Berna Özdemirkan

September 2017 – Brandmap: 

Huge companies, great revenues, high profitability, boards, executive boards, vice presidents… In other words, a great organization… They gather together their employees every year to tell them how fast they grow: where they were and where they are now. Employees listen to them with joy, they are happy to be a part of such a great organization. Their thoughts go like ‘My company is growing, I will grow, too. My company is making money, I will make money, too.’ The business results are good, the employee motivation is high, they get one of the best scores and sometimes even the top score in the measurements made every year. Then suddenly, something happens and the motivation results decline significantly.

Yes, this is something that we began to encounter very frequently in such organizations. We go and ask ‘this is not you, you were one of the best, what happened to you? Are the business results going bad? ’ No, it is not like that either. So, we turn back to the employees and ask: ‘What’s going on? What had changed in the last couple of years? Why aren’t you committed to your organization like before? Why did your motivation drop?’

They began talking and we began listening. A worker comes up and says ‘we used to have trips’, another comes up and complaints ‘we used to get holiday bonus and gift cards’. Another goes on by saying ‘OK, don’t do any of them, but I was able to cover my needs with my salary before, but now I can’t even buy a bicycle to my kid, our pays went up in flames’.

Is it really possible to make ends meet with minimum wage? Put your hand on your heart and then answer. White collars are luckier, they are not trying to make ends meet with minimum wage. But the constantly decreasing purchasing power does not fill their shopping baskets like in the old days and don’t let them maintain a comfortable life. They are getting poorer every day. So, they start resenting at this company that they had put years in. What they are going through is in fact a true disappointment. Where is our good business results, were is our growth? Where is my share in the growth?

Just like all capitalist systems, as only a handful is governing the money in the world, only a handful of top managers skim the benefits of this rapid growth in companies as well. And when we stand before them and tell them that the motivations of their employees had dropped, they can’t give us satisfying answers. “Well, once the minimum wage had increased, the difference between the salaries of our senior workers and our new workers had narrowed almost to zero. We cannot fix it right away, but we made plans, everything will rally slowly.” A very valuable manager working side by side with the top management goes on: “We made our plans, don’t worry. With small adjustments ever year, we will fix the salaries and solve the problem.” Another manager, one still holding a conscience says: “But it will take a decade to fix it in this way.” My eyes open wide. Something rises up in me and I can’t stop myself from asking: “How many employees are we talking about?” ‘100 people’ is the response. “You need to wait a decade to fix the salaries of so many workers. Don’t you have money? Are the business results bad? Are you losing money?” They say ‘no’, but insist that they cannot solve it right away. This is a manager talking. In fact, he is not the one who will decide, but he doesn’t even recommend this action to the top management, to the bosses. I am terrified. I continue insisting, telling, begging: “this cannot continue, they cannot support their family, please don’t”.

At another place, the workers are working in 2 shifts. Imagine working 12 hours a day. If you were to sleep 8 hours, travel 2 hours, you have only 2 hours left to yourself. Your life is over. 2-shifts is not acceptable. That’s what we say. Thank God, the boss is present during our presentation. So, the boss turns to the General Manager and says “I asked you to come up with a 3-shift plan”. “Sir, it is very costly” says the General Manager. These are more royalist than the king.

At another place, the foods are bad, so bad that 70% claims dissatisfaction. So, I ask what’s wrong. “The food is not good. They changed the catering company upon our complaint, but the quality is still poor, the meals are tasteless. They serve chicken dishes because it is cheaper, but we will soon begin to cackle ourselves. Soups are watery. As long as they don’t increase their budget for food, these dishes will never recover.”

We are talking about food here: the basic need on the Maslow’s Hierarchy. What are you negotiating on with the food company? On feeding 300 employees for less? These people depend on physical strength for their work. You will serve them the most delicious food, so they feel stronger. And we didn’t even begin to discuss training, improvement, and career.

At some companies, I see managers working wholeheartedly to motivate their employees. This makes me really happy. I always provide all the possible support to these people as a research consultant. However, those who are more royalist than the king, those who are not even aware of the needs of the employees, those who can still insist that one can meet the ends with that money, those who defend the flavor of the food saying I went there and taste it even though they just visited the plant only once or twice, they are… Even though I try to stay calm, I guess I fail, but you know what, I am proud of failing!