When working with Brainpower workers, companies are finding out that the “why” matters. I noted it in the foundational explanation of The Brainpower Age, and more companies are feeling the effect.
Today’s New York Times writes about tech workers who want to know “What are we building this for?” Employees are asking more questions about not just what and how to build it, but why are we building this thing in the first place. And they aren’t being shy about objecting if they don’t agree with the end goal.
As they ask more employees to use their brains, companies are finding that asking them to only use part of their brain isn’t going to cut it. When you hire smart people, you get the whole person, and asking them to ignore issues they care about is unlikely to be successful. This is a trend that will likely only get more intense.
The nation’s political climate has already caused some firms to discover that employees don’t just bring their work lives to the office, they bring their entire lives. Google suffered a backlash when some employees and conservative groups felt the company was penalizing, even firing, them. Other firms, as the Times notes, are finding that employees want more information on the Why behind their projects. Sometimes the firms can’t, or won’t, offer a satisfactory reply. Some employees may leave, others may feel unmotivated and will work to less than their full potential.
Getting employees completely behind your project is the goal of most managers. And when everyone is rowing in the same direction, having both the hearts and minds of the employees fully engaged has remarkable effect. Just look at the amazing efforts during World War II when the country reached productivity levels previously unheard of. But alas, that was when we all seemed to agree that Nazis were evil.
Today’s rancorous political climate only means more of these kind of issues for team leaders. More and more employees, specifically those in high level brainpower jobs, will ask Why. And more and more companies will have to find a good answer to that question.