Is it Time for a Revolution in The Workplace?

Time to wisen up about our workplaces. The old rules aren't working.

Time to wisen up about our workplaces. The old rules aren’t working anymore.

The way we’ve been running our workplaces is broken.

Companies that aren’t willing to make radical changes are going to die, says David Burkus, author of the book, Under New Management, in today’s podcast interview.

As Chuck Blakeman pointed out in our interview a while back, most rules were created for the factory era, on the assumption that workers were lazy and stupid.  Like Blakeman (and me, in my soon-to-be released book, PeopleShock), Burkus also cites Frederick Winslow Taylor, father of time and motion studies, who saw humans as little more than extensions of machines.

Even in factories, though, successful companies like Toyota concluded that using your people as robots is not a great way to run things. Not only do the workers get demoralized, your organization doesn’t get to benefit from their ideas and experience.

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In today’s interview, David Burkus and I discuss ideas for transforming the workplace to meet new realities.

Revolutionary Workplace Ideas That Are Being Tried & Work

Some of the ideas we talk about will be hard for many mangers to swallow. Things like:

Full Salary Transparency

Burkus argues that your staff are already making guesses about what their colleagues earn. Let’s just get it all out on the table.

The great thing about transparency is that it forces pay to be more closely aligned with performance. It makes it harder for under-performers to coast along, and for managers to shy away from having the difficult conversations with them that may ultimately lead to firing.

41% of Americans didn't take any vacation time in 2015. So you probably don't need to worry too much about abuse if you trust them without a formal limit.

41% of Americans didn’t take any vacation time in 2015. So you probably don’t need to worry too much about abuse if you trust them without a formal limit.

Unlimited Vacation Time

Even with the current structure, 41% of American workers don’t take any vacation time, and a further 17% take fewer than five days a year, according to 2016 research by Skift.

So why are we so worried about trusting people to self-regulate (and bow to peer pressure)? If you can’t trust staff to make wise decisions, you’ve got a bunch of other workplace problems too.

Self-Directed Work Teams

We already discussed the value of self-directed work teams in episode 47 – my interview with Marcie Kiziak  — and saw how they can improve both the atmosphere and productivity in the workplace. Burkus gives further examples in his book.

Peer and Subordinate Interviews for New Staff

Traditional job interviews have a lousy track record when it comes to hiring the right people. Google has done some fascinating research on how to improve hiring processes. They are strong advocates of team-based interviews, done by staff at all levels.

Not every company will go to the lengths Google does, but it makes sense for co-workers and the people who will be supervised to have say in who gets hired to supervise them.

I do worry about group-based hiring decisions becoming too insular. If you hire for what you perceive to be “fit”, then of course you’ll feel more comfortable with people just like you. Burkus argues that as long as your current workplace is diverse, group hiring works well. If it isn’t diverse, you may need to be more thoughtful about who serves on hiring committees.

How To Run a Workplace Revolution

As we’ve discussed before in this blog, change management is never easy. But change we must if we are to meet the demands of an empowered, creative, and not-particularly-loyal workforce. You have to “gradually turn up the dial” on these changes, says Burkus, to create a workplace that works.

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