4 minutes

There is a lot of talk about people in organisations. What are we losing?

In organisations, ’meaning’ is being lost. An organisation living as a community generates a magnetic force that allows it to retain the valuable people, to attract people, to make them grow and prolong their experience.

These are strange years. Digitisation is bearing fruit. We know everythingabout our customers. We know how much and where they spend, whether they are satisfied, how they click and how many seconds they stay on a page before they cheat on us with someone else’s content. We put customers at the centre and spend fortunes to keep them there. We spend to attract, serve, chase, and recapture them (but only if it is to our advantage). We do this using technologies and platforms that promise productivity, and we are preparing to outsource intelligence because the artificial promise is too disruptive and too much of a game changer to leave it to others. In budgets, investment items are distinguished, and business plans show the resources invested to innovate and become faster and more efficient. Ok. It fits.

And then there are the people. We talk about them a lot, a very lot. We redo spaces to make them as smart as the work they have to accommodate, create super Instagrammable ‘wow’ services and events for employer branding, and relaunch generative, inclusive, kind leadership models. And that’s only fair! It’s all right. But in budgets, we try to optimize and contain people costs. Especially in the profit-and-loss account where a good performance in terms of personnel costs is a panacea to create EBITDA, to give more value to the company. Yes, the value! All for value.

In organizations, meaning is being lost

Time out! Let’s rewind the tape and look for what we are losing. Whatmakes our salesperson’s offer unimpressive and sloppy when meeting the customer? What makes us innovate using technologies available to others by creating new things rather than something already seen? What poor ingredient makes project meetings dull? What makes the promises different companies offer when hiring recruits similar and tone-deaf? What doesn’t trigger the spark that ignites motivation in a young person learning their trade from an experienced colleague?

It weakens, it standardises, it frays because it is taken for granted until forgotten: meaning. ‘Meaning’ is being lost in organisations. Meaning is not just the why that differentiates, but the spirit that moves and activates. Meaning is an emergent property of a community that exists. Of a collection of people who know each other, exchange, connect and cooperate across roles, budgets and KPIs. Meaning is passed on like culture, with contacts, rituals, stories told, and stories to experience together.

We need to create communities

Community spirit is the vector of meaning. An organisation that lives as a community generates a magnetic force enabling it to retain people who are worth it, attract people, and make them grow and prolong their experience. While it is true that the new generations are more nomadic, it is also the case that the people who can hold on to them for a longer average time will reap better rewards than the ones who are caught in the bus-stop trap. Every month, many get on, and many get off the ride. Meaningless.

We need to create communities, we need to nurture tribes of trades, we need to build palimpsests and services that mix and ‘match’ different skills, interests, knowledge, desires across function or project boundaries. Every day, we must nurture the narrative that links an individual’s action with purpose. Introducing autonomous and free flows of contacts and relations that interpret and energise new fashions, languages and artefacts created by people who know and not just those who have to.

If we are good at explaining to a customer why they should choose us, we must become even better at conveying why Marina or Ahmed should join our team, beyond the obvious contractual features (salary, benefits, welfare, etc.).

An organisation that is animated and dynamic as a community is worth more

These are strange years. That is because we evaluate companies based on a multiplied EBITDA. However, no balance sheet indicator shows whether the team that generates that figure is as strong like a community of destiny, cohesive, and driven by a magnetic and regenerative sense that will make that performance more likely to be self-sustaining. How much is a company worth? How much is an organisation worth? If it is lively and dynamic as a community, it is worth much more than one that has ceased to be such, with the same EBITDA! We have been dealing with communities and meaning at Logotel for 23 years. And never before have we felt the need.

Article by Nicola Favini, CEO Logotel – published on Weconomy 16 – A completely different vision