Jo Geraghty


Caring for the 80%

Date added: 16th Apr 2015
Category: Employee Engagement

What are you going to write on your employees’ reports this year? Perhaps the reports should be less about their behaviour and more about what you have done to enthuse and to empower them to do a great job throughout the year.

It’s reporting time and you’ve got to come up with something to say about everyone on your team.  Some are easy; the ones who are outgoing and noisy, the people who make sure that everyone knows everything which they have achieved on an ongoing basis, even if it’s nothing exceptional.  You know what they have done, or have claimed to have done, because they have made sure that you and everyone else in the team knows.

Then there are those who quite simply haven’t matched up to early promise.  These are the people who you have had to work with and counsel on an ongoing basis.  Through carelessness or simply because they just are not up to the demands of the work; these individuals are already well in your sights and you know what you are going to write because you have been discussing progress with them throughout the year.

What’s left?  Oh yes; the 80% of people who are quiet, keep their heads down and just get on with things.  You assume they are doing a reasonable job because no major disasters have come to light but you also assume that they’ve done nothing exceptional because they haven’t boasted about it.

How wrong you may be!  Yes, it is true that probably the majority of them are plodding along getting things done but are they really doing the best they can for the organisation?  They may be struggling but are afraid to admit it; they may be perfectly capable of doing more but don’t know how to ask; they may be disengaged, cruising the 9-5 route without ever testing their capabilities; or they may be cutting corners, fudging results in an attempt to keep up with a workload that they can’t manage.

These then are the shy, the quiet, the devious and the plain normal people who make up the majority of your team.  So what have you done for them in the past year?  Have you had regular meetings with them, encouraged and supported them and overseen their output?  Or have you concentrated on those who cry out for attention, leaving everyone else to get on with things in the best way they can?  In expending up to 100% of your effort on the 20% who demand it, are you therefore throwing away a huge untapped potential resource?  Perhaps in your review for these people you should concentrate less on ‘what can I write’ and more about ‘what can I do to help this person succeed.’

More worryingly, a few years down the line are you laying yourself open to changes of ‘not knowing or overseeing’ when the backwash from those who have been fudging workloads finally hits home.  The failings don’t even have to be as headline-provoking as the Clydesdale Bank of whom the FCA, commenting on “serious failings in PPI complaint handling”, said that “these practices were not known to or authorised by Clydesdale’s PPI leadership team or more senior management.”

Individually even small failings can mount up.  The time when someone promises a return call but fails to pick up the phone; the time when a complaint is filed as resolved simply because the complainant has not followed it up; the time when an order is not fulfilled because of time pressures.  Whatever the reason, however minor the fault seems at the time, it can lead to a pattern of failings which could damage the business, its reputation and its profitability.

We’re not suggesting here that employees should be micro-managed; on the contrary, instilling an empowered culture in which employees are encouraged to take the initiative and create solutions can be a very strong route towards success.  But this only works when it runs in tandem with a strong emphasis on care and doing things right and when the leadership at all levels keeps abreast of the ongoing workflow patterns within the organisation.  Empowering employees doesn’t equate to ignoring employees and those who step too far back can be unwittingly stepping into trouble.

What are you going to write on your employees’ reports this year?  Perhaps the reports should be less about their behaviour and more about what you have done to enthuse and to empower them to do a great job throughout the year.

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