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Monday, May 05, 2008

Expectations

Many of the problems we deal with in Human Resources stem from managers being unable to solve problems in their departments.

Now, I know full well that those non-management types aren't perfect little angels either. They cause the problems in the first place. (Or rather, it's a joint effort between everyone--it's one of the few things you can count on for a united team.)

I don't know why we HR types are surprised. After all, do we give clear expectations on what managing people, or working in a particular environment should be like?

The Voice of San Diego reports on a school that has had great success--by setting standards and expecting students to meet them. Except, they didn't just say "here are behavioral standards, meet them," they explicitly taught the students how to do so.
"Schools assume that a student will come in, and just know what to do," school psychologist Steve Franklin said. "At Webster, teaching a student how to be a student is really important. We don't expect them to already know how to read, to do math or write. So why aren't we teaching these things, too?"

Why aren't we doing the same thing? Oh, because we're so busy running the business, right? (Stop snorting you non-hr types, we really do care about the business.)

Or, more realistically, we're solving the crises that come up. What if we explicitly taught managers what we expected of them? What if we taught employees how to be an employee at "x" company? I know, that would spoil all the creativity.

Hogwash. Once you know the rules and the norms, then you can make informed decisions on if you wish to deviate from them. If you don't know, then you're just guessing and making uninformed or ill-informed decisions.

If we're concerned about the business, consider the success of this school:
Webster has seen suspensions plummet and test scores surge since instilling the Webster Way. Only 10 students were suspended last year. Test scores ranked Webster in the top echelon of demographically similar schools statewide.

Wouldn't we want that for our companies? Wouldn't we want the business equivalent--profits to soar, turnover to plummet? (Voluntary and involuntary--I hate it when companies only look at voluntary turnover. High involuntary turnover means you have bad hiring practices, bad management practices, bad training, bad succession planning or a combination of any or all of those.)

Sure it takes effort and getting management on board may be difficult. After all, if the senior manager didn't know how to manage, he certainly wouldn't be in the position of power, right? (Please control your guffaws, this is business.) What mistakes are your managers making repeatedly? How many layoffs have you done lately? How many grown-up versions of suspensions and expulsions? How many complaints have you had?

(Via Joanne Jacobs)

4 comments:

Surya said...

High involuntary turnover means you have bad hiring practices, bad management practices, bad training, bad succession planning or a combination of any or all of those.

Love the statement!

Andrea said...

Cheer!!

I also think lots of people get stuck on HOW to teach employees to be employees and managers to be managers. It's kind of a scary step to be the one who says 'ok, this is what you need to learn' to everyone. Which is why I'm actually a huge fan of coaching. Then I know such training is specific to me, and done by someone I tend to like and trust.

But the idea that no student knows how to be a student until we teach them is genius, and I agree with you, very translatable to the grown up work world. :D

Generalist not previously classified as Evil said...

"Once you know the rules and the norms, then you can make informed decisions on if you wish to deviate from them. If you don't know, then you're just guessing and making uninformed or ill-informed decisions"

YES YES YES! I tell my managers this every day.

Dave Ferguson said...

A few mantras from the performance-improvement world that you can easily modify for supervision and management:

Talking isn't training.
Listening isn't learning.
"They really oughta wanna" is a sign you don't know what you're doing.

And here's a four-page article that summarizes Thomas Gilbert's approach to dealing with on-the-job performance problems:

Managing and Motivating People

If you don't want to click the link: the #1 mistake is not providing information that people need to perform well.

#2? Inappropriate tools for people.

#3 is poor incentives. (They've got this figures out at the CEO level, at least for fellow CEOs.)

#4 is poor training.

What that means is you can't sensibly train your way out of a problem caused by crappy performance standards, lack of useful feedback, absence of meaningful guidance, harebrained processes, or having third-generation family members run the business.