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Author's profile photo Tom Loeffert

Is your organisation making work feel like school with pay?

With the average career spanning 40 years, we spend approximately 10,000 days at work. Now if you’re reading this on a Monday morning, that might sound like an interminable stretch. But in truth, it’s actually a very narrow window of opportunity in which to achieve your personal potential and professional prowess.  Especially when time is the stuff of which we have the least but seem to waste the most.

The problem, as Tim Robson, author of “Showing Up, How to Make a Greater Impact at Work”, explained in SuccessFactors’ latest 20-Minute Master Class, is that people are under a great deal of pressure to appear busy. But to put it bluntly, busyness doesn’t require talent. How effective we are at work all depends on which version of us shows up. Often, it’s not our best self – the version we presented at interview, full of urgency, purpose and excitement.

Play nicely and stay out of trouble

That’s because organisational culture defines our direction and thrust as employees, yet our working environment may not be conducive to getting the best out of us. At its worst, a job can feel like school with pay, where the workplace is a playground and managers are teacher figures. But a dynamic of “do as you’re told, don’t answer back, play nicely and stay out of trouble’ emphasises control, restricts thinking and stunts creativity.

Is your ‘best self’ submerged?

Tim described the issue as an iceberg. The tip visible above the waterline is ‘what you do’, but ‘what you know’ and ‘what you’re like’ are beneath the surface. The extent to which your best self is submerged is determined by the water – or organisational climate – in which you float.  A lack of direction, distrust, poor communications, time pressures, blame, control and fear all push up the waterline, obscuring more of your unique talent from view.

Organisations must pull out the hypothetical plug at the bottom of the ocean so that the waterline drops to reveal more of the talent iceberg. This involves cultivating trust, teamwork and belief, and freely giving praise, support and development opportunities: not just on the odd engagement day, such as an appraisal or all-hands meeting, but every single day.  This is especially important in large, multi-site enterprises, where first-line management is typically responsible for 80% or more of the total workforce. These junior supervisors are tasked to instil enthusiasm and drive in their teams, but that means finding a way to communicate the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the company’s mission, not just the ‘what’ of day-to-day operations.

Walking the talk, social style

Fortunately, social technologies are facilitating precisely this kind of engagement by giving companies ways of communicating personally at scale – very different from traditional corporate broadcast channels like the intranet and the office noticeboard.

Emerging collaboration tools provide a platform for video, development content, and Twitter-style feedback and guidance. Employees can reach out for advice or support from their colleagues and line manager, and identify where and how their individual contribution fits into wider organisational goals. And all in a familiar context that doesn’t make everything feel quite so much like work. Using SAP Jam has driven new levels of collaboration for us internally, and frankly, I can’t imagine working without this kind of platform now.  It’s helping to improve productivity, development, employee engagement and much more.

This lively webinar certainly provided me with plenty of food for thought. I think my enduring highlight was that we need to be given the chance to look up from the day-to-day demands of our jobs, because as Tim rightly put it, “where your attention is, is where you’ll go.”

To discover more about his unique perspective, watch Tim Robson’s 20-Minute Master Class on demand. For more Workforce 2020 insights from Thomas Otter, why not sign up for the final 20-Minute Master Class.

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