly looking at ways to inspire and improve personal performance, not only for others engaged in health and safety practices, but for ourselves as well.

After all, aren’t our work lives worth more than just the minimum?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are ‘command and control’ systems easy to implement for health and safety standards?
  2. When you think of your own approach to health and safety in the workplace, how are you motivated by the organization to act in a safe manner?
  3. As a Human Resources professional, what steps will you take to ensure that you are perceived as more than a ‘compliance officer’ for Health and Safety?
  4. What skills will you rely on to influence a positive health and safety culture in your workplace?

 

Does Someone Always Have To Be The Loser?

 

Road sign with arrows - Winners, Losers
Source: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

During the course of your studies, you may have experienced a class where your grades were bell-curved or ranked in comparison with everyone else in the class.  The rationale for imposing this kind of grade rating system usually comes with an explanation related to institutional policy or some complicated methodology based on academic requirements.  As a result, bell curving or forced ranking systems are not used as a common approach for evaluating student performance.  Nevertheless, they do exist and continue to be used with varying degrees of success.

Does this type of forced ranking system translate into effective performance management for employees from a training and development perspective?  Based on a recent article from The Globe & Mail’s Leadership Lab series, the answer would seem to be a resounding “No.”

Click Here to Read the Article.

As noted in this article, forced employee ranking ensures that someone must be left standing on the bottom rung of the performance ladder in comparison to everyone else.  This happens even though the individual employee’s performance may be the same as his or her colleagues’.  How can this possibly act as a positive motivator for performance improvement and increased employee engagement?

One of the common remarks about forced ranking systems is that they provide an un-naturally skewed picture of the data or the group that is being evaluated.  If the data is skewed, then it would seem that a response to that data would also be skewed.

Again, from an employee learning perspective, it is imperative that any training and development programs are built from a basis of actual employee needs, and not from a system that forces individual performance evaluation into a larger group ranking.

Discussion questions:

  1. As a Human Resources professional, identify three benefits of forced employee ranking systems. When would this type of system be useful?
  2. How would you respond to your performance being managed by a bell-curve/forced employee ranking approach in your current (or previous) workplace?
  3. Do you believe that a forced employee ranking approach improves employee performance and provides positive motivation? Why or why not?