On Talent Management

This is probably a topic that has been beaten to death, but is also one that we as managers should constantly remind ourselves of. “People don’t leave their jobs, people leave their bosses.”

There are enough studies that point to the many reasons why people move jobs –  from poor working conditions, to compensation packages. The major reason that invariably stands out across all levels is the employee’s workplace relationship with their manager. The relationship determines whether one looks forward to the office or drags his or her feet to work. Seemingly, basic issues are taken for granted – lack of trust, unfair treatment, lack of appreciation for a job well done, respect for the individual.

These are side lined in a fast paced environment – there the quarterly sales targets to achieve, customer service level agreements to meet, rapid technology change to keep up – the temptation to become a task oriented manager is really great . Deliver my numbers and all will be well, to the peril of losing the most valued talents in the company because they have not been looked after.

In a recent book entitled “The three signs of a miserable job” by Patrick Lencioni, he outlined the 3 signs as anonymity, irrelevance, and “immeasurement”. Put together, the worker feels that management has little or no interest in them as a human being; takes no interest in their personal lives. They cannot see their job or contribution making a difference to the company, customer, fellow worker or even the manager himself. The third, is where employees cannot access for themselves their contribution and have to rely on subjective opinions of others to gauge their performance. So much for self worth in the work place.

Paying the appropriate attention and showing genuine interest to employees to establish their sense of belonging and self worth has long been studied, since the Industrial Revolution. Enough of the theories….  by why does it still happen? Lencioni suggests 3 root causes –

Many managers think that they are too busy, and suggests that the real reason is these managers see themselves as individual contributors who happen to have direct reports. There’s a lot of truth in this. Many of the candidates we speak to have been promoted to managerial ranks because they have met their sales target or have excelled in managing at a project. Managing people especially knowledge workers, as oppose to task execution, requires a very different skill set. HR plays a key strategic role here in preparing managers to manage.

Managers don’t communicate the concern and feedback performance as they simply forget what it was like before they moved into management. They forget how their previous managers took an interest to them and motivated them to grow into their new role.

The third is that managers failed because they are either too embarrassed or to afraid to try, hounded by the fear that the employees will see them as being manipulative or even hypocritical.

In the midst of our tight schedules, we should take time to evaluate how we are managing the most valuable resources that have be entrusted to us as managers. Human Resource has a invaluable role to ensure that managers who are either promoted because of their performance or have been in management for years are trained and constantly reminded – that they will only do well when their employees do well. In the words of one of my ex-managers at IBM a long time ago..”I will only make my numbers if you make your numbers.”  – communicates my contribution, relevance and measurement.

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