Picture an industry in the throes of fast-paced and convulsive change. Companies are struggling to attract and retain skilled employees. They've tinkered around with pay increases. They've looked at ways to improve working conditions. Still, in the recruiting version of Baskin-Robbins, employees flit to the flavor of the month. Turnover surges.
Sound familiar? While this could be a description of what's happening in the trucking business, it's really a picture of the computer industry as seen through the eyes of Christopher Meyer in his new book, Relentless Growth: How Silicon Valley Innovation Strategies Can Work in Your Business.
"Skills are both so abundant and in such demand that most people could quickly contribute at several Valley companies," Meyer says. "The inducements that companies have historically used to secure loyalty have lost their clout; compensation and benefits parity are essential to get people through the front door, but it won't buy their long-term loyalty."
To do so, Meyers suggests the following:
1. Respect professional status and identity. Since Valley workers' primary identification is with their profession, they're much more sensitive to the kudos they receive from their peers than those they receive from management.
2. Provide a steady flow of up-to-date information. Knowledge depreciates far more rapidly than hard capital assets like equipment. In a rapidly changing environment, the latest information and knowledge are essential for sustained success.
3. Showcase professional contributions. What really drives highly educated knowledge workers is pride in accomplishment.
4. Share the wealth. From the very beginning, Silicon Valley has been a place where with a little luck, technical innovators can become wealthy. The underlying philosophy is that if people get rich while the company gains, it's no problem.
5. Provide challenging work. Create an environment of meaningful challenges. The professionals' true calling is the work itself. There's nothing more powerful to Silicon Valley workers than going where no one has gone before. If they believe the challenge is meaningful and exciting, then any obstacle can be overcome.
6. Provide the best tools. Valley workers live by their tools. In large part, equipment determines their overall efficiency and effectiveness. When hampered by substandard tools, workers resent working longer and harder than they know they need to.
7. Minimize the management burden. Valley knowledge workers are not unique in their impatience with bureaucracy, too many meetings, or bosses who tell them too much about what they should do. At the same time, most accept that you can't let everyone have his or her own way and still produce a compelling new product or service. Rather than focusing on who's in charge, define what work is required, identify the key interdependencies, and distribute the task to small, interlocking teams complete with goals, schedules, and accountabilities.
Meyers' thoughtful analysis of knowledge workers contains many insights valuable to trucking. Are you listening?