If our clients sit thousands of miles away and are comfortable giving us business, why can't we have the same faith in our employees?
I had just come out of a marathon session where I was discussing the importance of employee feedback with one of the leaders I coach.
This leader’s opinion was that it is all the same…some are happy, some are not...some don’t like the coffee we serve and others want better transport. But resoundingly clear is that ALL employees unite on two subjects... salary (they weren’t getting enough) and management (they weren’t seeing enough of us).
Now, the 1st is no shocker... no one is happy with their salary. But the 2nd... didn’t he do quarterly town halls, do skip levels, have monthly team meetings and mid-year and annual appraisals? How much more of “management” did they want to see??? And what did they want him to talk about??? This was not uncommon in other employee surveys that I had seen in my organization as well as others I had discussed with colleagues.
Now a man on a mission, I went out in search of answers. I started noticing peoples’ behavior when I walked through corporate offices, both in my own organization as well as during client visits, vendor meetings and the lot.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of my “ivory tower” was that there was no homogeny in the groups I saw… some were freshers, while some had years of experience. Some were formally dressed, others looked like they just rolled out of bed. Some were more than willing to approach me and share their thoughts, others made it a point to stare only at their computer screens and not move.
So how is it that all of them wanted the same thing? Well, I got my answer when I caught one of them updating their Facebook page while I was walking by with our client escorts in one of the offices… his status update- “Sr. guyz strolling the halls…time to work”. A few steps more, and I saw another employee on Twitter…her tweet “just finished 1-on-1. 3 mths later he tells me that I got the proj scope wrong!!”
That is when it hit. Our people had changed, our times had changed, but our methods of managing were still stuck in the dark ages! The advent of social media – the Twitters, Fbs, LinkedIns and the others, has unleashed a dormant need in all of us. To be heard and acknowledged instantly! It is now possible to instantly update the world on what is going on, trivial or not. And if it is possible in my personal life, why not in my professional life? And because our updates and feedback have such a delay, it is becoming irrelevant to the recipients.
Here is what I learnt during my short expedition…
Be instant – Don’t wait till next week’s team meeting to make a big deal about what I did well today. How? Set up a virtual group on Fb or Yahoo groups where you can send quick updates and callouts. It accomplishes the requirement, saves time and is captured in perpetuity through archives.
Cater to attention seeking, but be mindful of attention span. What do I mean by this? Simple – Now that everyone knows that instant communication is possible, everyone will expect it. So be active. Set up space for the team, encourage interaction on the site. Make sure you connect at least 5 times a day. But don’t use the space as your private pulpit. Keep your messages short and to the point. There is a reason Twitter has a “character” limit and not a word limit. Today’s communication needs to be brief. If you can’t express it in 15 words or less, it’s not worth it!
Relevance is immaterial – Well, not entirely... but in today’s world, a quick response many a times outweighs a relevant response. So, think twice if it will take time to build a case for something or phrase the communication just right. It may just be more important to be heard, chances are someone is already firing away at the keypad, doing your messaging without you.
The other thing I realized was, while we have all these innovative media with us, we are not using them to their potential. There is still a mental block against virtual collaboration. Why should I need someone to clock in at 9 am and clock out at 6 pm? Why do I need to pay real estate cost for a seat allocation, when I work with my team on emails anyhow?
In a recent interview, I met a very qualified and energetic young man who we were looking to hire for one of our business units. He had all the right attributes except that he stated, quite matter-of-factly, that he could not be a 9 to 6 jockey. He would work hard, achieve results but could not be constrained to a desk job (another new fad I have seen...people are very open and unabashed in their constraints…issues that we would have skirted earlier for fear of losing our job, were now addressed in the open). He needed his own environment where he could ideate, create and collaborate with the full power of the ‘net’.
Now, if our clients sit thousands of miles away and are comfortable giving us business, why can’t we have the same faith in our employees? Virtual groups, closed networks and the rest make it incredibly convenient to be “plugged in”.
There are other benefits to using social media of course at the individual level. Previously, where knowledge was key and established corporations held the key to such knowledge, today, information is easily available. Take for example “orphaned diseases”... haven’t heard this term before? Here is what it means...
We all have heard of pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis. These are diseases that plague many and have countless NGOs and private beneficiaries funding research to cure them. But have you ever heard of ACTH deficiency or fatal familial insomnia? These are also life threatening diseases, but the difference is that the populations affected by them are fewer in number and far apart. Such diseases were previously ignored as pharma companies could not afford to invest in R&D for them. Questions like, “how would we find these populations” and “how would we sell to them” were disabling factors. Now, with the advent of social media…these questions no longer pose a hindrance. The world has become smaller, or more accurately, connected. Are you?
Elango R, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS and author of the book “You Don’t Need a Godfather”. You can read his blog on www.ElangoR.com and follow him on Twitter @agastyasays