we don’t have action plans for happy people

In my role as Nordic HR business partner for IBM Global Services, one of my high value activities was to lead endless workshops with all new IBMers and in-sourced employees at a time when we received thousands of new employees over some exciting years.  It was part of an overall transition I called Coordinated Change and Culture Integration, to welcome and integrate them and enable them to make a career in IBM.

One key topic was the self management of your career within the company, based on the foundational belief that each employee is accountable for him- or herself. You tell us your ambition and we support that if there is a shared interest. I talked about overlapping circles of passion and ambitions, one circle the company and one the individual, where the overlap represented a shared interest in a value exchange area, where the individual and the company had shared objectives and beliefs, service exchange of money, the contract. The circles where, pending on vision and objectives moving in different (?) directions.

Knowing about this overlap and whether the circles where drifting apart or would lead to a relevant , engaged and informed individual development plan about what skills I need succeed in my role today as well as tomorrow. If my tomorrow skills could be learned in the company today even if I was to leverage them outside the company. A provocative thought maybe, to seek an overlap with current employer to learn the trade of something that could be used outside the company later. Everyone would be happy as long as you deliver along the way? No? We could agree on a development plan for you and you would be engaged. No it is not cheating. It makes sense.

One guy responded to me and said. “Sven, I guess what you say makes sense but to be honest, I am really happy with the job I have now, I don’t need all this training. I am happy as it is. This type of talk only stresses me.”

I was stunned for a moment and then answered: “I see your point, and I don’t know what to say. We as a company do not really have an action plan for happy people. I never thought about that. Thanks. Good point.”  I thought about that for another second and realized all these good intentions to develop people could actually have motivational drawback, but refused to accept that so I added: “But one day, these circles will most likely drift apart, simply because the company circle will change direction, out of your or the company control, fair or not, your skill sets may not be relevant and there won’t be any circle overlap any longer between you and the company. You expect to do something and use skills that you are happy with but that is no longer valued. Then you are not happy any longer. We would call you upset, change resistant or whatever… as long as you are aware of that? But good point, we really don’t have actions for happy people. You should though.”

On top of that I was doing a business case for diversity only to realize that diversity itself is not a business case, only compliance related to be frank. Diversity should be justified and applied to a business problem and drive huge benefits of all kinds. For the same reason there, diverse groups can typically be good when creativity is needed to drive innovation, question things etc. But the hard realization is that everyone can’t be innovative all the time can they. Some people simply must do and not question, in that role.  Those same people/roles to some degree represent the happy people for which we don’t have any action plan. 

A paradox, really, is that your individual plan and the expectation to be innovative are relevant to which context you are. Conclusion is that we all need to be innovative and have those plans, as we know for sure that the context for each one of use will change, constantly. Personal mastery (as defined by Peter Senge) and innovation are typical fundamental competencies for the future irrelevant if you are happy or not right now.  But his comment stuck to me.

We really don’t have action plans for happy people, do we?

About klingerii

Twitter: @klingerii
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