The larger an organization, the more it is built upon the division of labor. Tasks are distributed not only horizontally from one function to another but also vertically – employees and leaders of teams, departments, divisions, businesses unit, and corporations. As in a snowball system, superiors consider the performances of all subordinates as its share of the whole. They infer the rationale for paying itself up to 273 times the average salary. But without considering that every role, no matter how small, has a decisive share in the overall result. Let us remember the story of the lost nail.
A blacksmith forgot a nail while shoeing a horse, causing a horseshoe to fall off, by which the horse’s leg broke and threw off the riding messenger, who was thus unable to deliver the message, causing the army to suffer defeat and ultimately losing the war and due to it the kingdom.
And only because the blacksmith forgot a nail. It was the blacksmith’s contribution that had unforeseen consequences.
People are not machines. This effectuates that the individual contributions turn out differently. These performances are influenced by their biography, traits, passions, and daily conditions. Further differences result from the respective circumstances, i.e., the time, speed, focus, result, quality, outcomes, diligence, comprehensiveness, and perseverance. However, the basis is the individual part built on practical experience, existing knowledge, commitment, and appreciation by superiors and colleagues.
- Practical experience
The most important is the practical experience, i.e., insights acquired through the consistent routine (regular application of obtained findings, mental models, and experiences through Learning-by-doing). If we see something new, we memorize only 20% – if we hear it, 30%; if we see and hear, 50%; if we see and hear and talk, 70%; and if we do it, 90%. Practical exercises create in active training or learning-on-the-job, informal learning in vocational weekdays, agile skills in the long term. Unlike theoretical training, personal application anchors skills for long-term recall. Yet, companies cannot assess these experiences, as their effectiveness only becomes apparent later in action.
- Certified knowledge
Originally, monastic and cathedral schools and later the early universities, such as Bologna, Oxford, Heidelberg, and Harvard, had a holistic approach, similar to vocational apprenticeship – young people studied, that is, observe, investigate, and engage in-depth with the world. After six years of research and learning, they attained the lowest degree, the baccalaureate. After another twelve years, they earned the magister degree or doctorate – and this with an average life expectancy of 32 years. This required various oaths as well as a private and a public exam. Today, a study is more like a continuation of schooling and predominantly limited to small areas of knowledge – although interdisciplinary courses, such as cognitive science, systems theory, or psycholinguistics, are making the boundaries between faculties more permeable. The purpose is primarily to confirm temporary knowledge, i.e., to recall a specific knowledge, at one point in time as completely as possible. In addition, the speed by which new knowledge and standards emerge has led to institutions offering training and grant certifications. In contrast to practical experience, theoretical training provides the content of a knowledge area and confirms, through fitting exams, that students have memorized a particular material. This is practical for companies, as they receive the final certificates, “objective” proof of the skills for selecting employees.
- Decisive commitment
Regardless of the experience and knowledge available, the personal contribution is determined by the commitment of individuals. Attitudes toward the company drive the engagement and are composed of emotional attachment, acceptance of the corporate governance, and perceived advantages. Even with the best conditions, indifferent personalities deliver worse results than committed ones with less qualification. This explains the efforts made to bind the low-commitment participants more closely to the company with coaching, team building, and participation in decision-making. For a company, this means, above all, winning leaders for the human image of Theory Y or even experimenting with entirely new work models to make it easier for the workforce to commit and thus deliver better results.
- Appreciated performances
The well-being of the members of a company results from respectful interaction with each other. In contrast, negative feedback, unfairness, and unequal treatment damage the satisfaction and self-esteem of ALL involved people. Especially micromanagers, who disempower employees by interfering in the smallest details, changing results, and not developing appreciation undermine commitment. As a result, those who actually work, leave the fulfillment of the task to these supervisors, who feel affirmed by the growing number of errors that they have to do everything by themselves – a vicious circle (see also Theory X). For companies, this demands developing an appropriate mindset (e.g., Theory Y). In the future, processes that follow a strict workflow will be shifted into IT. For the leaders remain the “human” tasks to serve the committed employees (Servant Leadership).
Bottom line: The personal contribution of the employees results from their doing, i.e., the ideas, actions, and results. This is supported by relevant experiences, acquired knowledge, and the desire to contribute maximally. When the performers can also expect that their part of the whole is appreciated, you have the best conditions to deliver top results. Since people are not programmable entities, who, once they are provided with business processes, rules and assignments, always function the same way, we need to put more attention on their actual contributions. This requires leaders who follow the activities mindfully. The smaller the company, the greater the likelihood that there is not enough time to take care of leadership skills. Therefore, these companies need to start developing a contemporary mindset. For example, every corporate member must develop entrepreneurship, encouraging followers of Theory Y and eliminating those of Theory X. The personal contribution of EVERYONE is the difference that makes the difference.