The one-sentence summary
There are seven vital areas that go towards creating the world’s most enduring employee-focused organizations.
Can’t be bothered to read it? Too much screen time lately? Listen to the 7-minute podcast in 2 parts.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- The idea is that a company should be considered ‘irresistible’ – so great that people can’t wait to come to work in the morning, they love to tell their friends who they work for, and they never want to leave.
- Today’s world of work is full of paradoxes. The economy is growing, but it’s harder to hire than ever. Companies spend billions on benefits and perks, but employee stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. Artificial intelligence, robotics and automation are prevalent, yet we work more hours and get less sleep. We can reach others in seconds, yet we feel isolated and lonely, especially when working from home.
- In the author’s studies of over 5,000 companies, under 10 percent are irresistible. Irresistible companies understand that by unleashing the power of the human spirit, their company can go faster and farther than ever expected. The seven areas are:
- Teams, not hierarchy: A team is defined as a highly interdependent group of people that comes together in a physical or virtual setting to plan work, solve problems, make decisions, and review progress toward a specific goal. They need autonomy, mastery and purpose (see Daniel Pink, Drive); they need an ability to see progress; they need an environment of safety and trust; they need to form their own working practices; they need deep knowledge of the organization; and a culture that supports them.
- Work, not jobs: Hierarchies engage in replacement management, often called succession planning. The span of control in management (number of employees per manager) ranges between 6 and 10, so competition is fierce. Job architecture stifles initiative and classifies individuals in specified roles, restricting flexibility. Bias is common in old-fashioned companies, getting in the way of performance and change. (“She came from operations so she won’t understand marketing.”)
- Coach, not boss: Leaders are all flawed people, the right leader for a given time may be wrong for another, and leaders have an enormous, outsized impact on culture, engagement and productivity. The role of a manager at irresistible companies is to get work done, not to manage people. Companies of the past promoted people into leadership based on tenure or technical skills; companies of the future look for leaders who really understand how to coach.
- Culture, not rules: Culture is the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize an organization. Many executives believe that redesigning the physical office will suddenly increase productivity, promote collaboration, and increase engagement. This is only partially true. The irresistible environment is more than just a new office. It also involves wellbeing, inclusion, recognition, reward and flexibility. The word “office” derives from the Latin word for the performance of a task: officium. In the world today, tasks can be performed anywhere.
- Growth, not promotion: The “growth, not promotion” management principle means optimizing growth in everything a company does. Yes, people are promoted, but that is not the goal; rather, it is the outcome. The highest performing companies always have one thing in common: they embrace a culture of learning. People are able to take time to learn, they have a culture of sharing and development, and managers are coaches, mentors, and educators at heart.
- Purpose, not profits: While profits fuel a company’s growth, irresistible companies are essentially institutions that garner loyalty, commitment, and energy from their employees. They attract the same level of energy and loyalty from customers. Profit, rather than being a goal, is an outcome. Conscious capitalism is the conviction that businesses must operate ethically and with a higher purpose as they pursue profits, serving the needs of humanity and the environment.
- Employee experience, not output: Employee experience is the idea that we can’t just design jobs and work practices; we have to look at employees’ total experience at work. Irresistible companies understand this, and they build employee-centric systems, frontline worker platforms, and many forms of listening, communication, and feedback to make sure employees are supported. These are the practices that create results—not pushing for output. Irresistible companies are not afraid to test and experiment with new technology and working practices.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- An irresistible company has organizational endurance. This is made up of four things:
- Mission: does the company have an enduring purpose?
- Productivity: the companies with the most engaged employees grow fastest.
- Engagement: irresistible companies rank highest for employee engagement.
- Happiness: trust, fairness and social cohesion are essential but they are plummeting at an alarming rate in many companies.
- “Management is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.” Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor
- “The most important part of a high-performing culture is people helping each other.” Edgar Schein
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- The seven components are described as secrets, but they aren’t really.
- There are a lot of case histories, mainly from the USA. Some find these very helpful, but others may feel it makes a business book longer than it needs to be.