Firstly may I apologise in advance of my use of the above title. I have succumbed to my teenage boys’ vernacular. It really is appropriate for this article.

I am gasping for air, having just attended another business forum. The speaker resplendent in typical corporate suit and matching tie, is a CEO of an iconic Australian company. He proudly proclaimed the immortal words, “Our people are our greatest asset”. Following it up with “We believe in our people”.  I started having palpitations. To be fair, this organisation might live by that ethic and have a balanced and happy workforce, but the evidence does not match the rhetoric in the wider Australian environment.

Maybe a more poignant question should be posed, “Do our people believe in us?”

In the course of my consulting work, many times I have been informed by the head of a company that under his or her tutelage the company is a great place to work. Only to find the exact opposite is occurring once I get the chance to peel away the layers. The CEO becoming rather indignant and unbelieving when the real truth is revealed, shaking his or her head as if their whole world has just imploded.

If we are to attempt to fix the relationships between employers and employers we need to banish this kind of rhetoric from our vocabulary. Most people do not believe it and unless we are more honest about the state of our companies, we will continue to struggle in this area.

Over the course of the last decade we have witnessed a rapid fracturing of the relationships between employer and employees, It seems that in a lot of cases the aspirations of both parties has become uncoupled to the point where we seriously need to rethink strategy.

Social, demographic and economic change has all contributed to the situation we have today. This has also effected how we view the issues of respect, relationships, confidence and trust.

The changes that are necessary cannot just be laid at the feet of employers. Some rather dubious actions and behaviours can be attributed to employees, who quite frankly took advantage of a booming economy and pressed home demands, financial and other, which were well beyond the means of companies.

There is no doubt in my mind, we need to reset the benchmark to re-establish the words honesty and trust in our organisations.

The practice of developing a strategic business plan is one of companies basic tools. Items for discussion usually include revenue, costs, competitors and marketing. Seldom do we see a specific section on people, a gross omission.

All the indicators suggest that in the coming years we will experience severe skill shortages. In fact some companies are witnessing this now. Translated this means companies will need to demonstrate that they operate under good values and have something different to attract prospects apart from a salary. The war for talent has just begun.

The content of this article might sound a little twee in today’s tough competitive world but both parties need to take a reality check to counteract what appears to be a substantial meltdown of relationships in our organisations.

Ken Wood