What people managers do? A Great Place to Work Institute Series
Great managers understand that people want to be inspired, have meaning and a larger purpose
In my last article, I referred to a term we call “Giftwork®” - an interaction in the workplace where an employee gives more than is expected or required for the sake of the organization or the relationship. When you do more Giftwork®, you increase the level of trust, which is the foundation of creating a great workplace.
Trust has direct business benefits. In a recent blog, Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, quotes the seminal research done by Alex Edmans of The Wharton School to establish how the firm value is directly correlated with being a great workplace. If you type ‘trust and business results’ in Google, you will get 27 times more hits than ‘employee engagement and business results’. Indeed, engagement, like Giftwork®, can only happen in an environment of trust.
Whom do you trust in an organization? You trust the people you work for, be it the owner or CEO of your company, or your immediate manager. In fact, the immediate manager can do more to build trust in his or her workplace than human resource policies.
Challenges faced by people managers
The challenges are manifold and operate at various levels. Over 75 percent of employees in corporate India today are less than 35 years of age. One third of them are less than 25 years in age and many became people managers at an early age. In the focus group discussions done by us, many managers especially in knowledge based industries, report that “people issues just fall off the agenda”. Most managers state that 70 percent of their time is directly chargeable to clients, which leaves very little for planning, let alone people issues. The challenge for frontline and middle level people managers is to balance multiple expectations from their juniors as well as senior colleagues.
What can people managers do?
The fifteen areas that shape and impact employee perception throughout their lifecycle and each one being impacted by the people manager are:
HIRING – Focus on hiring for potential, culture fit, character of the person, rather than primarily on skill set. Ajuba, an ITeS company, trains managers in behavioral event interviews, candidate psychology and Ajuba brand building!
WELCOMING – Welcoming new employees and working to assimilate them into the team with orientation programs is important. Once a candidate accepts an offer made by Qualcomm, she receives a call within 24 hours from her manager congratulating her and welcoming her to the team.
INSPIRING – Great managers understand that people want to be inspired, have meaning and a larger purpose. Helping employees learn and understand how their job has meaning to the company and the society is important. Nike has a number of senior executives who spend time serving as "corporate storytellers" explaining the company's heritage to everyone at Nike.
SPEAKING – Great managers recognise the need for people to know what is happening or likely to happen. The Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, sends out the company’s business strategy at the beginning of the year. He also distributes the quarterly business review letter that Larry Page, the CEO, submits to Google’s Board of Directors to Googlers worldwide.
LISTENING – People want to be listened to! Open systems that provide ready accessibility to leaders for listening to employees to incorporate their ideas and suggestions, is essential. After studying their most successful people managers, Google identified the ability to foster transparency, share information and listen, as key behaviors possessed by the most effective managers. The findings were shared globally for training all managers on these practices through Managing@Google initiative.
COLLABORATING – Leaders must solicit suggestions and systems that enable employees to provide opinions and inputs on decisions that impact their jobs and lives. Managers at MakeMyTrip conduct a fortnightly meeting for sharing of ideas for business development.
REDRESSING – People clearly seek justice! There must be systems where employees can seek effective redressal for what they consider an unacceptable workplace situation.
THANKING – Great managers understand the need for people to be appreciated. The recognition website at Qualcomm provides employees a centralized place to learn key tips about the power of recognition, and find links to all recognition tools, guides for presenting awards and links to the courses given through Qualcomm’s Learning Center that are related to employee recognition.
DEVELOPING – Focusing on nurturing individuals’ gifts to foster personal growth and development as well as offering on-the-job training as people want to constantly learn, be relevant and grow!
BALANCING – Responding to people’s needs to balance their work with their personal lives and family obligations. Managers at LG Electronics are encouraged to have a one-on-one dialogue if someone works more than their official hours for 4 days a month or more.
SUPPORTING – Helping employees in need to cope with family/personal crises. Support systems to show care to people when in they are in difficulty!
INCLUDING – Racial/diversity issues are regularly discussed at manager and crew meetings at McDonald’s, which has a policy of creating a “bullyproof” environment. Great managers recognise that people want to be accepted and valued for what they are, not discriminated!
CELEBRATING – Great managers ensure that celebrating both personal and professional milestones are built into the way people work together, and encourage an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie with unique and distinctive events.
REWARDING – People want to be fairly and adequately rewarded for their abilities, efforts and contribution. Great managers lead by example where during the downturn, they offer to cut their own pay first before asking others to sacrifice. Managers in Google and Intel can give peer bonuses and kudos any number of times to their colleagues and team members.
CONTRIBUTING – Involving employees in the efforts of the company to give back to the community/society (CSR) – people want to give back to society!
There is a repertoire of practices that a people manager can use in any of these 15 areas. As a leader or human resource architect in your organization, the key question to ask is how you are enabling the people manager to practice giftwork in any of the above areas.