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Aug 23, 2013

I have been following a petition on about a local health care system.

The organization recently announced that they were reducing the shift differential for night shift workers, and because this was eliminating many “grandfathered” agreements, some nurses would experience an annual pay reduction in the five figures.

Twelve days later, there are over 3,500 signers of the petition, along with some extremely nasty comments aimed at the executives who apparently have not experienced the same reduction in pay. The CEO is a nurse, and many of the comments are bashing her for forgetting who she is, and making decisions for “business” only.

People decisions matter to the business

Hmmm. That comment got me thinking. What is a business decision?

Intellectually we all understand that businesses have to be cost effective or they will not be around to employ anyone, much less pay shift differential. But is a business decision simply a decision about finance? Is a business decision simply about operations? Is a business decision simply about marketing?

Or, is it fair to say that decisions about people – leaders and employees – are business decisions too?

I don’t just mean the traditional decisions like how much should we pay, or what benefits should we provide. I mean decisions about the kind of employer that we want to be as a framework about all of the other decisions that we make.

A framework for all other decisions

Here are some examples:

  • How senior leadership builds a relationship with employees is a business decision in my book. Do they talk TO people, or do they listen to them? If they listen, do they follow up? The implications of this decision are far-reaching and point directly to trust in senior leadership.
  • This is clearly a challenge for a large organization, but if the senior leadership cannot interact personally with all of the employees, how are they preparing the mid-level leaders to build trust? Are they developing true leadership skills that foster trust, and are they building accountability programs to demand leadership excellence? I see these as clear business decisions.
  • Does the organization treat people fairly and consistently? Do employees feel like everyone pulls their weight, and managers are skilled at holding people accountable? Fair and consistent accountability is a business decision with far-reaching implications for productivity.
  • Does the organization have a “brand” for attracting and retaining talent? Does the organization uphold the promise of the brand? Cynicism sets in quickly when the words don’t match the actions.
  • Will senior leaders “walk the talk” and share in the ups and downs of the organization? How do you know all leaders are “walking the talk?”

These are just a few examples of business decisions that are often made by accident, not by design, primarily because organizations don’t think of them as business decisions. But these are exactly the kinds of decisions that impact trust in the organization.

With trust in the organization and leadership, bitter pills are easier to swallow. I wonder about the level of trust in that health care organization before the shift differential cuts were announced.

This originally appeared on the ….@ the intersection of learning & performance blog.