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Why employee goodwill is the smart metric to pay attention to

In 2020, we will see the development of the next generation of management tools. These will help people explore, take risks, feel autonomy and gain a sense of connection to the company they work for.

Although CEOs tend to say that people are the engine of growth for a company and that their employees are the most valuable asset, our current financial reporting system does not emphasise investing in human capital. In quarterly and annual reports activities such as buying a warehouse are described as investments. Spending on employee wellbeing is often treated as a cost. In 2020, we will understand that human resources, currently one of the lowest rungs in a company ladder, will be elevated to the same position as research and development.

To benefit from human capital, companies will need to change their focus and start thinking more about the nature of motivation. More and more of our work is being done between our ears, and less is done in a way that people can see and monitor. Next year, companies will find ways to increase their investment in employee goodwill.

Goodwill can be seen as the gap between the minimum someone needs to do to keep their job, and the maximum they will do if they are really excited about doing it. It is something that is completely at the discretion of the individual. And goodwill can be increased by treating employees fairly and giving them a sense of autonomy.

In 2020, we will change our systems of management, control and reporting with these insights in mind. We will reduce bureaucracy, which is the enemy of autonomy because it tells employees that their company views them as robots executing a task. And we will start to evaluate companies with an eye towards human motivation. The companies who will eventually be successful will be those who manage to keep their employees invested in their work.

Dan Ariely is professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University

This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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