BY CRAIG MANNING / AUGUST 2018
Unemployment in the United States is currently hovering around 4 percent. As tends to happen, this recent trend of low unemployment has created something of a job seeker’s market. In many fields, there are more jobs than there are qualified people to fill them. As a result, it’s fallen to businesses to adopt new strategies that will attract good people or retain the ones they already have. Some employers are enticing workers with bigger salaries or more extensive benefits packages. What might be most important for the modern employer, though, is company culture. Employers can’t hope to attract or retain top talent if they can’t provide a fun, fulfilling, and rewarding place to work.
That push for stronger company culture is at the core of Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition, our Indie Groundbreaking Book for the month of August. Written by Susan Smith Kuczmarski and Thomas D. Kuczmarski, both experts on matters of business leadership and innovation, Lifting People Upmakes a compelling argument for people-centered organizations. The term the Kuczmarskis use is “peopleship,” which they define as “a leadership approach focused on cultivating and motivating people.” An organization that implements peopleship can boost morale, energize employees, increase engagement, foster strong employee relationships, solve turnover problems, and more.
In essence, Lifting People Up is a book that pays tribute to the overwhelming value of human resources. Organizations, the Kuczmarskis argue, are not defined by their brand names, their products, their assets, or their influence. Instead, businesses live and die based on the strength and quality of the people they employ. Especially in a competitive job market, organizations that neglect their employees are likely to lose those employees. Meanwhile, the businesses that are recognizing the value of their employees in notable ways are going to be the ones that succeed and grow.
The Kuczmarskis define six leadership habits that employers can use to adopt peopleship in their organizations. The strategies are easy to remember, because they form an acrostic:
Lifting People Up is not the first leadership book to advocate for strategies such as these. Human resource experts have spent years arguing that businesses should place more value on their employees.
What makes the book groundbreaking is how the Kuczmarskis advocate for a complete reshaping of business success and how we measure it. Their argument is simple: by paying more attention to people’s performance in the workplace and less attention to the financial performance of the company as a whole, businesses can drive success in more organic and sustainable ways. Financial performance will always matter, but in the Kuczmarskis’ model, monetary success is a product of smart, loyal, engaged, and innovative employees. In other words, if businesses make a point of listening to their employees and rewarding their accomplishments, the “financial success” side of things should take care of itself.
There can be no doubt that the idea of workplace leadership is changing over time. As the so-called “gig economy” grows, more and more people are being empowered to work for themselves, on their own terms. As this network of freelance and on-demand services continues to grow—from Uber to Postmates to Etsy and beyond—the concept of having a traditional “boss” is going to become less and less appealing to most professionals. In this shifting environment, the arguments and anecdotes of Lifting People Up feel especially resonant. One result of peopleship, the Kuczmarskis reason, is that it spreads leadership throughout an organization rather than clustering it at the top. By trusting employees and empowering them to share their ideas and drive innovation, businesses can begin to phase out the authoritative relationship between boss and employee. When everyone is being allowed to lead, in a way, the dynamic of the entire workplace shifts to a more equal and team-focused place.
Does that mean the idea of bosses, managers, CEOs, and presidents is going to go away? Probably not. There will always be some degree of hierarchy in any business. However, if the gig economy has shown us one thing, it’s that people are ready to take control of their own professional lives. By practicing peopleship, organizations can offer talented people a middle ground between the stability of a traditional workplace and the freedom and creativity of self-employment. A lot of job seekers are going to be looking for that kind of happy medium in the years to come, and with Lifting People Up, the Kuczmarskis have provided a comprehensive guide for how to achieve it.
Lifting People Up is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at [email protected].