I was catching up on things over at the Mind Unbound business blog and found a thought-provoking post on "Not-so-human Resources." The post deals with the mechanization of the Human Resources function in a lot of companies, in the name of efficiency.
This rings true for me. In my past, I spent a lot of time working with HR as I built my teams. Getting their input, helping them "grok" what I wanted my team to feel like, and so forth. The HR folks provided lots of value in hiring and coaching. They also helped talk me through difficult situations. I'm lucky enough to work in a small company now, where I get a lot of this kind of assistance, but in large companies that is harder and harder to come by.
In my last "big" company experience, our company grew to the point where HR was one local person who basically dealt with coordinating insurance forms, paperwork associated with hiring and firing, and proofreading personnel reviews. They didn't feel like a partner any more - just an information desk.
Seems like this phenomenon extends beyond HR, too. How many companies manage Sales people primarily as "quota-carrying heads"? How many treat programmers as "thousands of lines of code"? And I know a guy who refers to employees as BCU's for "basic carbon units." Not so personal.
"Engaged people can provide lots of value beyond their job as depicted on their job descriptions."I think these sorts of impersonal terms are part of the the reason it is becoming easier for companies to outsource and move their human resources out of sight, out of mind. It's easier to do that when people become numbers on a page and dollars in quarterly expense. Don't get me wrong - expenses are important in business, but we are dealing with people and not just their "fully burdened cost."
As managers and coaches, we have an opportunity to temper the depersonalization by making an effort to look beyond job descriptions, units of output, and fully-burdened heads.
Find out what makes your staff tick - what they are good at (and what they aren't), what they aspire to be, and discover how you can help them grow and remain engaged. And engaged people can provide lots of value beyond their job as depicted on their job descriptions. For example, Sales people can be a wealth of real-time competitive and market dynamics information. Software developers can be innovative and cutting edge, leading to market advantages. But they're not likely to do anything above and beyond if they aren't challenged, excited, and engaged.
Treat people right and help them feel connected to the organization as a real team member, and they'll surprise you with what they achieve.
What about you?
- If you're a manager that's cracked the code, what techniques can you share?
- If you're an employee whose manager has made your work worthwhile, what did they do for you?