Getting More From Your Staff
All organisations try very hard to set up operational systems and procedures that will maximise output and deliver (hopefully) continual efficiencies. The one thing that no organisation can control, programme or ultimately rely upon are its human resources. People cannot be programmed to turn up, work hard and be dedicated and conscientious all of the time.
It’s not surprising that managers try to improve productivity and employee effectiveness by exhorting staff to “try harder”, or to make more of an effort in their jobs. It’s a natural human tendency to assume that the simple act of trying harder will result in better results, but more times than not, the assumption is incorrect.
In our often Western dominated organizational thinking, we attribute a lot of employee success (and our own success) to “trying harder”, or “working harder”. This assumption about the relationship of effort to effectiveness is often incorrect, since there are many more powerful forced that influence results. It is really tempting to argue that if we push staff to work harder better results will follow. There is no point in working harder, whatever that might actually mean, if there are barriers in the way to better performance. A lack of effort and application is not the issue here! Output is influenced more by employee skills, ability and understanding of the job at hand.
Even if we can be sure that a lack of application, desire or effort is the root cause of low productivity how this is handled can deliver even lower performance – any communication here needs to tread a very fine line between being motivational and pointing out where things can be done “better”. The danger of a serious backfire here is very real.
What makes this even worse is that blaming poor or unreliable staff is the domain of the ineffective and uncommitted manager who seeks to hide behind others rather than face up to their responsibilities and failings.
Poor show indeed!
A more intelligent and respected approach is to consider the issues at play here, diagnose the real problems and to introduce real, effective solutions.
Avoiding making a plea to “work harder please!”
- Asking your staff to just “work harder” needs to be very much the line of last resort and as such should only be used very sparingly indeed. It should never be used rather than looking into what barriers are stopping the production outputs we want to see.
- Asking for greater effort can be effective when your team are already highly motivated and committed to the cause. This will need to be wrapped around a highly motivational which draws upon the passion and dedication of the staff that are loyal to either you, the organisation or preferably both! Gather the staff around your Standard (as in Roman army times) and push on.
- A plea for greater effort made to unhappy, or otherwise motivationally impaired employees will not work. Ever. This needs to be the domain of a crisp performance management based approach that includes a progressive discipline process.
- Better to focus your full attention on the identification of real barriers to performance, and addressing and removing those barriers, rather than attempts to “motivate”. Avoid at all costs the shoulder-sloping technique of blaming others and getting those not involved in that task doing it badly for you.
- Lead from the front – set a positive example in terms of effort and output; this is a basic role of a manager so make sure that you do this consistently and, very importantly, visibly. Employees take their cues from their leaders and managers.
- Employees will work harder, and exhibit more commitment when they feel they are part of the decision-making process, feel consulted and valued, and sense that the manager is on their side. No exhortation will work without these.
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