Organizations can see an employee from three perspectives: as a resource-tool, as a partner, or as a sprout. Let us start from the beginning.
The approach that “an employee is the resource” sees the person as a tool – as an instrument to achieve the goal. If I need to hammer a nail into the wall, then I take the hammer and I do the work. When I want to achieve the goal, then I ask for help from my colleague and we achieve the goal together. This approach is based on a rational benefit. If employees in the company are seen as resources, then probably there will be no mutual loyalty.
This approach allows to employ and dismiss people without a special commitment and pain. The company has benefits – such a company is flexible, competitive and has no excess of employees. This situation may be favourable for the employees as well: not everybody wants to commit and bind themselves; to be a freelancer means independence when an employee’s attitude is: „I performed the job, I did what was written in my contract and I can say goodbye“.
There is another approach when the employee is the equivalent partner. Together we create value and achieve results. Partnership means that we are sharing hard and joyful moments, also money. Partnership is horizontal and it is based on trust. Such relationships are long-term and sustainable.
The employee is seen as a sprout when the attitude to him is based on humanist ideas. When the employee joins the organization, then for him we create greenhouse conditions (employee welcome program) so the person can get rooted here. Then we have to put efforts (offer career plans, talent development) so the person can spread new branches (develop) and blossom (realize himself).
This approach is common in Western organizations, that seek to attract and recruit many young people (it is not worth to put so much effort for the old person?). Of course, such an environment is favourable for the employee, but it also has side effects – it can spoil young people who move from one organization to another with a long list of what they want. Employees, who grow in such organizations, often do not understand how money is earned or how the value is created, what taxes are counted from the salary; it may look like the money is simply taken from some invisible storages and transferred to the employee’s account. When such organizations unexpectedly lay off hundreds of workers, they fly in the job market as lost butterflies looking for the place where they can land.
When I do research in organizations, I see, that although there is one dominant philosophy of attitude towards the employee, much depends on the maturity of the department and the staff. Of course, the members of the top management team are bound by the partnership that requires maturity. Thus, the organization has to raise, develop the employee and help him to mature. Does this start with purification of the soil where I can plant the sprout? This is a good question. First, I must look at what I am planting and what culture I am developing. If from the first days I show that the organization has to put efforts for the employee, then it is unlikely that I can expect partnership later on, because partnership is based on mutual commitment, mutual exchange.
Dr. Alisa Miniotaitė is a management and leadership expert, founder of UAB ALISA MANAGEMENT LABORATORY, ISM University of Management and Economics, Leadership Program Manager