Competitiveness is not only a matter of strategy and organization. It also increasingly depends on how companies succeed in making two forces cohabit: corporate culture and people’s aspirations. With globalization, companies are keen to ensure that employees share the same attitudes the world over.
With affluence, a younger generation is adamant about preserving its value system and distinctiveness. This question, and the title of this book, illustrates how competitiveness fares at the intersection of economic constraints, corporate objectives and personal value systems.
A sign of a company’s lasting competitiveness is its ability to attract and retain the best talent. In doing so, it needs to adjust to new market realities while recognizing that people’s attitudes towards their professional and private lives evolve. Over time, we go through three different stages of motivation:
Tigers: During this stage, we are hungry for success, ambitious and eager to move rapidly up the corporate ladder. Tigers work 60 hours a week or more, are extremely mobile and ready to accept responsibilities anywhere in the world. As their family lives are embryonic – they are neither married nor do they have children – the company is their family and frame of reference. Just like tigers, they have a killer instinct and are capable of being hyperactive and hyper-aggressive in their efforts to succeed.
Cats: After a few years, tigers evolve into cats. The young, up-and-coming executive marries, has children and buys an expensive house with a hefty mortgage. Soon, he will discover the joys of the primary school system through his offspring. His time at work drops to 40 hours a week, more or less. Just like a cat, he remains mobile but wants to be home on the weekends to spend time with his family. His commitment to the company is genuine; however, he is careful to preserve a good work-life balance.
Dinosaurs: After a long life dedicated to the company, the cat turns into another species, a dinosaur. At this stage, life outside the company is more important. Careers have been made and ambitions have been satisfied (or worse, never will be …). The tiger’s killer instinct and the cat’s preference for home have vanished; all the dinosaur wants is peace and quiet and to be able to leave the office at 5 p.m. In short, a dinosaur is interested in the balance between his private life and … his private life (life-life balance). Dinosaurs are not as useless as one might think – they are often the company’s living memory, the ones who remember what took place before.
Companies often lose their best executives because they have ignored these changes in attitudes. Promoting a cat to a faraway country will not be happily welcomed because the cat will not want to move his family to another part of the world. Therefore, he will likely refuse such a promotion. In most cases, he will leave the company with the firm belief that no further opportunities will be offered to him and that his loyalty will be questioned.
Global companies are starting to change their attitudes towards work. Some will no longer force senior employees to transfer to a new workplace or a regional headquarters (HQs) for a promotion. They are willing to move work to the executive’s country of residence. However, the executive will be required to spend a certain number of days per month at HQs for meetings and informal interactions with senior colleagues. Companies thus adapt to new attitudes, and people to new work standards. Competitiveness thrives on both.
Sometimes my students ask me, “If the ultimate goal is to become a dinosaur, can’t we save time and start out by being dinosaurs?” Students are never short of bright ideas. Unfortunately, while tigers often evolve into dinosaurs, the opposite is rarely true …
This extract is part of a new book available at Amazon.
This article is authored by Prof. Stephane Garelli- Professor at IMD business school – Professor at University Lausanne – Chairman Le Temps newspaper
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