What makes a company successful? Whatever your thoughts on the issue, a
recent survey shows that managers across the UK believe their organisations
measure success very differently from the way individual employees do. While
many managers typically rate factors such as ‘making an impact at work’ or
‘developing colleagues’ as achievements, they think their organisations are more
focussed on market leadership and profit margins.
So what? You might ask. This mismatch is of concern when you consider that
the most successful and affluent companies are those where synergy exists
between the organisation and its staff. While it would be unrealistic to expect
all goals and aspirations to be exactly the same, it is essential to have some
degree of shared purpose if the organisation is to be productive and profitable.
The research also highlighted that while one in four managers think achieving
a flexible lifestyle is the mark of professional success, they believe that
fewer than 10% of their employers echo these sentiments.
These discrepancies suggest two things. Either managers believe they are not
working for the right company because their personal values do not fit with the
corporate culture and goals, or organisations are failing to communicate their
objectives in a way that promotes a shared vision of success.
Corporate goals must be well defined and communicated if they are to stand a
chance of being achieved. But organisations also need to understand what
motivates employees and create the conditions and drivers for success. Gone are
the days when individuals worked exclusively for their salaries.
Aspiration and motivation
Over the past 30 years, managers have become increasingly aspirational,
requiring a greater breadth of return from the hours they put in. Increasingly
motivation comes from a sense of purpose in their work, the opportunity to
develop their colleagues and by being rewarded with greater responsibility.
Managers also want their interests and commitments away from work to be
acknowledged. As a result, flexible working hours and the opportunity to work
remotely is often more attractive than financial reward. If individuals see this
benefit as a measure of success, organisations need to accommodate the option
for flexible working, where possible, to ensure motivation levels remain high.
From research, individuals recognise the need to develop themselves and their
team. This is encouraging, especially in light of the recent Leitch Review of
Skills, which warned that the UK must urgently raise achievements at all levels
of skills, with responsibility for achieving ambitions shared between
government, employers and individuals.
But developing individual capability is not the only answer. Creative,
inspired individuals will continue to be the organisation’s most important asset
but there should still be an underlying psychological agreement between managers
and their companies for both parties to fulfil their goals.
By setting and communicating more generic measures of success that address
the bigger corporate picture, companies provide an all-encompassing philosophy,
which can be translated into the individual objectives of the manager. An
organisation with a goal to promote environmentally friendly corporate policies
will appeal to individuals with a personal interest in environmental activity.
Rethinking your reward and benefit scheme is a good way to make the
connection between corporate and individual measures of achievement. Because of
individuals’ changing definitions of success, it is clear that they are now
looking at overall remuneration in terms of wider benefits such as training,
time off to study, holidays and flexible working.
The 2006 National Management Salary Survey showed that organisations have to
offer a range of benefits including private medical cover, childcare vouchers,
life assurance and pensions if they want to retain the best and most highly
Regardless of what incentives are offered, success will never be aligned if
managers and directors do not demonstrate effective leadership and a clear sense
Strong leaders inspire the trust and support of the teams and communicate
corporate success factors clearly and succinctly. Unless they are regularly
updated on the organisation’s financial and operational performance as well as
its plans for the future, it is impossible for individuals to know if they are
making a contribution to company success or whether their own aspirations fit
with the corporate values and culture.
The recruitment process is also vital to aligning individuals and their
organisations to maximise the chance of future success. Individuality is
important, however there must be some affiliation with the corporate culture
from the start. Along with the fundamental skills and competencies needed for
the position being filled, the individual should believe in and support in the
company’s overall mission. In today’s financial environment, the need to manage
and adapt to change is more imperative than ever before, so employing
individuals with a genuine interest in the overall strategic mission of the
company will make these vital transitions easier.
Relaying corporate goals to new starters is important but this should
continue throughout an individual’s career in the organisation regardless of
their level. This makes them feel included and helps individuals understand how
their role fits in to the overall success of the company.
Success means different things to different people, so achieving it is not
about redefinition or only employing those with identical values as the
organisation. Success can be achieved by recognising that there are differences
and trying to create a psychological agreement between both parties to help each
other fulfil their potential. By creating an environment that inspires trust,
respect and teamwork and appreciating the fact that individuals do have their
own personal measures of success, the chance to achieve full potential – at an
individual and corporate level — is maximised.
Measures of success – the mismatch
Flexible working: flexibility may be the buzzword du jour,
but while almost a third of managers (28%) regard flexitime as a measure of
success, only 6% think their employers want to see it happen. Less than 1 in 10
believes that their employer values work-life balance. Worse still, only 6%
think their employers promote enjoyment of workSkills development: nearly half
judge success by the extent to which they develop their team members, but
significantly fewer (38%) believe that their organisation prioritises skills
Making a difference: having a ‘sense of purpose’ and ‘making
a difference to society’ ranked highly as a motivator for individuals, but two
in three felt their organisations were more concerned with image and ‘public
Delivering results: only 13% of managers are concerned with
‘ensuring the organisation is market leader’ but 65% thought that their
employers made this a priority. Similarly, just 16% of managers believe securing
‘sustainability’ is important, but thought that 51% of their organisations
perceive this as a priority.
Jo Causon is a director of the Chartered Management
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