The thing in life that is certain (apart from death and taxes) is that there will be many twists and turns along the way, making you perhaps stop and ponder at times, “What is your place in the greater scheme of things?”

One of those events happened to me a couple of weeks ago whilst delivering a presentation to a group of business people and their partners.

So let’s get down to reality. I was speaking on a new topic about people and behaviours. To be totally brutal, I ‘bombed’. I started scratchily, could not get any traction from the audience and it did not get any better. Not to put too fine a point of it, I went down quicker than the Titanic. After the dust settled and pleasantries were exchanged, driving home the painful post mortem took place. What were the highlights? That was easy, very few.  The list of failures would be longer than the Magna Carta.

Out of the wreckage of that morning came for me a brief exchange which I am certain will live on in my memory forever. Here it is;

Ken to Participant: “Can you explain how you go about consultation with your employees?”

Participant to Ken: “Why would I need to consult with them? I pay their wages”.

My main business activity revolves around assisting organisations resolve a range of people problems. It is my true passion and work I thoroughly enjoy it. Over the years I could cite many significant examples of how organisations and people disconnect and occasionally I may have raised an eyebrow or two at responses to questions but this was in a different league. I was genuinely shocked it appears the shift to the new realities of the need for engagement between employer and employee is still not being absorbed in some quarters.

In the past ten years many companies have modified their approach to how they manage their people with successful outcomes being achieved. This has meant adjusting to social, demographic and economic changes in our societies.

In the current environment of increasingly strong expectations from employees there is no doubt that matching those expectations for managers and owners is arduous. The observations I make from speaking to a cross section of SME businesses are that many are so exasperated they themselves question whether they want to take a different path in life rather than deal with these issues. Some of course, do not have that luxury and need to find answers to the situation. Unfortunately the issues surrounding people management are a fluid moving canvass and the challenge is for people who run or own companies to be continually reviewing what will work for them and their circumstances.

It should be stated that every business owner can run his or her business in whatever manner he or she desires. It may be that the penalty for this rather myopic attitude reflected above is a continuous cycle which is reflected in a number of conflicting issues with its people and having a major impact on bottom line results.

Readers may think this episode has resulted in an erosion of motivation on my part. In fact the opposite has occurred. It makes me even more determined to promote messages that today, non-engagement with employees is a risk companies take at their peril.

Ken Wood