Friday, 6 May 2016

Gimme some credit

I have a concept in my head of imaginary credit accounts that regulate the employment relationship.  Initially I thought that each employee had an account with their employer, which they could draw on when required - but the more I think about it it goes two ways, and the employer has an account with each employee which they too can draw upon.

Let's explore this.

Today it has been Flexible Working Awareness Day.  I blogged HERE on this subject last month and started thinking why FW needed an awareness day, realising that there were still barriers to it being widespread.


And then I noticed THIS ARTICLE in the Independent quoting a CIPD survey on job satisfaction - and there were lots of statistics quoted in the article and survey that suggest job satisfaction is falling, as is employee engagement.  This was interesting to note on FW Awareness Day.

So I thought about the links between the two ideas and returned to an old concept I've had and have explained to leaders in several organisations along with HR staff - mental credit accounts.

Here's how they work.

I'm Joe Bloggs, and I work for Company X.  I've been troublesome for a while - minor performance issues, sickness absence now and again, and some behavioural issues as well.  My credit account with my employer is in fact NOT in credit, its in debit.  I have taken far more from the employment relationship account than my employer initially deposited into the account.

And the converse...

I'm Jane Smith, and I work for Company X too.  I've been a happy employee for a while - no performance issues, no notable sickness absence (or none at all), and no behavioural issues.  My credit account with my employer IS in credit, and I have deposited more into the account than my employer initially put in.

So imagine how it works in practice:

- Joe and Jane both have to take time off to recuperate from a planned operation.  They are likely to be off 8 - 10 weeks.  Given Joe's history you'll likely see this as a continuation of his bad behaviour (rightly or wrongly, because he's in debit), whereas for Jane you'll likely wish to support her as much as possible - because she's in credit.
- Joe and Jane both have caring responsibilities, and both tell you they need to take occasional time off with a sickly child, often at short notice.  Again, you'll view Joe's notification in a different light than Jane's
- Joe and Jane put in a request to do an MA in Feng Shui, fully funded by you (and Feng Shui is nothing to do with your business).  You'd likely laugh Joe's out of court, but you might give serious consideration to Jane's.

And it works in reverse too.

I'm John Smith and I work for Company G.  The company has always treated me fairly, given me flexibility, empowerment, involved me, supported me and developed me - I'm going to run through a minefield for this employer if they need me to, as they're in credit with me.

And the flipside.

I'm still John Smith and my Company G merges with Company H to form a new entity.  The leadership changes and in essence its a new company.  I don't think I'm being treated fairly, I'm not empowered any more and I don't feel supported or involved in the new organisation.  I'd just as soon see the company go into liquidation than help it out, as they're in debit with me.

Its a similar concept to falling in and out of love with someone, and the idea of falling out of love with an organisation is something I'm going to blog on separately in the future.

Why is this of relevance today?

Well, the reason why FW has an Awareness Day and the low levels of job satisfaction is because there is too much debit out there.  Employers are in debit with employees so job satisfaction is low, and employees are in debit with employers so the ability to work flexibly isn't as prevalent as it could be.

So seeing both things publicised reminded me of my oft-used concept.  I've mentioned it to leaders in a few different organisations to help them deal with tricky people issues.  I've mentioned it to HR teams I've led to help them understand why consistency is important, but not always achievable or desirable, and its because of the different amounts people hold in their accounts with the employer.

One of the best examples I can give of drawing on one's credit balance is my own.  

I had worked for a particular organisation for 4 years, working hard, being there and not off sick, helping the organisation to develop and driving it forward with new ideas.  I made mistakes, lots of them, but I owned up to them and learnt from them and developed good relationships with the Chief Executive and Directors who knew that I was developing and enthusiastic, and was committed to the success of the organisation.

And then my (first) marriage fell apart and I went through a very painful split and divorce process.

I turned up at work one day and decided to tell the Chief Executive.  I had made up my mind that this organisation was in credit with me and I owed it to them to keep turning up for work and not go off sick with stress (plus, home was the last place I wanted to be).  I needed to tell the Chief what was going on though as I knew my performance was already suffering, and my behaviour was unpredictable.

He was fine with it.  In fact, more than fine.  He told me to just keep turning up and he would support me and cover for me, and no matter how long my "dip" lasted he didn't mind.

I had told him years before of my concept of credit accounts and to my surprise, he quoted it back at me.

He told me I had built up considerable credit in my account and it was time I drew on that.  He didn't even mind if I went into debit as he told me he was confident I would recover in time and put my account back into credit.

In short, he had total and utter confidence in me.

In that one conversation, he earned my loyalty for life and the organisation went into perpetual credit with me.

And I did draw on the credit in my account, and probably went overdrawn, but I repaid the organisation considerably once I'd recovered, just as he knew I would.

And yet I wonder how he would have reacted had a "debit" employee come to talk to him.  I wonder if the "debit" employee would even have been in work, as the employer would probably have been in debit with them too and they would have gone off sick already.

So this is why I think its a powerful concept.

It can help to explain why flexible working isn't working for everyone.

It can help to explain why job satisfaction might not be as high as expected.

And I still offer the concept to people I work with as evidence of why employee engagement matters, right down to individual level.

Its about credit.

Are you in credit?

Is your organisation in credit with you?

Till next time...

Gary

PS my wedding outfit is purchased and, having tried it on, I think I look absolutely sensational