Nearly 30 years ago, Richard E. Walton wrote in the article From Control to Commitment in the Workplace as published in the Harvard Business Review:
Especially in a high-wage country like the United States, market success depends on a superior level of performance, a level that, in turn, requires the deep commitment, not merely the obedience—if you could obtain it—of workers. And as painful experience shows, this commitment cannot flourish in a workplace dominated by the familiar model of control.”
Despite Walton’s long-ago words of wisdom, companies today continue to only use either a strategy of control or one of eliciting commitment to build employee commitment. And they do so already knowing that when employee commitment isn’t built, they will pay an enormous price.
Here are a couple of startling stats to show the danger of such a lack of dedication by employees. In the 2012 SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, only one out of two employees in the U.S. reported that they were completely plugged in at work. Meanwhile, the Gallup’s State of the American Workplace: 2010-2012 report found that disengaged employees cost the U.S. as much as $550 billion per year.
Those are very telling statistics in regard to the sorry state of how committed employees really are nowadays in the workplace. But do realize that there’s a better way. A way to get them plugged in and one that will help reduce such wasteful billions.
Why Do Companies Struggle with Employee Commitment?
These days, although there is clearly a growing recognition that in order to compete in the 21st century, companies must have employees who are engaged and committed. In our new book A Team of Leaders, we present our belief that companies struggle with employee commitment because of two primary reasons:
1) Many organizations continue to choose a strategy based on controlling employees.
2) Those that choose a strategy of eliciting employee commitment are doing a poor job of implementing that strategy.
We believe that the first strategy, which involves all-knowing supervisors controlling their subordinates and telling them what to do, is generally doomed to fail. So, we will focus this article on the second strategy, which can be wildly successful. Yet it’s not an easy maneuver to pull off.
The reason why it’s so difficult is because you are trying to change an entire organization’s or team’s culture from top to bottom. This can’t be done by fiat, and it can’t be accomplished by making employee commitment the flavor of the month. Many companies have tried to do just that. Then they have often wondered why it did not have the desired effect.
The answer is simple: Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results that they get. So, unless you change your organization’s design, you are not going to get the results you desire, or even need.
And that is precisely why employee commitment programs don’t work. They merely scratch the surface of your organization or team in a vacuum. They don’t properly affect or influence all of the support systems and processes that must be aligned and in balance. Without that, there’s no true change to your business culture or positive impact to your bottom line.
On the other hand, if you build teams of leaders, you can truly change your culture and produce great results.
Teams of leaders are comprised of employees who all step up and provide leadership. They are responsible for planning and achieving the team’s goals. They are cross trained and well developed. They are highly committed and engaged.
They are built through a careful planning and implementation approach. This approach ensures that all of the systems and processes work together in a holistic manner to produce the right culture and results.
In other words, teams of leaders need to be perfectly designed to get the results that you want.
Are you struggling with employment commitment issues? What strategies have you used to build employee commitment? To get a deeper knowledge about these challenges and the right answers to these questions, go now to download a FREE Chapter from our book A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results.
About Paul and Stew
Paul Gustavson is an organizational design consultant and founder of Organization Planning & Design, Inc. (OPD). He is the co-author of “Running into the Wind”. He can be reached anytime on Twitter and LinkedIn
Stewart Liff is an HR and visual management expert, and president of Stewart Liff & Associates. He is the author of “Managing Government Employees” and co-author of “Seeing is Believing”. He can be reached anytime on Twitter, LinkedIn, or via email.