It never really made any sense. Go to this place every day at a certain time and your work will improve. In yet another uncured hangover of the industrial revolution, business owners keep thinking that they have to ‘manage’ people when they should be empowering them. The frustration of the white collar worker is not always the client or product but the environment in which they are forced to work.

Everything is environmental

As we continue to evolve and recognise the importance of living our lives versus simply hunting and gathering for ourselves and our families, we are starting to understand the pointlessness of traditional corporate perks and baubles. Big titles, the corner office and long lunches no longer offer the appeal they once did as we look to our own lives and discover what real freedom looks like.

‘I want to play with my child at 10am.’ Trust is now a currency.

The new currency in business for attracting and retaining the best people is trust. Top performers no longer want security – they’re secure enough and are also smart enough to know that there are no businesses that can offer genuine security anymore. They don’t want huge money or big titles, they know what they’re worth and their titles come from the work they do, not from a business card or an email signature.

Matt Granfield – Mantra Hotel Group

Matt, the Executive Director for Digital at Mantra, spoke of the importance of empowerment. ‘I want to hire the very best and you can’t restrict these people. We’re based on the Gold Coast and many of my team are based in Brisbane or regional areas. In order to attract top players we can’t be asking them to clock in and clock out. In saying that, there’s power in community and so every Tuesday we get together for a team catch up and to throw around ideas. Other than that we let technology do the heavy lifting and the teamwork comes through our communication platforms.’

Let’s be clear on what a ‘top performer’ means in the context we’re using it. These people are highly skilled at a particular task, learn autonomously and can verbalise very specifically firstly the outcome that they can create and whether or not they can fulfil a specific task. They are hired to achieve outcomes, not to perform a role and are inspired by challenges, not promises of stock options. They are passionate about the task they perform, it’s not only a job but their lifestyle. The way they dress, behave and what they buy reflects that. They love to be involved in cutting edge practices and don’t see it as an imposition to their lives – it is their lives.

So what do they want? They want clear instruction around outcomes to be achieved –

– This is the project

– This is why the project exists

– This is your part of the project

– This is how it fits into the overall project

– These are the timeframes

– These are the available resources

And that’s all. Leave them alone to achieve outcomes however they want using the available resources and whenever they want. Trust that they will meet the timeframes and don’t ask for endless reports on progress. They want to be able to catch up with friends for coffee at 10am and then work for hours on end and then go out for dinner and play with their children and work and sleep and work some more.

Control is an illusion

‘Managers’ in the traditional sense are poison to top performers. After all, you need to know what’s happening in order to mange someone effectively and so by definition, management is the opposite of trust. If asked to do something, people want to be trusted that they will achieve that outcome and not ‘managed’ on inputs as they go through the process.

‘But I’m a manager, what will I do if I’m not managing?’

If you’re a manager who takes information from your staff and then passes it up the line to your manager who likely does the same thing, then you add no value to these people. That style of management will always exist in some businesses, but will do nothing to assist in the attraction, retention and development of the best talent. In fact, the best talent doesn’t even see itself as a part of your business, they are individuals brought together to achieve something that matters. After that, they’ll look for the next challenge. If you ask for their daily results or ‘what they’re doing right now,’ they’ll start to look for something else and you’ll be able to tell they’re doing it because their effort will slump to normal. They don’t need you and they’re certainly not afraid of you or of not having a job – the best are always in demand.

Client Kiosk – Jessica Gwynne

I met with Jessica Gwynne, formerly a manager at the Queensland Reds and now the founder of Client Kiosk, who works with organisations to use social media to increase revenue and achieve tangible outcomes. Jessica spoke of the kind of environment she is trying to foster and the type of person she’s looking for –

‘To work here people need to love social media. They need to know the platforms and understand the importance of measurement. But most importantly we need people who are self motivated and want to live an awesome life. We make the most of technology so that our people don’t need to be restricted to a time or place. We have deadlines and are totally focused on results but that doesn’t mean we need to restrict people, in fact it means we need to empower them. Some do their work best at 10pm at night, some in a park or a library. Who cares where they are and when they work as long as the results for our clients are awesome? From a business standpoint, it keeps overheads down and allows me to reinvest in the business and make sure our clients are getting world class outcomes without having to go to Silicon Valley. We do that for them too.’

As the digital world evolves and people, not only top performers, look at the tools available to them they will begin asking questions. Why should I have to be in the office? Why do I have to work at 9am? Why am I explaining myself to you? Why don’t I do this somewhere else? Adapting will involve businesses doing what is most uncomfortable to them – relinquishing control. This will come through an understanding that the concept of control is flawed in the digital world and that the new business model has less to do with hierarchy and more to do with the easy flow of ideas and innovation. These intangibles do not evolve in the boardroom as so many consultants claim, but in the mind of an employee who experiences inspiration at 3am and leaps out of bed to work and share with his collaborative team.