As part of the book The Organization Of The Future, James O’ Toole contributed an essay titled “Free To Choose: How American Managers Can Create Globally Competitive Workplaces” In his essay he describes 3 “Emerging Employer Models.” He describes them as follows:
- They are paid at (or close to) the minimum wage.
- They receive few if any benefits
- They have no job security
- They are given only the amount of training needed to do jobs that have been designed to be simple and easy to learn.
- Increasingly hire people on a contractual basis and, where possible, outsource and offshore work.
- Offer their “contingent” workers no security beyond the time limits of their contracts, and no promises of a continuing employment relationship.
- Often look outside to hire even permanent and top-level employees, carefully limiting how much they respond on developing managers and professionals, let alone on the training of workers.
- Frequently offer “then new employment contract,” in which they commit to telling employees what their strategy is and where they think future jobs in the organization will be, and workers then are told that their continual employment depends on their performance and the fit between their skills and the needs of the business.
- Are constantly searching for workers with the skills needed for today’s challenges. And although they pay top dollar for that talent, they expect employees to work long hours and, especially, to be productive.
- Challenging and enriched jobs
- A say in the management of their own tasks
- A commitment to low turnover and few layoffs
- A relatively egalitarian workplace, with few class distinctions between managers and workers and relatively small ratios between the salaries of the CEO and the average worker
- Jobs organized in self-managing teams
- A strong sense that every employee is a member of a supportive community
- Extensive, ongoing training and education to all
- Salaries rather than hourly wages
- Employee participation in company stock ownership and a high share in company profits
O’ Toole advocates for the High-Involvement Company as the model of the future.
According to James O’ Toole, the most successful companies now and of the future will be those that choose to address the deepest needs of their employees.
• Financial resources and security
• Meaningful work that offers the opportunity for human development
• Supportive social relationships
So, to which model would your organization belong to?
Is your organization so unique that none of the models described above apply? Is it a hybrid of one, two, or all of them? Could your organization "learn itself" into a "High-Involvement" model?
Assumptions about how to organizations, churches, school districts, and schools should be organized control the current organizational models. What, however, if those assumptions are wrong? Are there alternatives to our current model?
As O’Toole puts it, “Remember, it was once widely assumed that no airline could trust its employees to decide how best to serve customers—until Southwest did. It one was assumed that no company in the discount retail industry could succeed while paying its employees decent salaries and offering them full benefits—until Costco did. It was assumed that poorly educated blue-collar workers in old-line manufacturing firms could not be taught managerial accounting and then left to be self-managing—until SRC Holdings did. Once the conventional wisdom was that employees must be closely supervised and governed by rules—until W.L. Gore proved otherwise. And it was assumed that the first thing a company must do in a financial crisis is to lay off workers—until Xilinx discovered alternatives.”
Does education have alternatives? Are educational leaders willing to honestly explore them? Will union leaders allow for different assumptions.
As O’ Toole says, “The statement ‘I have no alternative’ is one of the surest indicators of leadership failure.”