Sunday, December 27, 2009

December Carnival of HR is Up

All the usual suspects and a few new ones, plus a poem! Check it out here.

Thanks, PseudoHR!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Peter Principle

First of all, thanks to Alex Drexel over at Talented Apps for posting about a recent NYT article Random Promotions positing that promoting people at random is better than promoting them for competence.

It's our old friend the Peter Principle in action, which states that a competent person will be promoted to his or her level of incompetence.

It seems that some Italian scientist have now demonstrated the Peter Principle via computer simulation, which shows you're better off picking names out of a hat than promoting someone who is good at their job. Even promoting the worst performers is better.

However, what computer simulations can't emulate is human emotion. If you promote someone based on merit who ends up being a poor manager, their team will at least have the comfort of knowing their manager was once good at something and that doing a good job sometimes gets rewarded.

Whereas no matter what the numbers tell us, there's no way to promote a complete slacker without anger and discontent brewing in the ranks. Now, most of us are desensitized to people hating their managers but it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm just saying.

What is missing is a better understanding of what makes a good manager and identifying those traits as a critieria for promotion. And it's not that hard, we pretty much know what separates a good manager from a poor one. We just don't bother doing our homework most of the time.

That being said, there's no magic formula that makes a manager good for everyone. We see it in sports all the time, a star player moves to a new team with a new coach and stops performing because he doesn't respond to the new coach's management style.

Even with the best will in the world it's impossible to please all of the people all of the time because people are different, not only from each other but from themselves, say, five years ago.

When I was fresh out of school with no kids and working 80 hour weeks I felt like my efforts were holding the team together. I had little appreciation for managers and/or colleagues who knocked off at 6 to go home to their families. I also managed several teams in those early days and kept up the intense pace so that my team would see I was working as hard as they were.

But life is ironic. Today, a decade and two kids later, I have much more appreciation of a relaxed, hands-off management style that allows experienced employees to 'get on with it' with minimal distraction.

Generally speaking, I have found that experienced bosses are more comfortable delegating and often work less that people on their team, which can irritate ambitious newbies no end. Whereas less experienced bosses tend to be control freaks because they fear making career-limiting mistakes, which can be like getting fingernails pulled for experienced employees.

Chances are, you have both experienced and inexperienced managers and employees and they all have to work together. So, regardless of which criteria your company uses to select its future leaders, don't just promote people and turn them loose to reinvent the management wheel. Work with them and help them understand that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to management.

Their teams will thank you. So will your balance sheet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Appreciation <> Rewards

These days it seems impossible to keep employees happy. About 60% of 900 employees surveyed by Right Management said they’re leaving once the economic situation eases up and 21% are ‘networking’.

Derek Irvine from Globoforce makes a compelling case for lack of recognition and overwork as top reasons for leaving.

According to Peter Cappelli on HRE, the reason people leave is because their rewards don’t match their expectations and are therefore perceived as ‘unfair’.

(In other words, people believe or are told they performed better than others but the rewards tell a different story.)

Added to this is the whole confusion with low performers thinking they’re high performers.

So, let me get this straight:

If you give employees a low performance rating they disagree because low performers think they’re God’s gift to your company.

If you give employees a high performance rating with an average monetary reward they think they should have gotten more than the average performers.

If you can’t afford to reward employees they gripe about lack of honest communication and recognition.

BUT if they get honest communication and recognition without monetary rewards, they think you’re stringing them along.

It seems like there’s just no pleasing some people. Or any people.

Perhaps. And I think we could stand some more gratitude on the employee side of the table for having a job right now. But let’s be clear about one thing: Appreciation <> Rewards.

Saying thank you is NOT a reward, it’s just good manners. And if you haven’t been saying thank you all along, you may have a leetle credibility problem.

Because you can’t throw money indiscriminately at people while failing to appreciate them, then pull the plug on the money, then implement some random employee recognition program out of the blue instead of money (with the same management team that everyone’s already planning to bail on) and expect people to be happy.

My friend (who's not in HR) put it rather well: Appreciation should be a given. Rewards should be tangible.

My advice?

Reward people as fairly as you can.

If you can’t afford ‘fair’ rewards, communicate this honestly.

Say thank you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Business is about community

Patti, a blogger friend of mine, was diagnosed with breast cancer and just completed her treatment. She lives in Denmark and works remotely as part of a global team.

Recently she blogged about the supportiveness of her team mates, who took on some of her work and sent her regular supportive messages, cards and gifts. Here is what she said:

'I am thankful for my co-workers. Every few weeks over the past year, a new card would arrive from the states with little notes from all of them. They have covered whatever work was mine whenever I wasn't able, and have been supportive and understanding through it all."

Patti's team is more than just a group of people working together - it's a community.

There's plenty of noise
out there about social media and its implications for business but what we are really saying when we boil the message down to one simple sentence is this:

Business is about community.

According to Wikipedia, there are four elements of "sense of community": 1) membership, 2) influence, 3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and 4) shared emotional connection.

Wouldn't it be great if that were also the defintion of 'business', instead of, '...a legally recognized organization ... formed to earn profit that will increase the wealth of its owners and grow the business itself'?

Stories like Patti's remind us that the two definitions don't have to be mutually exclusive, and how nice it is when they aren't.

And let us not forget Meg's butt cake, another fine example of community in action.

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