Communities are hot – with every other company rushing to deploy them to enhance their innovation processes, their new product introduction success ratios or their customer satisfaction ratings. Yet at the same time most companies seem to be very busy destroying what is perhaps their most important community – their employee community. And they are doing it by affecting one of the fundamental forces that drive communities – trust.
Indeed, according to the American Management Association (free but requires registration – via “It’s time to start trusting the workforce” article by Jeffrey Pfeffer in Business 2.0 – not yet online), 76% of companies monitor employee web site connections and 55% retain and review email messages. The number of companies tracking telephone calls, including amount of time spent on the phone and phone numbers called has grown to 51%, up from 9% in 2001. And this does not include companies who require periodic medical checks and random drug usage tests.
So while the balance of power between consumers and companies has shifted towards the consumer in the last few decades, the balance of power between employees and companies has clearly shifted towards the employer. We have to give up our right to privacy in return for a paycheck. And what good does that do? Employees at companies like that feel disenfranchised, lack motivation, distrust their company and management, badmouth the company, etc… Not exactly the motivations that can lead to great results.
The good news is that employees can bail – and with a strong economy, hopefully many at those “big brother” shops will do just that. According to the Business 2.0 article, signs of this happening are already here, with the number of executives, salespeople and production personnel exiting their companies more than doubling since 2003, and with the number of technical and professional people who leave going up 70% in that same time period! Maybe someone will start realizing that the cost of labor in high employee turnover environments goes through the roof. Just ask Walmart – where recent research on their low wages vs. employee turnover compared to Costco’s makes for a well documented case study on the impact of employee turnover ratio vs. the real cost of labor.
It all comes down to “return on information.” If employees do not see personal benefits in return for the personal freedoms they give up – they will bail. With employees being perhaps the most valuable asset a company can have, it is amazing how many of them squander it in the name of “control.”