People matter. At work. For real. Care.

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Most guys that come to run companies — still predominantly men, yes — love to talk about some new product features. That’s the world to them. You see, there are three major “Ps” in any corporate ecosystem — and no, I’m not about to hit you with a bunch of marketing hogwash. The Ps I mean are:

  • Products (what you make/sell)
  • Processes (how you do that)
  • People (who works on them)

The whole discussion about automation occurs right at this three-way intersection. People are emotionally complex, and managers don’t like that. They want to hit targets up the chain to get more recognition for themselves, not manage down to some needy millennial. People also screw up processes, usually by over-complicating them in an effort to gain relevance. The end goal is product, because product is the most directly tied to revenue. So ya see, robots can be better at processes and replace the sniveling people — who also command salaries, OH GOD! — and everyone at the top wins. Since companies are almost 100% designed to let people at the top win, you see why automation is getting to scale so fast? Hopefully you do.

I’m about to blow your mind here with a slightly different twist on this “new product features” culture of how things need to be managed.

What about new people features?

Here’s what I mean by that. People go through lots of stuff in their life, good/bad. A brief list:

  • Marriage
  • Children
  • New home
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Work anniversaries
  • Death of parents
  • Death of (hopefully not) children
  • Divorce
  • Etc

Every single one of these things is going to impact that person’s connection back to work. You are not the same person the Tuesday after your mom dies as you were before. No way. You got a bigger home now? That probably means you have a bigger mortgage. In turn, you’re now probably a bigger slave in some ways to where you work. Children? Whole thing.

All these are new people features. They are the micro and macro changes in your staff.

My newsletter isn’t really about selling anything. It’s just about exchanging different ideas on work, life, etc. Want in?

You call like 10 million meetings and bring in consultants on new product features. What do you do around new people features?

What most companies do

The standard bullshit. That would include:

  • Gift cards
  • A note
  • An email from someone in HR who ironically tried to fire you six months ago and is now wishing you well
  • $100 in cash
  • A bonus
  • A day off
  • Etc.

These are the things that pass as employee recognition in most companies.

“Hey Fred, it’s good you’ve worked here for 17 years with three raises. I also saw you recently got divorced. As a show of sympathy around both, here is a Starbucks gift card.”

Do you kind of see how Fred might feel disrespected in that context? Like maybe he made the wrong choice of both wife and employer?

What could be done better?

There are ways to do employee recognition better, yes. Additionally, there are almost completely-free ways to do “employee engagement.” Most times a company tries to do either, it’s some force-fed consultant bullshit or a new platform. It works for maybe 90 days and then no one acknowledges ever again. Managers go back to bellowing about low-priority projects as “urgent,” and everyone is stressed as hell. Rinse and repeat. Maybe there’s a bonus coming this year. (Probably not.)

Here’s the real deal, IMHO: rather than buying programs to fix people issues, do two things.

  1. Care about people.
  2. Give them relevant stuff to work on.

The reason we even have a need for “employee engagement” or “employee recognition” programs is simple. It’s because most job roles suck and probably don’t need to exist. Someone gets the role, starts it, hopes to be relevant, wants to get self-worth from work, and no one could care less that he’s even sitting in this office. That was probably 8–9 different jobs I had. I’m 6–7. You know how awkward it feels to be completely ignored? It’s pretty awkward.

Some of that’s on me, of course. I could have done better and pushed for more. But a lot is on how we design jobs, bring people into them, and then treat them when they’re there. A job isn’t a vacuum. The other stuff in your life will affect how you work.

So rather than talking constantly about our new product features and launches, how about discussing some new people features and how we’ll acknowledge those?

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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