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Front-line employees are the backbone of industry. Many are also parents.

When a mother or father comes home from a workday, one or both make dinner, help the kids with homework, read stories at bed-time – all working parents know we have both the role of employee and parent to fulfill. The vast majority of us want to do both of those to the best of our ability. But in most traditional working environments, our confidence, stamina, and sense of well-being has been eroded during the 8-10-12 hour days.

At home, we are looked up to by our children and sought for advice from friends and relatives. But when we enter a traditionally-managed workplace, all of the sudden we are treated as children who require lots of rules to govern our behavior and a system of punishment (the progressive discipline process) for failure to comply.

As front-line employees, despite years of experience and knowledge regarding the processes and equipment with which we work, our ideas for improvement are ignored – until we finally quit offering them. Over time, we lose the interest and excitement about our working world – and that communicates itself to our children.

People deserve to be honored, respected and treated with dignity at work. However, most companies – in the interest of mitigating risk – create lots of rules. These rules and the “parental” management practices that come with them have resulted from the actions of a small percent of the workforce who doesn’t want to work. This small percent (we’ll call them 5%ers) can’t be trusted and are looking to do as little as possible and get away with as much as possible (and should be removed from the workforce or work team as soon as possible). Traditional companies have focused human resources and management attention on this 5%.  However, when these practices and policies are applied equally to everyone, it minimizes the sense of value the 95%ers have, is disrespectful to them as adults and erodes their interest, excitement, passion and loyalty to the organization.

Companies feel required to establish detailed behavioral rules that apply to everyone for fear of costly lawsuits. Media attention to a few high profile cases confirm the fear and also quantify the potential cost. While there is the slight possibility for a lawsuit or some other costly event to impact the company, what is certain to happen every day is the loss of innovation, productivity, customer focus and company loyalty that results from treating adult employees as potentially bad children. Companies who treat employees at all levels as respected, valued adults enjoy the following documented results:

  • Annual turnover rate of less than 4%
  • Monthly absenteeism less than 1% (even where absences are paid)
  • Zero EEOC charges
  • No lost time accidents for 5 years

Companies that have begun the journey of changing their culture, enjoy immediate improvements:

  • Reduction in turnover with a bottom line impact of $2.5 - $4 million in one year
  • 60-70% reduction in waste
  • Increases in efficiencies (to established standards) often exceeding 100%

Treating people as valued adults improves company and business performance. It fosters parents who come home with a sense of pride in their accomplishments and pass this confidence on to their children, our next generation of leaders and workers. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the ultimate win/win.

Based on how logical it is, how moral it is and how future-focused it is, it must be a well-kept secret. Otherwise, it’s baffling that this simple concept seems so illusive to so many bright leaders.

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