Since I learned how to cook, I have become very particular about how my food is prepared, cooked and presented. It doesn’t help that we are now exposed to some great culinary shows on cable TV. For breakfast, I want my bacon flat and crispy and my scrambled eggs really fluffy, with just the right dash of pepper. Complete the picture with buttered toast, fresh milk and orange juice served in clear glasses, and freshly-brewed coffee.
At home, our house helper Elsa has to deal with our individual preferences when cooking for us. My parents, for example, want their fish fried skin-brown, while I want fish barely cooked and still juicy. When cooking adobo, Elsa also makes it a point to remove the chicken skin because my parents are cutting down on cholesterol. However, I prefer chicken that is first fried with its skin intact before it is cooked in vinegar and soy sauce. And while I could eat practically anything, my sister is allergic to crabs, lobsters, and other types of seafood. Moreover, while I love chicken or beef curry, it is not a particular favorite at home. In other words, between my parents, my sister and I, we have different likes and dislikes when it comes to food. In the culinary world, it is a matter of taste. The cook simply adjusts his cooking to fit individual preferences.
As human beings, we also have our preferences in terms of the work we do, the work hours we want to keep, and the monetary and non-monetary compensation that makes it all worthwhile. However, many business organizations still follow the mechanistic model that puts a premium on formal policies, standardized work procedures, and rigid compensation structures that constrain the way we do our work. These organizations limit the creativity and flexibility of their workforce, and therefore, barely harness their potentials to contribute to the organization.
Fortunately, more and more companies now recognize that the dynamic business environment requires new and more agile forms of organization structures. Organizations must not only be more responsive to customer requirements but also to the unique personalities, varied interests and behavioural quirks of a diverse set of talented individuals that bring value to the company.
Using the culinary metaphor, managers must concoct a work menu that recognizes the individual preferences and special circumstances of their talents. Knowledge workers, for instance, might not want a nine-to-five desk job that requires a daily commute of at least an hour. They probably work more hours online, even on weekends, in a café or in a resort outside of the city. Conceivably, intellectual workers, particularly those in highly-specialized fields where demand is greater than supply, could be given a different set of benefits that gives them more autonomy and flexibility in structuring their work days without necessarily inflating compensation packages.
If accomplished chefs could adjust their cooking to delight individual customers, why can’t business managers exercise the same flexibility in dealing with their co-workers and stakeholders in achieving organizational goals? It has become imperative for modern-day managers to become more adaptable in dealing with their employees, i.e., the people who create value for the organization. Give them their ‘bacon and eggs’ whatever style they want them.
Raymund B. Habaradas is an Associate Professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, where he teaches Management of Organizations, Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility, and Management Research. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.