John Grubbs - When Training Matters

Helping Companies Rethink, Recover & Refocus on the Future

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Determining how your employees view your business is essential.  It is necessary if you are in a highly-competitive market for talent.  Do they see the company serving a particular mission?  Or, do they know the business as a collective group of mercenaries for hire.  Consider these questions carefully.  If you operate a broader mission such as clean food or smarter babies, you develop a different bond with your team.  If you only seek profitability or business success, you are a mercenary.

Merriam-Webster defines mercenary as motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain; one who serves or works merely for financial gain, merely a hireling.  Without a clearly stated mission, you and your employees are mercenaries for hire who trade work for pay.  I am not debating the merit of being a mercenary or not; however, I am suggesting you may have an opportunity to clarify the greater mission your business serves to attract and retain the best talent.

Too many managers complain about a lack of loyalty when they experience turnover in critical positions.  However, if there is no broader mission to serve, you are hiring mercenaries who are only there for the salary.  Never expect your mercenaries to be loyal.  The only bond between them and your business is the paycheck.  And they will take their talents to the highest bidder, especially when things become difficult.

According to Healthline magazine, self-actualization comes from Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist. He described self-actualization as the process of becoming "everything you are capable of becoming." If someone believes they are serving a greater mission, the job becomes a pathway to self-actualize.  The right "mission" for certain people can become the Velcro that keeps them with the business when offered more money in other organizations.  Maslow states we all have a greater need, a purpose to fulfill in life.  Not some of us, all of us.  Our work occupies most of our waking time, and if there is nothing more than a salary to keep us on your payroll, why stay?

The mercenary workplace roots appeared in business long ago; a fair day's work for an honest day's pay.  Remember that?  It is merely a transaction, and companies have been in the transaction business for generations.  Implicit loyalty may be the problem.  When hiring managers select a particular employee, they may believe the selection itself warrants commitment.  Since I chose you, you should be loyal to me and this job.  But, does it?  The employee may be grateful, but should she be loyal?

This faux loyalty became an expectation in the post-world war two generations when companies promised a lifetime relationship through pensions.  If you work for our company, we will take care of you and your spouse for life.  People stayed in the same job for many years based on this promise.  As pension liabilities bloomed, the temptation to break commitments became irresistible.  The security became harder to keep.  Companies started looking for ways to reduce this liability incrementally.  Finally, the pension (as we knew it back then) went the course of the dodo bird.  Enter the 1970s and era of mass layoffs.  Generation X (1964-1980) saw parents lose "lifetime" jobs in larger numbers.  Loyalty to work was gone.  The average Gen Xer stays in the same position for an average of five years.

With loyalty to work gone, the mission became the...

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