“It’s difficult to find good employees.”
Those were the words I’d overheard, spoken by a corporate recruiter as the manager nodded in silent agreement. In the role for which they were hiring, there were once seven employees.
Over time, the number went down to four. Even the most experienced, the superstar, was no longer with the company. Of those that remained, none had even made it to their first year employment anniversary as yet. Looking around at the empty, gray desks, the odds for those still there didn’t seem good.
Everyone wants to be successful at something. Nobody actually wishes to fail, and if there exist any person who wishes to fail, they are the exception. Most employees, if they possess an aptitude for the position for which they were hired, can be successful when coached and fostered properly. The responsibility to ensure a clear path to success is shared equally between manager and employee.
Training is Not the Same as Effective Coaching
Many employers offer paid training these days. The new recruits sit in classrooms or meeting rooms and learn about the technical details of the job for which they’d been hired. Classroom training is beneficial, and sometimes necessary, but it is not always applicable to the the real world and is often led by enthusiastic trainers who won’t be around when the classroom training differs from the real job and its challenges. The rosy picture painted by the trainers can begin to wilt when the reality of the job’s obstacles arise.
Some managers might wonder why a new employee, so excited to join the team, suddenly finds themselves struggling with certain aspects of the job after all the training provided. Notes are taken. Files on the employees are built. Some are dismissed without being given time and coaching to get through the difficult spots. A team of seven becomes four.
Were nearly half of the employees, all of which had gone through rigorous pre-employment screening, not suited to the job? If so, was the screening process broken, or was it the coaching process? Could the employees have prospered if the time taken to make notes and build documentation on performance had been invested in coaching instead? Assuming there is an aptitude, a match, almost every employee can be successful, and most sincerely want to be. Every employee needs coaching, some patient guidance through the challenges which are only glossed over in formal training.
Failure to Trust and Provide Independence
If training is provided, and coaching needs are met as they are discovered, employees still require space to do their job. Nothing can turn a good employee sour more quickly than knowing they aren’t trusted to do their job. Many businesses have internal metrics which are measured, some of which may seem arbitrary to employees, if they even know they are being measured by these metrics. Even if they aren’t aware of the granularity by which their activity is tracked, they are aware they are being watched. A business has a right, and arguably a duty, to monitor performance. However, too often the metrics which are being used aren’t relevant and create inefficiencies.
If there is an easier way to do things, an employee will find it. That doesn’t mean an employee is lazy. It only means they are the ones actually doing the job, and that they might see a more efficient way. This more-efficient way might not match the metrics which the company or manager chooses to measure. In some cases, the employee is often simply in a better position to know what works, despite not being a manager.
Allowing some liberty in certain areas can give employees an enhanced sense of worth. Efficiencies discovered by employees might be something that can be shared, boosting productivity for all and fostering a spirit of camaraderie. The workplace relationship between manager and employee needn’t be quietly adversarial. Managers can choose to build a team by allowing some independence and and investing trust.
Not Providing Enough Support and Encouragement
“If you have any questions, my door is always open.”
New employees might not believe that. Bear in mind that they are new employees for the company but that they likely have past working experience, and that wherever they had worked before, it hadn’t worked out. Assuming the reason for the job change wasn’t about money, location, or life changes, it’s quite possible that it was because a manager had failed them in some way. New employees may seem eager and find a way to smile in meetings, but they might be quietly concerned that it won’t work out at the new job either, that management doesn’t value them, and that one foot might be out the door already.
Small successes by employees need encouragement, even if still not meeting all the goals in the short term. The attitude that the employee is doing what is expected of them is not enough. Success breeds success, they say, and the managers who take that saying to heart are the ones who can build a team which aspires to continued successes. Those are the managers who have can build true loyalty.
I had a manager once who would let me know when I’d made a mistake, and offer to guide me through so that it could be avoided in the future. More importantly, he would take me aside and tell me when I was doing well in the areas in which I was doing well. This made me receptive to any coaching in areas which needed improvement.
Dialogue was genuinely welcomed, sometimes resulting in changes in how we did things, offering new efficiency and better ways to service our customers. I worked for him for 16 years; I stayed, being promoted several times during my employment.
Many businesses throw around catchphrases like, “Our employees are our greatest asset.”
That’s some great stuff, if the company’s management believes it, and acts upon it, if it isn’t just words.
It’s great because it’s true, or because it can be true, with the proper guidance given to the employees. Most people want to be successful in their employment, and assuming a basic aptitude, most people can be.
The aforementioned difficult-to-find good employees are already there, working at their desks, or out on the factory floor, or assisting a customer; they’ve already been found.