Happy Labor Day. Or, if you are not happy with what you are doing – or are not doing because nobody’s hiring – I hope, at least, it’s a good Monday for you. Maybe you just saw something in the morning news about how this is the new normal: freelancing, independent contractors, part-timers, contingents, consultants, day laborers. What’s different, from when Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882, is that labor now includes almost everyone. What else do you call it when managers, knowledge workers, and even some executives are not really employees? If you aren’t on payroll, what are you? Call it ‘talent-for-hire’ or ’1099-er’ you are still labor. You are being paid for your individual contributions, and when there is no more need for your part, you’re back on the market.
If you look at labor as strictly a financial issue, you see people as interchangeable cogs, just units of cost. But if you do, you are missing the real value: the measurable effects of synergy. You only get this when you have a coherent ‘human infrastructure’.
The term ‘infrastructure’ denotes organizational structures that are essential to the operation and sustenance of an institution or a society. In ideal practice, science, engineering, management, and finance will guide the operation and maintenance of infrastructures in a coherent fashion. These disciplines have evolved over time, and now a similar evolution must come to the ‘people function’ within organizations.
As demographic, social, and technological changes accelerate, fewer and fewer people are serving increasingly integral and complex functions in nearly every field of endeavor. As a result, humans are functioning more and more like a mission-critical organizational structure; less and less like consumable ‘resources’ or replaceable ‘capital’ – labor. The rapidly expanding dialogue on ‘human infrastructure’ attests to this fact.
Within the context of a dynamic human infrastructure, a person’s most valuable quality is their ability to successfully and productively ‘team’ with others. Therefore, given roughly equal ‘talents’, the person who is a better ‘team player’ will always add more value. But you must respect them as part of your team, and that means treating them as such. Not as labor.
I’m not suggesting we stop celebrating what has come to mean the last weekend of summer for so many people. I’m just suggesting that if we are to celebrate anything, it’s time to change the name of this holiday to “Teaming Day”.
And to the great team players on the TGI team, I hope you are enjoying today. I look forward to being together tomorrow, because, for me, that is truly when we celebrate teaming.
Tom Thomson, an executive search consultant in Franklin, Tennessee, sent me this great story about talent and teams.
“In 2007, the Tennessee Titans needed to draft a quarterback. The owner, Bud Adams, picked Vince Young. Young is a great athlete and had all the physical attributes you could want in a quarterback. Before drafting a player, NFL teams do the same things we do in business. They look at a player’s ‘resume’, interview them, and do reference checks. They assess the player’s physical and mental attributes at the combine. Young was tall, fast, and strong armed. He had a strong resume (2nd in the Heisman and a National Championship). The Titans decided to invest millions and draft (hire) the Texas QB.
“Three years later we find this was a bad decision. The Titans were correct in their assessment of Young’s physical attributes. What they didn’t know was that Young was not a coherent team player. He put himself ahead of the team. Young did not prepare like he should. He partied in Texas instead of working out with his team during the off season. When things got tough, Young attacked his coach and walked out on the team.”
And then Tom stopped talking about the problem and started talking about the solution:
“An RBA report* would have alerted the Titans to what they were getting with this player.”
I’ll say it again. It’s teaming, not talent, that wins the game.
*RBA stands for TGI Role-Based Assessment. Reports are available in two forms: Management-directed, for making management decisions, and Self-directed, to give to the person who takes the assessment to help with their self-development.