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Sunday, May 20, 2007

How Driven are Your Employees?

I hired Jenny (not her real name) because I got impressed by the way she carried herself during interview. She was smart, poised and eloquent. She had an impressive resume for a fresh graduate. Dean’s lister and a consistent scholar. I told my self, that it takes a pretty determined person to achieve what she did, so among the number of candidates that I have in my shortlist, she was an easy choice. I hired her.

I was wrong. Jenny did not have the motivation to succeed in HR. I thought good grades and personality is enough to ensure that I will have a hardworking staff who is driven to succeed me sometime in the future. Jenny had a totally different motivation. She took Psychology because she wanted to be a doctor, but because her family cannot afford it at the moment, she had to apply for the job I was offering to while away the time as she waited for the opportunity to study and become a medical doctor. She was also excited to get married. Her boyfriend swept her off her feet and she couldn’t wait for him to marry her. As a result, Jenny fared poorly in her performance, she hardly wants to learn anything, and prefer to do the mundane easy to do tasks. She left before I even had a chance to evaluate her performance which would probably have led to me terminating her employment.

Ronel (not his real name as well) Is also quite smart. Graduated cum laude and was taking up a masters degree in Industrial psychology in a very reputable school here in the Philippines. When I hired him, he already had considerable experience in HR. I gave him a supervisory position. He did quite well at the start but his good performance was short-lived like a brush fire. He ran out of steam quite quickly. Why? Because he didn’t know what he really wanted. There were times when he wondered if he was on the right track. He thought about shifting careers, moving to a call center and becoming a call center agent as there maybe better opportunities for him there or become an IT professional because he is also interested in that field. He left my company and worked as an IT professional. I met him a couple of months ago and heard that he is still unclear about where he wants to be.

There are several Jennies and Ronels in your company. My rough estimate is that they are a majority. They turn in mediocre work, constantly exploring for better opportunities, shying away from tasks that will require them to learn new things about their work and think that you are paying for their time rather than the results they are supposed to deliver. They are not driven to succeed because they are unclear about the idea of success in your company. They maybe seeing your company as a halfway house for their dream careers or they totally don’t know where to lead their professional lives to. Having employees who are not driven to succeed impacts on the company’s performance. Having highly motivated and self-driven employees on the other hand is a joy and an almost certainty of organizational success. If I say that the poorly motivated outnumber the driven employees, what can we do to turn the tide? We need an intervention that starts from screening to ensure job fit and motivation to succeed to providing the necessary training and motivation to those who are already in.

There are now a number of products that can help companies improve the accuracy of pinpointing the ideal candidate from a pool of applicants. Some of these products are pricey but hey, do you realize the cost of a wrong hire?

There are a number of available programs that help employees become more self aware. Programs that help them realize what they really want in their lives and help them build a roadmap towards their goals. 7 Habits by Stephen Covey is a good one, there are a number of others. I have my own Personal Effectiveness Workshop too! (call me at 639205044521 if you want to see the course design) None of these guarantee a 100% turnaround though. The personality of the person is a major factor in the success or failure of the process. I believe however that programs like this, can help those who are smart and well intentioned but clueless about what they want to become and what role their being in your company play in their career success.

Hiring people who are not only suited but highly driven to succeed in the job and trained to succeed, in the job also need the support and guidance of their superiors. Coaching and mentoring play a very important role in this. As supervisors or managers, we should be able to include in our plans regular discussion with the employees regarding their careers. Are they getting the support they need in order to succeed? I’d rather hear this from them in one of our regular talks than during exit interviews. Know what I mean?

Next post: HR Managers Should Learn How to Sell

Watch out for it!

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