There is a war on and you are in it. You may not know it. You may not acknowledge it. But the fact remains that you are at war.
No, you are not inadvertently in Iraq – trust me, that is an experience you will feel – nor are you participating in the game show Survivor nor am I referring to the business battles you are engaged in at any given time. You, as the leader of the IT pack, are in the war for talent. Good leaders recognize that they are only as good as their team. To be precise, they are only as good as their weakest team member, aka the weakest link.
The war is on and it is perpetual no matter what data point to subscribe to. Official unemployment numbers are a joke. For starters they are based on a survey – yes a survey! – not actual numbers. And then, they are massaged to provide whatever it is the government in office want them to say. Then there are a bevy of surveys and research reports that highlight everything from the overall job demand to job growth in specific industry sectors specific job function’s prognosis for the near future. Individually and collectively, they are as useful as Colin Powell’s presentation of “facts” to the UN on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program – you can use it to make an argument completely devoid of reality but you cannot take meaningful decisions based upon this data. Indeed, extending the analogy, to the contrary, you might find yourself in Iraq. For those of you who are still wondering whether that is a good or a bad thing – please book yourself a flight there and make up your mind yourself.
One common mistake is to use words to win this war. “We have a performance based culture,” “we are a people driven company,” “we value our employees,” “we refer to our people as associates not employees,” blah, blah, blah! The bad news is that when it matters most, people cut through the noise. For an employee who spends a major part of their waking hours at work and whose entire existence depends on that paycheck and whose sense of being is driven by that position, it matters most what happens at work!
It matters to employees how they are treated. Good employees have options that they are not afraid to exercise. That leaves you with two options: ignore this fact and have an “I am here because I have nowhere else to go” team or embrace this fact and take action to build an “I am here because this is the place I’d rather be” team.
Unfortunately, there are many leaders who have opted for option 1. Good for them. If you want to opt for option 2, then there is work to be done. This work starts with who you are but covers every aspect of your interaction with your team. This seems like a lot of work and it is. However, the rewards are exponentially more than that.
We are not going to be able to cover all aspects of the topic in this article, but I wanted to highlight the topic and touch upon one key issue: employee management and specifically, performance evaluation.
Performance evaluation is a critical process that we seem to ignore. First, we treat is as a point in time event not a process that it is. Then, it is that painful event that comes once or maybe twice a year that most leaders take with the same alacrity as their semi annual visit to the dentist – necessary but can’t wait for it to be over!
A performance evaluation is the most important interaction that a leader has with their team members. It says more about you than any number of words you chose to use. It tells the employee if they are a cog in the wheel or if they really matter. It tells them an even more important thing: is the process fair. The answer to this simple question is what gives them hope.
It is hope that drives the actions of individuals. Presence of hope makes them ignore temporary setbacks as a blip on the radar in the overall flight with the company. Hopeful employees will ignore that less than stellar raise as something that they need to do for the company that year - in the hope that this patience and sacrifice will be rewarded soon. Absence of hope leads to despair and then desperation. No matter what the raise, they are there temporarily because they do not see a place for themselves in the long term picture. The only thing keeping them from leaving is the immediate availability of an alternative. The clock is ticking and it is only a matter of time before they leave.
The attached article talks about online performance evaluation software. Agreed, that is a step in the right direction. However, that is not enough. The person entering the data is still you. The person delivering the message is still you. The person managing the process is still you.
So, by all means, use the system but remember, it is you who has to make it work! (and the pun is intended!)
Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit http://www.startsmarts.com/. Or feel free to contact Sourabh at Sourabh.Hajela@StartSmartS.com