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I can't get good people










Recession or boom time, employers, organisations and leaders always echo one sentiment, 'We can't get good people these days'.

Good, means different things to different people. Unfortunately most leaders and employers rarely know what they themselves want. It is safe to say that employers want subservient employees who will do as told, deliver miraculous results and never give a dissenting opinion.

Employers expect employees to never complain, be productive, always deliver high quality with a smile. 

Typically bosses and colleagues only demand saying 'Give me, give me, …….  Give me this and give me that'. Everyone wants but no one wants to give. People resent this unilateral approach preferring rather the relationship to be bilateral. They would be delighted to hear from employers and colleagues, 'I want to do this for you and I want to give you this'.*

Image by Ben Heine

As social creatures most human endeavour requires people to work with other people in groups and  within organisations. The most common group being the family followed by social organisations such as, school, college, workplace, religious groups, political parties, professional bodies, play partners, etc.

Each individual tries to find their sweet spot where they feel comfortable and safe. This requires social skills, that is the ability to get along with others no matter what the nature of the individual or the organisation is. Cooperation is typically obtained either by offering rewards or making threats or a combination of both these approaches.

Living and working for themselves and their families people in agricultural societies, generally tend to cooperate more with each other. With the growth of the industrial and services sectors more and more people now work for others and the government. 

The more the gap between owners and employees the more faceless the organisation appears and the more cold and mechanised it's working tends to become. People are interchanged and treated like some replaceable component. This is why in spite of a quantum leap in material and physical wealth there is a steep decline in mental health and our spiritual well being.

Being treated like an inanimate object so demeans a person that they become confused, angry, and this gives rise to violence and prejudice.

The greatest challenge for organisations all over the world is to attract, retain and develop good people. 'We can't get good people,' is the most common refrain expressed by governments, managers, owners, and even homemakers.

People are generally the same. Maybe possessing differing skills and knowledge but generally people want the same thing, that is to live in safety, comfort, and if possible be healthy and happy.

Successful families and organisations are those in which people feel human and respected. Where they can contribute and have meaning in their existence. In spite of knowing this fact most organisations are simply unable to or unwilling to give respect and provide opportunities for growth for individuals.


Rather than working at relationships based on shared goals and values, most people simply use fear and inducement. Fear may have worked well during the times of rampant poverty /slavery, where people were treated nothing more than animals, but it has no place in any society in the 21st century. Inducement and sops generally only deliver bare minimum performance commitment over time.

Governments may pass legislation demanding that organisations be fair, and considerate to employees but no matter what is uttered the spirit of exploitation remains the approach. If employees are treated with disdain, disrespect, and seemingly exploited, they will in turn also exploit their organisations and employers.

The number one priority of  managements in most organisations is attracting, developing and retaining good people.  More management resources and energy is unsuccessfully invested in administration, human resources and controls than in any other area.

People are inherently good and want to do good, all we have to do is give them an excuse to deliver on their latent goodness. Like any good partnership, if we want people to give us their best and total commitment we too must give them our trust, opportunity and support.

To do good does not mean that we should be naive. As my former colleague Abhik Sengupta said, be fair but firm, be tough but tender, be hard but human.

To become and remain a great family or organisation and eventually a great society, support and genuinely respect your people and they will love your organisation and will give your their all.

Great leadership or management is, not simply getting good people to do great things, It is getting ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. 

* People sometimes take my advice and they are often disappointed, because they expect almost immediate change in others. Just because we have suddenly changed does not mean others too will change any time soon. Perception always lasts longer than fact, and the number one problem in organisations is the poor credibility of management. It helps to stay the course and be patient.


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