If Our Politicians Were Employees

A fun opinion piece, and one based on the fact that whilst I am very politically aware, I haven’t as yet demonstrated it outside of political forums.

Now, looking at the politicians we have in this country, what would their persona, their attitude and their approach to their work be if they were humble employees? Well, this is my take on it:

Julia Gillard – The CEO. Competent enough, and with a streak of viciousness, she exhibits the qualities people like in a CEO…but you’ll never know it, because her public relations team are all wanting quotes from the General Manager to fill their newsletter. Tends to take too much on, then get’s roundly criticised by her BoD.

Tony Abbott. The General Manager. Would be asked to complete a task, and would immediate declare ‘No’, whilst telling the BoD why the other employees and especially the CEO, are incompetent by showing emails and sales receipts. When it came to submitting results, he will say the Finance Department has them, then blame someone else when the Finance Department comes back saying the figures are all over the place. He is the guy that does no work, tells everyone else what to do then expects to be handed the role of CEO unchallenged…and he desperately wants to be CEO…and will do anything legal or not to get there.

Wayne Swan, as Head of the Finance Department has seen the business chug along nicely, even when the firm bottomed out a couple of years ago, and despite the stuffing up of the books by his predecessor, Costello.

Joe Hockey. Nice guy, everybody likes him, but as the Junior Finance Analyst, finds it difficult when big sales come in and revenue increases. He tends to get stuck at ‘Eleventy’. Good for a joke to lighten the mood, though.

Kevin Rudd. Fired for disloyalty, and for losing a huge sale with one of their major clients, ‘The Greens Inc’

Barnaby Joyce. No one really knows why Barnaby is there. It was like he was there before anyone else and no one has the heart to tell him to leave. Really offers nothing, but a few comments that cannot be discerned by his drawl. Might turn mad if provoked.

Bill Shorten. Nice guy, tends to be a bit of a yes-man, but unquestionable loyalty…to whoever is CEO. Knows his sales region back to front, and has the benefit of working for one of their major suppliers, ‘Unions Pty Ltd’

Andrew Robb. He is the guy that has been with the company for years, offers nothing particular, and get’s confused with large numbers. Tends to ramble.

Nicola Roxon, Kate Ellis, Kate Lundy. The darlings of the office, competent, coherent and without any enemies.

Julie Bishop. The forgotten darling. Always the bridesmaid, she demonstrates some confidence, but is let down her persona which has all the hallmarks of a boarding school mistress.

Greg Combet. Probably the most boring employee in the office. Never speaks to anyone unless it is to admonish them. Surprisingly, passes all his KPIs with flying colours.

Christopher Pyne. Perennial whinger, always complains about all the other staff, then has a verbal stoush with the boss when he doesn’t get his way, which is often. He is the smart-alec who no one really likes, but seems to get along with a portion of the team who try to keep him settled.

The Corporate Responsibility Handbook – And Why It’s Being Trashed

The news this week of Toyota using probably the most inappropriate and inhumane methods of making redundant over 300 of its staff in Victoria is the latest in a series of gaffes by big corporates in their approach to employee engagement and retention.

Alongside QANTAS and Westpac, the approach these, and by virtue others, use demonstrate a clear disparity between expectations of employee interaction and the reality.

In Toyota’s case, the tactics used to cut the workforce by redundancy offered a clear insight into what not to do. Even worse was the very public humiliation of their employees who not only suffer the soul-crushing event of losing their job, but have to suffer it in the full glare of the media – a humiliating and devastating turn of events. Employing security (regardless of who it was who actually ordered them), communicating redundancies off-site in a wedding reception venue, and then having the ignominy of running a media gauntlet read like a step-by-step manual on the worst way to affect redundancies. Add to that union claims of the reasoning behind some of the redundancies, and it is getting to be a ledger of poor form.

Look now at the ramifications of this. Apart from the well-being of those impacted directly by redundancy, their families and loved-ones, which must be considered, I want to look at the impact on remaining staff.

Think about it: you have just seen the company you have shown loyalty for over the last, say, 10 years produce such a mismanaged and overtly public firing of workmates and friends. How would that change your view of your employer? What fear would come as a result and more importantly, what affect would it be on your morale?

Simple employee engagement 101 demands a workplace where morale is high and fear about job security is not an issue. Toyota have explicitly and bizarrely thrown that concept away, and I guarantee, leave a fearful, toxic and an unsatisfying place to work in it’s place. Those of decision-making capabilities within the company have only themselves to blame if productivity falls, staff absenteeism, workplace stress and insecurity mount, and costs suddenly increase for sick leave and workplace counselling. Then, what logically follows is an increase in workplace accidents and incidents, animosity and industrial action.

All this form a poorly planned and ridiculously executed plan of mass-redundancies without thinking of employee engagement ramifications. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. How can a company, with thousands of employees, with a brand reputation logically desired to remain strong and with management practices apparently in line with business and employee needs, get this so outrageously wrong?  Where is the Human Resources department in this? Have they properly looked at the proper process of these measures or at the very least measuring the impact they are having? And if not, why not. Inexplicably there is an HR department in Toyota who has offered nothing to the very public airing of this piece of dirty laundry. I have not read nor seen any comment from an HR representative explaining what will be the support policies for the retrenched workers: given the very publicity of it, is there a view to be shared on the human angle from the company? Obviously not. This public no-show gives further impetus to the overall feeling that Toyota has let it’s employees down (both those facing retrenchment, as well as those remaining) greatly and has carried out this process with fundamental and regular errors.

Engagement is the central core to a successful workplace. A team that feels part of the company puts forward far more productivity that those who do not feel it. There have been various studies across the board that support that notion. There are intrinsic HR guidelines, supposedly integrated within these large companies, that identify handling of sensitive and impact events. Then, there is the underlying ethics and morals that should be a guide to the best practice way to deal with these matters. It seems Toyota has trashed these, thrown sense to the wind and embarked on a employee policy that can only be described as corporate irresponsibility. What it means for the future of the company as an employer in Australia is yet to be determined, but one thing can be guaranteed: their employer brand has been severely tarnished by this ham-fisted exercise.

Abuse Your Staff and Watch Them Leave

The incredible news of the plight of Ben Polis and his abusive rants on Facebook shocked everyone with even a modicum of common decency. However, it is the further revelations of the way he run his company, Energy Watch, serves as a warning to leaders and managers everywhere of how easy it is to turn an employee of you, your company and ultimately see good talent walk.

Polis was noted as having a ‘cowboy’ mentality – never really thinking of how comments and actions would affect people directly or indirectly exposed to them – and it is this that caused a ‘revolving door’ of employees through his company. Calling women ‘prostitutes’ and other behaviours that can clearly be labelled as sexual harassment, asking employees to lie to regulatory authorities to avoid answering claims, refusing to, or perhaps forgetting to pay wages superannuation and regular racial abuse suggest someone clearly not able to handle people management or the running of a business servicing the community, and marks a strong warning about how quickly things can come back to bite you, and that a leader’s role is to lead by example.

The net result of this incredible behaviour is the loss of major suppliers, a falling customer base, and a brand that is now nothing more than trash – in the space of 48 hours. Quite a feat in today’s business world, but nevertheless, an important lesson to be learnt.

Any people in an organisation need to feel valued, empowered and a part of an organisation with solid ethical and community sensitivities. An organisation who allows it’s more senior public figures to indulge in racism, anti-Semitism and sexual discrimination exposes itself to a backlash that could ultimately destroy the company as people feel ashamed, disengaged and ultimately (and tellingly) resentful of the more senior people. This is a complete breakdown in employee relations, and one that could be irrevocably destroyed.

This is going to be a very hard lesson for Energy Watch, and for Polis himself, and no claims of  ‘ADD’ or ‘impulsive behaviour’ will suffice when untold damage to brand has been done.

It is a lesson, however, that offers an excellent opportunity for other businesses to learn from. People are your key, you treat them with the respect and decency they deserve, you will go a long way to creating loyalty. If you lead by example, with behaviours that show energy, ethics and encouragement, you have a bunch of people working for you, looking to you for directions on how to approach their work, and behave in the workplace, who will be inspired, energised and engaged.

Similarly, if you portray, and demonstrate, a clearly defined approach to employee engagement through the methods mentioned, your appearance to the general public is enhanced. Think of any company with a positive outlook and a structure dedicated to getting the best out of all it’s people, and you will see a company who understands there is something to be said about ethics, decency and respect. Now what is the upshot of all this, from a hiring and retention perspective? It is a company that is attractive to potential employees, who will bring in the best talent, and who will have a wealth of talent available at any time. Think about which company candidates would want to work for: a company like this, or one like Energy Watch? The answer is obvious to all – except, it seems, the owners of the latter.

It is a simple concept. It makes absolutely no room for cowboys who flaunt common decency into a warped sense of what they perceive to be a way to run a business. Ben Polis tried this, and Ben Polis failed, and so too will Energy Watch. A company, with an apparent good idea, destroyed by an out-of-control persona.