A mercenary on the battlefield is looking for a reason not to fight. The only thing he gains is his price and in the old days their share of any plunder. A citizen on the other hand is defending his home, family and country. They are fighting for things which are intrinsic to who they are. Once they are on the battlefield, they will fight.
At the beginning of the battle, the mercenaries will want to see an overwhelming advantage. If they do not see the advantage, there is a real possibility they will simply leave the battlefield. The employer of the mercenary’s position has just deteriorated even further. This might even sow panic among the main troops and cause a full rout.
Do your employees see themselves as mercenaries?
In one of the saddest assignments I have ever had this truly crystalized in my mind. When I spoke to the employees, all of them described their jobs based in how much they were paid. Virtually no conversation about the organization’s vision or mission. I learned later they had little information about either. There was also very little conversation about how they advanced the vision. How they saw it, they worked a certain number of hours for $X per hour. The employees saw nothing else.
As you can imagine the turnover was through the roof. Productivity was about as low as it could go. The employer was spending all of their time recruiting or bringing in expensive temporary employees. Training and on-boarding costs were killing the bottom line. Managers were exhausted from dealing with the same issues every day. There was no relief in sight.
The cavalry can take many forms
I was having a routine interview with one the product developers. At the start of the interview, I had a broad understanding of what the company did. As the conversation moved along my knowledge grew exponentially about the piece they manufactured. Their piece made up part of a larger piece. The larger piece was a critical component in a much larger device. This much larger device helped save lives in certain environments. When I realized what he was telling me, I asked how many people in the organization understood they were saving lives.
His answer was classic: “Everybody who needs to”. I asked if there was any reason why we could not tell everyone. He said no. The cavalry had arrived.