Developing people that impact your bottom line (in a good way)
Most organizations realize that their employees are the biggest factor in delivering a robust bottom line. You need people out on the front lines interacting with customers in a positive way that builds loyalty or delivers a great product or service. Without those folks, you might as well give up and take up knitting full time. You can’t build a prosperous business without a motivated and prepared team delivering the right results in a timely way. Many organizations think they are on that path. They invest in employee development by sending employees off to some workshops or classes that someone saw in a mailer or heard about from someone else. These workshops or seminars usually last one or two days and are given by some speaker of known—or unknown—repute. The employees return to work afterwards and the workshop may or may not get discussed at the next staff meeting. If you’re a lucky employee, you may even go to a convention in some nice place if you’re chosen by the powers that be. But that’s usually the extent of the process, until the same thing happens next year. Frankly, most of the time it’s a waste of company money! There is a better way to invest in people and at the same time measure the bottom line impact.
High performing organizations know this and that is why they stay high performing over the long run. There are three steps to making this happen in any company and the recipe is simple—though not always the easiest to achieve.
STEP ONE is alignment and commitment to a set of strategic goals and outcomes where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in achieving the plan. From the janitor on up, everyone knows the big picture goal and their individual role in achieving their part of it. When these goals and outcomes are developed in a manner inclusive of input from employees, alignment and commitment occurs naturally.
STEP TWO is a disciplined performance management culture where hard data on progress towards company goals is communicated and apparent at every level. This type of rigorous performance management is one of the biggest opportunities for human resources and accounting. Together they can work as the gas gauge and speedometer of the company, measuring the trajectory toward plans and goals. Too often departments and employees only receive bad news when the journey is off course—or receive data so late or infrequently so as to render it useless (think annual performance reviews). You wouldn’t drive a car five hundred miles and only look at the speedometer and gas gauge once during the trip, yet many organizations act like this. I hear the excuses, “we’re just too busy,” or “we’ve never communicated that,” or “they wouldn’t understand.” Fortunately, there are software performance management tools that help greatly in measuring performance and aligning it to the strategic goals of your company. Halogen software is my favorite, as it is scalable to any organization and is more easily implemented. Success Factors comes in a close second and both have dashboards that allow all managers to see live status of progress on individual and company goals at any level.
STEP THREE can only be achieved after steps one and two are underway. During step two, an organization that is measuring and communicating performance to teams and individuals will begin to see gaps and needs within the company that can increase efficiency and performance. Every team can then look at its individual strengths and needs. Conversations that identify personal development needs start to occur on all levels and development plans that will impact team performance happen. As a result, Individual development plans (IDP) can be formed. Good IDPs have specific goals that are always tied to a clear and concise benefit to the company. They outline competencies and skills needed for an individual to grow and advance and how that will benefit both the company and the person. The best IDPs include hard skills such as “software skills” and soft skills such as “communication and leadership development.” Best practice ties achievement of personal IDP goals directly to compensation. Oftentimes mentors and coaching are involved to support achievement of the IDP.H
Investing in these steps and in the ongoing development of employees results in a culture of disciplined thought, disciplined people, and disciplined action. In the end, that’s what will have the greatest impact on your bottom line.
Kevin M. Dee has a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and is the president of KMD Services & Consulting. He has more than twenty-eight years of experience providing leadership development, organizational development, and human resources services in Alaska and internationally. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.