Friday, December 12, 2014

The Alliance, Company Values: Good Enough Isn't

As I mentioned in my recommendation of The Alliance, it's given me a lot to think about. One aspect that has stood out prominently for me recently relates to company culture and values. Often in Silicon Valley, we work with the idea of "Good Enough". Minimum Viable Product is all about good enough. At the same time, when we deal with our internal culture and our relationships with employees, good enough isn't really good enough.

Don't get me wrong. Many businesses approach their employees with a Good Enough mindset. Good Enough is the checklist version of employee relations -- just enough health insurance to make it seem like the business offers more than minimal coverage, hamburgers and hot dogs at the employee event, an Xbox because all of the other companies have one. It's the checklist that is disconnected from the why (beyond being a minimum threshold for having employees), and it's a symptom of a business that doesn't understand it's relationship in the alliance.

If there is one lesson that the HR department should learn from us marketing types, it's that every action, every event, and every program should have purpose. It should convey a message.
 "For your holiday bonus, we've decided to give everyone a dollar."
Imagine that reality. Congratulations, you've just awarded every employee a holiday bonus; another check mark on the list of employee benefits. And yet most employees, if presented with this, would probably say, "why bother". Other than adding an item on a list, it's totally unrelated to employee needs or interests. Imagine if it were 50% discount coupons to Disneyworld? It's the HR equivalent of spam. Maybe you get response in the 1-3% range. Is that the way that you want to connect to the "corporate assets" that you depend on to produce the good shit?

At best, a good enough mindset and checklist employee relations is simply disconnected from its "constituent base". At worst, it's a trigger for anger at the organization -- "if you can't be bothered to take my interests into account, why should I care about the things that you say are important?"

And yet, regardless of how counter-productive Good Enough may be for employee relations, it's pervasive and it isn't going away. Why? Because these are the metrics that have been established to measure HR. Salary. Benefits. Costs. And because many businesses don't approach things like, 'we want the very best people, we simply need Good Enough.

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