I would like to believe everyone has heard it said more than enough times that employees are the most important asset of an organization.
Of course, empirical evidence indicates that there are plenty of people in industry leadership positions that don’t believe that – thus we see franchises fall off a cliff instead of being eased down and experienced people get laid off in droves.
So maybe we should keep saying it anyway. Employees are the most important asset of an organization.
It's Quite The Trend To Use These Interstitial Headers , Isn't It?
Thing is, employees don’t pop out of a mold being amazing. Yes, there are natural talents and certain personalities that lend themselves towards career acceleration, but the value of each person hired at your company has been created over time by the accumulation of skill and experience.
Some folks acquire these more quickly than others so they may well become Senior or Principal seemingly on their own. What every organization should be striving for, though, is to take explicit action to spur employee growth. They’re already in the building, so make a point of helping them become better.
Most Of The Time They Don't Really Even Apply To The Following Paragraph
Many companies have some sort of employee review process designed to encourage people to improve. Obviously, this is a Good Thing. If you truly regard your workers as your most important assets, you should allocate time and resources to ensure their value is increasing.
Some places take this seriously. Hats off to them. But in a lot of organizations this isn’t treated as a high priority. You’ll see a number of companies where evaluation time comes around, people sigh and roll their eyes, forms get filled out, and the manager ushers each person into his office one at a time to pretend for 15 minutes out of the year that he cares about someone’s growth.
Sometimes in this setting Employee X will even hear something negative about their performance for the first time. Or maybe X never hears about it until he’s written up or shown the door or included in the next round of layoffs with no idea why he’s on the curb without his security card. That’s not how it should work.
I Bet I Could Put Anything In Here
Check out this quote from Implementing Lean Software Development by Mary and Tom Poppendieck:
"Annual performance evaluations should never surprise employees with unexpected feedback. Performance feedback loops should be far shorter than an annual, or even a quarterly, evaluation cycle. If the annual performance evaluation is the only time employees finds[sic] out how they are doing, something is truly wrong with the evaluation system. Performance review criteria should put strong emphasis on teamwork, making contribution to team success as important -- if not more important -- than individual contributions. You get what you reward, so if you find effective ways to reward collaboration, you will get more of it.”
You reap what you sow is not a new concept. In fact, it was written in the Bible several thousand years ago. So then why did so many of you read that quote and go, “Huh. ‘You get what you reward.’ Why isn’t team success and collaboration emphasized where I work?” I would suggest that one possible answer is because your boss isn’t being held accountable to do a good job being your boss.
"The Fat Man Walks At Midnight"
On the same page quoted earlier, the Poppendiecks go on to say this:
“One-directional evaluations give the appearance that only the evaluated person needs to improve, but Deming [W Edwards Deming, widely regarded as the father of modern quality improvement] insists that most performance issues are a management problem. When an employee isn't performing, the first question a manager should ask is, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ Managers should take personal responsibility for the performance of their organization and collaborate with their people to improve the performance of the system."
So managers, I guess this one’s on you now. When you prep for your annual evaluations, when you wonder why Chet broke the build again, when you ask yourself why none of your fx artists are senior yet – when those times arise, start with asking yourself the hard questions.
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That goes for you, too, studio leadership. Out of all your technical people why don’t you have one you can trust to lead their department? Why is your producer still unable to give you straight answers?
Before anyone in a management position gets their hackles up over any given aspect of employee performance, they should be sure to check with themselves. What am I doing wrong? Am I taking personal responsibility for the performance of the organization? Am I collaborating with people to improve the performance of the system?
If you ask these questions – and you’re honest in answering them – you’ll probably see some pretty valuable employees start showing up.