Just as technology disrupted the newspaper business (virtually all are kaput), urban transportation (Uber), publishing (hello e-books, goodbye book stores), how hotels do business (Airbnb), photography (remember Kodak?), communications (remember when you talked into a big phone plugged into the wall?), now we have sleek, thin smart phones, not to mention emails, whatsapp, snapchat, skype, googlevoice, facebook, twitter, googlehangout, just to name a few. And now technology is shaking to its core how corporations operate.
When technology burst onto the scene it was hailed as a corporate game changer. Work tasks would be dispatched with great alacrity and efficiency. The traditional five-day workweek would shrink to four maybe even three. No longer would employees endure torturous commutes. They would work from the comforts of their home offices, not only cutting out the stress factor but also eliminating the often-costly commuting fees. And the icing on the cake was that corporate headquarters would need fewer offices, saving a bundle on real estate. Technology would facilitate and elevate the elusive “work/life balance.” Technology would free us.
Technology has enslaved us. We are never not working. There is no separation of personal and professional, not to mention privacy. There is no privacy. And to top it all off, according to Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath of the Energy Project in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, we are frustrated, we feel put upon, underappreciated, under paid, exploited, exhausted, you name it we feel it. In a word we are unhappy. And, according to all of Schwartz’s and Porath’s research, “the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform.”
It’s not just technology that has upended many of us and companies. It’s the collapse of the economy, failed political and governments negotiations, failed businesses resulting in layoffs, people working multiple jobs, not getting deserved bonuses and raises, all the while watching their bosses make more. Employees have less loyalty to companies. They jump from job to job, are unengaged, going through the motions, and only putting in what is absolutely necessary. And, God forbid, there was some personal drama unfolding at home, the bosses didn’t want to know about it. It was unprofessional to bring it to the office.
I have been thinking a lot about this and imagining what companies would and should look like in the future and I believe a company should be run the way you run your family. Yes, I repeat: run the company like a family. We should treat your employees and colleagues the way we treat our sons and daughters, loved ones and friends. I initially called it the Caring Company, but I think “Company” limits the scope of what I want to talk about in my upcoming posts, and sounds slightly old fashion. I will instead call it “The Caring Organization”, which not only includes Fortune 500 companies, but academic institutions, small businesses, a team in their parents’ garage, the next Wolfgang Puck starting a food empire at his parents stove, the stay at home Mom or Dad organizing the big fundraiser for their kid’s school, etc. What I will address going forward is how it is imperative to install a caring culture in all organizations, in all enterprises, in all aspects of our lives.
The old ways, rules, changed irrevocably when work went 24/7. And Global. The CEO of the future is not cut from the cloth of CEOs of the past—explosive, take no prisoners operational style. Look at what happened to Jill Abramson. The first woman ever to lead the New York Times was canned for the alleged abrasive, abrupt, uncaring way she ran the newsroom and treated her colleagues. The CEO of the Caring Organization is more in the model of Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post provides sleeping pods for employees to grab a nap) and Tim Cook (Apple provides free commuter shuttles). Studies have shown that employees want flexible work hours, work from home options, paid maternity and paternity leave. Google and other companies know that employees who aren’t leaving work frequently to run errands and go to appointments are less stressed and distracted. This has given rise to creative perks like on site gyms, day care centers, health and dental clinics, cafeterias, and more. Virtually everyone surveyed wanted more vacation time and paid time off.
Now what works for one company may not work for another. Bosses, leaders and management need to determine what works best for its workforce and talk to its employees and find out what they want and what will make them more satisfied, happy in and out of work. The Caring Boss understands that keeping employees happy and content is not just nice or the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do—it’s good for the bottom line. Costs are justified because it is about getting the best, all their potential and desires from employees and keeping them over the long haul.
Clear, not filtered and honest (yes, honest!) communications are important to building a caring organization. Information both good and bad should be shared allowing people to feel part of the family, stay passionate and innovate. At work if we create caring teams, they share points of view, and do not hold back, they give all and they want to get more results. A caring environment must allow people to have time to innovate, to explore ideas and thoughts. These small innovation breaks can help connect unrelated aspects and create something big. Connecting the dots, connecting different perspectives and people, keeping it all together is what will build the special place for everyone to feel special and produce ideas and talent.
The formula for success equals “care”. When we care, the thought process is different and so is our prioritization. I am always willing to listen and be there for people when they need me and not when I free up from other meetings to meet them.
So, how do we get there: we shall not separate what’s personal and what’s corporate because in both situations we are dealing with people? The conversations are all human. In fact, I say, we need to treat the whole planet as family. What is holding us back from thinking this way? We are a small “planet family” in the universe.