Culture Freedom Human Resources Leadership

One size fits all; part I

Whatever has been invested in revolutionizing the labor market, making it more flexible and employee-driven, will change.

My biggest regret is something I did not do nearly fifteen years ago.

I was working in food retail and was part of a group of talents asked to define the organization’s future work strategy.

We did brilliant work.

I had that feeling then, but now fifteen years later, I’m sure.

We were on the verge of something we could and should have capitalized on. 

It was revolutionary back then. Not because the ideas as such were not invented yet, but because they had not yet been applied in the retail industry.

Our first recommendation was to flatten and simplify the stores’ structure and invest in systems and technology to facilitate the work.

Not rocket science, but it would have catapulted us forward.

Our second recommendation was to invest more in purpose. NB. this recommendation came six years before Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk on purpose (Start with Why).

Also not rocket science, but far ahead of most. 

Our third recommendation was to accept that the “one size fits all” work model was outdated.

Some consultants were playing with the model, but the FMCG industry was late to the table. It almost always was (and still is).

Again. This was 2008. Obama got elected president during the period we did our revolutionary work.


Imagine a purpose-driven retail company with an extremely flat empowering structure supported by advanced technology and a demand-driven labor model.

In 2008.

Nearly fifteen unique, revolutionary and disruptive years ago.

The first iPhone was just introduced a year before. 

Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m crying over spilled milk, but it’s good to reflect on regrets and turn them into lessons.

Had I known what I know now, I would have left and capitalized on the idea.

I didn’t.

Let me first explain what happened. 

Some of our recommendations were accepted. 

We did invest more in values. Purpose was a bridge too far.

The rest of the ideas were too far out there for a primarily male, pale, and stale executive team.

(FYI. I’m male, but not pale, not stale).

We were a cross-company, cross-functional, temporary intervention team consisting of talents.

We had no official authority, and we had to rely on our passion, energy, and the brilliance of our ideas.

We failed. 

I didn’t think that then, but I do believe that today. 

We were too far ahead of what was possible. 

When you’re primarily focused on the next quarter’s results, a long-term workforce plan is a bridge too far. 

So, we moved on and back to our old jobs. 

We had a family to take care of, good jobs that we had to manage again, we were considered talents for the future, and we had good packages.

Why leave? 

Life was still good.

Now, nearly fifteen years later, I’m reminded of this journey.

We’ve gone through a pandemic and are in front of a severe recession.

The world will look dramatically different twelve months from now. 

Inflation, recession, mass firings. Purchasing power under severe pressure. 

The labor market power continuum will shift in favor of employers. 

Once again, only companies with a clear vision and a massive bank account will be able to survive.

Whatever has been invested in revolutionizing the labor market, making it more flexible and employee-driven, will change.

One size fits all was almost over.

Most old-school managers will return to their ‘one size fits all’ model. 

Because they can. 

Like during the crisis in 2008. 

Some leaders, however, will remain the course…

To be continued on Friday.

Your turn: Short-term or Long-term?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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