Treat Employees Like They Make a Difference And They Will

Jim Good Night

How many of us know the actual value of the work we are doing in our organizations? Yes in terms of money and bottom lines, when we are talking in a for profit context. Do you? As an employer do you think that your employees have a fair idea of the dollar value they are adding to your company for each hour of work they do or for the salary they are earning in a month? Well, I’m not sure how confidently we can say a YES to this question.

When I started my career as a software developer in a large IT company in India, I literally had no understanding of the money I was bringing in for my company. My manager used to assign tasks to me on a daily basis and my motive was just to finish them on time, almost mechanically in a master-servant fashion. I did not know how much the client was paying my company for each hour of work I put in, how much profit I’m helping my company earn and above all my contribution towards the goals of my organization. Result, a total disengagement in my work and disconnect with my company’s mission. Every time the quarterly results were published with profits over profits, it hardly mattered to me as I did not know how my contribution has helped the company achieve it.

I’m sure that this is the case with majority of the employees in most organizations. When companies announce their results how many employees would be excited about it? I’m not talking about those higher up in the hierarchy, but those who do the actual work at the bottom of the pyramid. Most of them would perceive it as another management gimmick and would be looking forward to see if any increments are announced or not. If it’s there well and good, otherwise it’s time for looking options outside.

Everybody talks about goal alignment & breaking down organizational goals into individual goals. And most companies that have a good performance management process do this too. Goals are set periodically and people are evaluated on the basis of them. But still they fail to solve the purpose. What is missing in the puzzle is the big picture view of goals at an individual employee level, how individual goals are adding to the overall goals of the company.

Those at the top of the ladder have a top –down view of the goal alignment. But how many companies provide their employees with a bottom-up view of their goals?

Leave aside the company goal, how many employees know the goals of their immediate manager whom they are working for and those of their team mates? Kaplan & Norton in “The Strategy-Focused Organization” say, A mere 7% of employees today fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them in order to help achieve company goals”.As David Witt exclaims in his post in Blanchard Leader Chat,how can organizations achieve their mission with only such a low % of employees rowing in the same direction!

Many organizations have this culture of keeping the employee goals as a secret between the employee and the manager, may not be as a policy, but as a norm. What is the purpose of this and who/what is it really helping. Why can’t we have open discussions about the goals and how the individual goals are related to each other’s at least at a team level? No one is working independently in organizations and this shared view might help employees to have better coherence. Managers have the most crucial role to play in this. In fact with every goal setting cycle or at the start of each project, along with individual goal setting, managers should sit down with the team and explain to them the financial & non-financial impact of the project on the overall goal of the organization and how individual and team goals would help them achieve it. The same exercise should be done at the end of the project as an evaluation of how this went and how has everybody contributed. Such an evaluation may also help in establishing an equitable reward process where employees exactly know what is being rewarded. Much better than bell curves and similar forced distributions, right?

It’ a very common psychological fact that everybody wants to feels worthy enough and the knowledge that they are making an impact with their time and efforts will have a positive effect on them ,motivating them to do better. Why don’t we apply this simple principle at organizational level where people spend at least 1/3rd of their time? As per Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report, active disengagement costs $450 billion to $550 billion per year for the US economy.  It’s not possible to keep your employees engaged just by providing all those ornamental benefits and perks like pool table, free food, posh offices and even something that looks really cool like unlimited vacations. These are not the real drivers behind sustainable engagement. Give people reasons to find meaning in their work, to improve self-respect and ways to achieve self-actualizations (going by age old Maslow’s principle) and they will stick to you.

Yours,

The Ardent HR

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2 comments

  • T. S. K. Raman

    Couldn’t agree with you more on all that you have scripted Ms. Krishna Priya. It’s absolutely imperative to share the “big picture” with everyone, and how everyone’s contribution goes into it as a part of it.
    As rightly pointed out, most young naive engineers eager to get their hands on into coding and to work on development projects are given schedules and are directed to get on with a job. The young engineers labour hard, with occasional guidance, that too if the immediate supervisor is favourably disposed. Most of them learn by trial and error. Then there’s the QA which tackles the bug issues, and highlights them, which is a nightmare for the young engineers as they are subjected to quite a lot of stress to go back on all the thousands of lines of code and fix the bugs. As they ain experience there’s remarkable improvement in this area. In this no one can claim any credit except the young rooky engineers. Like it happens, “the horse does the pulling, but, the coachman, gets tipped,” the supervisor, the project leader, the manager, all get the pat on the back for the release or the implementation, and the young engineer, gets treated along with the other team members to a lunch, (as if these engineers could afford going to such restaurants, with the salaries they earn), and then on to the next set of tasks. Goals, Performance Appraisals, etc., as mere formalities, and increments are discretionary.
    The billing aspect is another story. A lot of money per hour gets quoted, and service companies make a mountain. Very little of it gets shared from the top to the bottom.
    This sort of management, hardly motivates young engineers who are looking to learn technologies, and to make meaningful contributions, both for their own career growth and that of the growth of the company. Nothing like this happening, only pitance doled out as rewards, more and more engineers leave for greener pastures, and a few before they enter the middle of their careers. This has been the same song that started about 25 years ago and going on. Sad aspect is that the media projects only profits, share prices etc., but not the sad stories of such talented engineers who get lost in the business jungle. But, who bothers, one engineer leaves, there are a 100 waiting to fill the gap. Companies thrive on this “rat race.”
    Once again Ms. Krishnapriya, beautiful piece you thought about writing on.

  • nairkrishnapriyaj@gmail.com

    Thank you for your wonderful comment,Mr.Raman. Totally agree and relate to every word you said. And this culture has caused the dearth of talents and brain drains in organizations.Also,talking about salary,the in hand salary the entry level engineers get is not as huge and handsome as the media project it to be.Reality is very different than these dreamy pictures.Once again,thanks again for stopping by.

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