Business experts

Expert opinion: Not every employee is a self-starter – don't expect them to be

Written by Rob Perks.

Rob PerksI realise that this article may not increase my popularity in some circles, but it is based on many years’ experience in many corporations at senior levels and observation of human behaviour in many life situations.

I despised much of the corporate culture of the 1980s and 90s, which often treated people as simply a means to an end and as numbers on a payroll.

The mantra was to work them hard and when they reach 40, they’re burnt out, stressed out, and ready for the scrapheap.

Whether it is partly a reaction to that distasteful and rather inhuman culture or a blind belief that there must be a better way, I’m not sure.

But today there is a strand of opinion amongst consultants and thought leaders that the answer is to treat everyone as innately capable of being self-motivated, highly responsible, loyal to the cause, driven and results focused if only we will allow them to manage themselves, their time, when they work, where they work and what they do.

Let them work four days for five days’ pay and they will return the investment to you many times over. Just release the inner desire to be successful and perform well in exchange for their lifestyle of choice.

Some will indeed respond extremely well to that and will deliver huge returns in results, hard work, focus and loyalty.

Some however, whether for environmental reasons in their earlier life or whether they are just made that way, or a combination of the two, will respond by taking all they can and giving little back.

An employer who implements such a strategy indiscriminately will almost certainly live to regret it.

He will feel like a house owner who comes home to find his home has been broken into and he has been robbed of his personal possessions. Worse still, he finds the robber is his best friend.

So, what is this employer to do? He must work out who will respond well and who will respond badly to such a people strategy.

Some will need structure and monitoring, and direction and clarity on how they should spend their time and regular performance reviews.

They will need checking up on.
So how do you decide on the best approach? This is not easy and unfortunately, experience will be the final judge.

There are various profiling tools and management techniques that can bring some science to the situation and a healthy dose of scepticism is vital if this employer is not to suffer real damage to their business.

Rob Perks is chief executive of business growth specialists Inspire