A couple of my writings — one, the blog post below about fairness, equity and equality, and one of the articles in my recent newsletter, on employee engagement — bear some additional explanation, lest someone believe I feel that these ideas have no utility whatsoever…
First, regarding fairness. Organizations (and their leaders) that manage to the “lowest common denominator” will forever be relegated to mediocrity; you cannot create & retain talented performers in the face of “identical treatment for all,” nor can you survive frequent, necessary change efforts within that self-limiting process.
Further, I’m not certain that managing with “fairness” is the do-all, end-all for a manager. Effectiveness, yes; reasonably equitable treatment, yes; even reasonably consistent, yes. But fairness is an individualized concept that changes meaning with each employee. Trying to constantly pursue that would drive even the best manager crazy. Better to spend that effort ensuring that each employee is treated according to their value to the organization.
And to those who may feel that sometimes we must treat everyone the same, because a manager(s) doesn’t know how to do it correctly, either develop that manager effectively (and quickly), or hasten their departure. Anytime an organization feels it must spend significant time, effort and resources “guarding against” the actions or activity of any manager, that’s a leadership issue from the top.
Equity is a necessity for a business to succeed significantly. Strive for that; if a manager is incapable, that shouldn’t justify more “equal” treatment for all — it should justify whacking that manager.
Now, about employee engagement. I didn’t say it was necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily anything significant. It is not, however, what should drive our efforts.
We aim to create a workforce that is productive and efficient; engagement, as defined by many, could certainly be a pleasant by-product of that higher performance, but it’s not the end goal. Nor, unfortunately, does employee engagement — in and of itself — create a high-performing workforce. It could certainly be a milestone along the path to high performance, but alas, will not assure superior performance by itself.
Let’s stay focused on the real direction, and not get distracted by today’s management fads.