Banks say it all the time: people are their most valuable assets, preventing people walking out the door is the top priority, and so on. And so on. However, just because they say something it doesn’t mean they do it.
Superficially, things have improved. Things like paternity leave are now quite common. Less superficially, however, I’d challenge whether management’s mentality towards staff has actually changed much. It’s still all about the bottom line; people are still viewed as tools; people are still simplified into financial-productivity and performance indicators. For all the focus on things like, ‘wellness’, well-being still comes off second best.
Of course, I agree that we’re all employed to provide valuable outputs for our organisations and that our performance must be measured. But at the same time, we are not simply ‘resources.’ Machines are resources, commodities are resources. People are unique individuals, with feelings and emotions, who deserve better than just to be boiled down into a bunch of KPIs.
So what should be done? Personally, I’d value any firm that includes personal welfare indicators in its objectives for managers. That might be one way of stopping the stories of people being driven to exhaustion, working through holidays and weekends, and putting in mammoth hours every week.
Managers need to be aware that this is an issue. Moreover, it’s been exacerbated by cost cutting and headcount reductions – those of left are being made to shoulder the workload of colleagues who’ve been made redundant. Overworking is easy enough to monitor – but they prefer to turn a blind eye as long as the job gets done.
Instead, we have pointless panaceas and a whole array of bogus benefits which help no one. There’s no point in giving exam leave when line managers never approve requests and people are too scared to ask for it.
Perhaps Ridley Scott put it best in Blade Runner: “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. For long-term sustainability and retention, employers need to start really walking the talk. Otherwise staff may suck it up for a while, but eventually they will lose heart, burn out, and disappear out the door forever.