Survival of the fittest – how to keep ‘Employee-Fit’​.

Thought Pieces

May 6, 2021

The phrase, ‘survival of the fittest’ is commonly interpreted to mean survival of those ‘in the best physical shape’, i.e. the biggest or strongest. However, this understanding of the phrase is a misinterpretation in both the natural world and the business world.

We have seen many ‘strong’ companies fail – business goliaths such as Blockbuster and Kodak have fallen foul of other, nimbler visionaries – those who were perhaps unencumbered by history, entrenched ideology or the dreaded words of “it’s what we’ve always done”.

So survival is not about being the biggest or strongest, rather it’s about the ability to adapt, and indeed in later editions of Origin of The Species, Darwin qualified ‘survival of the fittest’ to mean being “better adapted for the immediate, local environment”. If we are each to find our silver lining from the last year then sharpening our ability to adapt to our local environment has certainly been achieved – the environment has been a little too local for many.

So, we find ourselves in 2021 and we ask ourselves, how must we adapt employment so we are thriving at our fittest for the immediate environment? The needs of employees are evolving as quickly as our need for wider supplier availability on Deliveroo, so organisations are wise to seize this moment as we emerge from lockdown to hear what their employees think of their experience and plan how the organisation can adapt to their changing needs. I’m not referring to the physical environment or flexible working specifically, despite the obvious zeitgeist, but rather the plethora of other motivational factors that have been stirred over the decades and particularly the last year.

Recurring themes we are seeing at The Condor Collective revolve around how meaningful employees feel their work is, communication, how fairly and objectively their performance is reviewed, how valued they feel, whether decisions are made according to company values, whether behaviours that they are being measured by are actually clarified anywhere. Motivational factors don’t revolve as much as we think around fruit bowls and pool tables, though those perks are really nice. Instead, they revolve mostly around organisations taking a step back and questioning what is there, and what is happening with fresh eyes. Is there really a clear company vision? Have we made it unequivocally clear what each team member needs to do to be successful across skills, behaviours and mindset? Have we actually promoted someone with poor interpersonal skills into a management role because we didn’t really test them for those skills? Does everyone view their careers as a ladder rather than the messy road map that they actually are in real life? Do my team only think of growth in terms of promotion?

Your employees will tell you how to adapt. Often its nothing to do with paying them more or increasing gym membership from gold to platinum. They are more motivated by evaluating how fair it is that someone is paid more or less than someone else. What we find is that people’s needs have only nuanced with the complications of life but they haven’t actually evolved far from our human need for belonging, feeling like we are valued and contributing to something bigger than ourselves, practicing and getting better at our skills, and being trusted to do what’s been asked of us, if we have the tools to do so.

Your employees will help you see how to get fitter, the starting point is to ask them.