Until the 1960s and 1970s companies were seen as part of our communities. There were very strong links between companies, their directors, their employees and the community at large, including social organisations, sporting clubs, local events, etc.
This environment has greatly changed over the 1980s and 1990s. Globalisation has meant that companies were no longer operating within local or even national communities – events thousands of kilometres away had a direct effect on local companies. The result of this has been that the social aspects of companies were eroded under the pressure of profits, productivity, shareholders’ value, etc.
Eventually the ties that bound the companies and society together – albeit in a paternalistic way – were weakened. Massive lay-offs destroyed employee loyalty and a very cynical relationship was established between companies and their employees. This culminated in the 1980s, when it looked like the only thing that was important was money.
A surprisingly large number of traditional telecommunications companies around the globe are still stuck in these greedy 1980s. However a new order is emerging, bringing with it new ways of looking at doing business. While it is understandable that old structures will have to be replaced with new ones in this rapidly changing world, maybe we could still learn something from the managers of the Sixties.
Most companies now do accept that profits and shareholders value cannot be looked at in isolation. Companies will first of all have to look after their customers in order to be able to survive in our very competitive society. Once that is done the ‘financials’ will follow on from there. But they must also realise that the key to a successful customer service is their staff. They are the people that can make or break the company. It is early days yet, but in 5-10 years’ time you will see ‘employee-power’ becoming a critical force in medium-sized and large organisations. Slowly people are recovering from decades of restructuring, retraining, lay-offs, social security hand-outs etc. A very large proportion of our current employees are already more or less self-employed. They operate as contractors, part-timers, consultants – rather than as traditional full-time employees. They understand that they will have to manage and educate themselves in order to improve their situation and they are doing this in droves through special colleges, management courses etc.
With the current developments in IT technology these ‘new employees’ are embracing new PC developments, Internet. e-commerce, high-speed access, etc. They clearly understand that optimum and innovative use of IT improves their work position, their lifestyle and their income.
This group will reach critical mass within the next 5 years and will cause dramatic changes within organisations. There will be a significant shift in power away from current management structures based on rationalism to a far more inclusive management style. The ‘new employees’ will have a significant influence on their company’s future direction and will, through their more independent position, be able to contribute far more on a management level than any other generation of managers and/or employees before them.
This much more mature class of employee will be able to lift the company’s position in the market in a very dramatic way. Companies who are able to embrace this new trend will add an extra competitive edge to their market position. They will be better placed to face the future with a much more educated and motivated workforce of associates rather than employees, in the traditional sense of the word.
And, as companies are beginning to understand that customer service is the key to future success, the new employees are realising that they have to ‘sell’ their knowledge and their skills to their employers (rather than just their ‘bodies’) and that they have to provide value-add to the organisation in order to maintain their work positions within the company.
This will mean a much more customer-friendly attitude than currently exists amongst many indifferent employees.
Equally, companies will have to change their attitude and start looking at their employees as associates who are important elements of the company’s decision-making structure.
Over time future directions will be influenced by how successful companies are in attracting the right type of employees. New products and services will be based on the specific skills and knowledge that these new employees can contribute to the organisation. (Already quality IT staff is very hard to find and internationally the success of call centres will be based on quality of staff, rather than on a cheap workforce.)
In an environment where companies and their employees are becoming equals we will also see a change in the social structure of organisations. While it will always be necessary for companies to make a return on their investments, elements other than mere profit will become important as well. Already we see that people are making quality choices. No longer is money the key driver in employees’ decisions regarding their jobs. Lifestyle is becoming a far more important factor, and a range of issues are taken into consideration, including travel time, teleworking, work-sharing arrangements, living environment, etc. Work is there to improve or maximise the lifestyle — not simply to make a lot of money.
Similarly companies will have to revise their attitudes. They will be judged on how they contribute to the entire community’s lifestyle. Companies’ social, environmental and community contributions will be taken into account, not just the number of jobs they create. Quality rather than quantity will be the key. This will mean that, from a social aspect, we will have come the full circle. However, in this new order the company is an equal partner, not the paternalistic, often exploitative, dictator of the old days.
On this note I would very much like to thank you for your ongoing business.
It has been another great year for us. We consistently receive excellent feedback from you and this enables us to constantly fine-tune our services and to introduce new services that enable us to anticipate your needs.. We see you as partners in our business and in order to be able to provide a maximum service to you, we do need your comments, ideas and suggestions — we thrive on them!
From all of us here at Paul Budde Communication I would like to wish you, your colleagues and your loved ones a very peaceful Christmas, a relaxing holiday break and lots of success and good fortune in the year leading up to the next millennium.