Managing employees and inspiring them to give their best has always been a HR challenge for businesses. Most businesses would score just about average points, a few just mess it up while a very very few find the secret sauce. Why is managing employees such a challenge? What makes it so difficult?
The Mismatch: Skills vs Expectations
Most employer and employee conflicts at work are a result of employee skills and employer expectations mismatch. Honestly, there is no clear formula to fix expectations and hence it is often difficult to locate the sweet spot. Both the employers and the employees, need to be more liberal and accommodating to each others’ expectations.
We should refrain from trying to find a direct correlation between employment benefits and outcomes. The more you pay does not impact the outcome or results in the same proportion. Variance between human resources doing the same job is very unpredictable compared to variance between non-human resources doing the same job. There are processes and tools to standardise the work process and hence have a better control on the outcome, however the human factor is still at play and hence will produce variations.
Expectation setting and regular feedback help address the mismatch conflict. Every employee needs absolute clarity regarding her role, authority and expected results. What, Why and How need to be clearly articulated in both written and verbal communication. We often make the mistake of assuming “it was obvious…”. Make sure you ask the employee to confirm if she has understood the role and expectations. Does she need any help?Follow up with regular feedback sessions. Employment confirmation meetings and annual performance appraisals are too late to inform an employee about poor performance. Fix as they fail. The agenda of the meeting is not to give the result. The agenda is to help the employee with feedback and guidance. Such reviews need to be “For the Employee”, not “For the Management”.
Regular and frequent reviews also help in early identification of skills vs requirements mismatch. This helps in a graceful exit for the employee if needed.
The H for “Human” factor
We, humans, don’t easily let go. While not letting go is a major cause of unhappiness, it also impacts relationships at work. As Managers, when we give negative feedback to employees, when we express authority in unpleasant words, when we criticise them for failures, we also need to help them let go of the negativity and criticism. If not, it surely will affect the performance at work and the employer – employee relationship.
Whenever I have had an unpleasant conversation at work, either a senior or associate, I always make sure I spend some time with the person later in the day. Yes, the same day. I do not want them to go home with the unpleasant memory. When I go back to them after the unpleasant episode with an agenda to patch up, I make sure I do not make any reference to the previous conversation. I purposely behave as if nothing ever happened. A quick personal chat, a work related discussion, a tea or coffee break or an office gossip. Anything helps. This gesture emphasises that the unpleasant conversation was purely work related and there was nothing personal. It helps the other person “let go” of the negativity and criticism. They may take a while, but they can get back to the zone and rhythm of work.
Regardless of performance results, always be compassionate, encouraging, unbiased and respectful to every employee. Make the H factor work for you, not against you.