Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When expertise becomes an enemy of quality service 6 – helping good employees with potential to become great employees 2

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 22, 2015

This is my sixth installment to a series on expertise, and on what an employee or manager needs to bring along with it, if it is to offer real value and either to themselves or to the business they work for (see my supplemental postings section at the end of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 69 and following, for Parts 1-5.)

And I begin this series installment by repeating a point that I made in Part 5:

• Employees who lack management skills, but who have potential and interest in that direction can often and even usually be trained for this level and type of work. But at least as importantly and with wider overall need, employees with weak interpersonal and communications skills can be helped to do better there too. And in fact this can make them more effective and more valuable to the organization and to themselves too, by making it easier for them to apply their more technical skills in ways that really matter and that would create more sustaining overall value.

Most businesses offer their employees at least some opportunity to further develop and enhance their more technical hands-on skills. And they offer incentive to self-improvement of this type even if they do not offer direct monetary support for continued education and training, and by treating this as a positive in employee performance reviews if nothing else.

Many businesses, and certainly larger ones actively work with employees and with lower level managers who show promise for their potential higher up the table of organization, to learn more effective management skills. I have worked with a number of businesses that have pursued this approach and with a number of colleagues who have specifically benefited from it, and from work schedule accommodation if not direct financial support, and even for their obtaining an advanced degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Very few businesses actively work with their hands-on employees or managers who have technical and other skills and experience that are needed, but who have gaps and problems with their communications or interpersonal skills. Businesses in general do not help employees who are problematical in this way to learn to do this better, and turn around their performance and even if their hands-on specialty skills are exemplary and essential. And this brings me to the “discuss next” note that I appended to the end of Part 6 of this series where I stated that I would:

• “Focus on active engagement and the importance of looking for opportunity to create value, and on facilitating that in the workplace” and through soft skills employee development and improvement.

What is active engagement in this context? It begins by rethinking the hands-on employee and manager, viewing them and considering them more as complete individuals than just as skill sets and performance points on some evaluation chart. And it begins by thinking of their performance as coming from complete and even very complex individuals, and about how they contribute to the organization, or fail to do so as such.

When a supervising manager thinks about and works with the people who report to them as complete people, and not simply in terms of how they do or do not meet specific here-and-now task requirements, two things happen:

• They of necessity begin to think and plan longer-term for what the members of their team can and will do – taking off what can be timeframe-limited blinders from doing this, and
• They of necessity begin to think and plan in terms of wider contexts, for how these people who report to them perform at work, and interact with others there. And as a core element to that they begin to think more widely about where real value can be created, and both for their business, and yes for their own team in it and for themselves as the person responsible for their team’s overall performance.

I am writing here about active engagement from a supervisor’s perspective. And this is where Human Resources can and should enter this narrative too. Human Resources is the service that is best positioned for offering supervisors at all levels on the table of organization, the tools and resources that they need if they are to take an active engagement approach in working with and managing the people who report to them. And HR is also in most cases going to be the best positioned service in a business organization to provide third party mediation and support if and when that becomes needed too, in for example negotiating when and how best to provide soft-skills training and guidance where that could turn around correctable problem situations.

• Human Resources and HR policy can develop and provide standardized, vetted, and even routine guidelines and support here, removing any stigma or stress that would arise if the people involved in this type of challenge were to see themselves as being dealt with as exceptions and as problematical ones.

When working on and improving soft people skills is viewed in essentially the same way as working on and improving more technical or managerial skills and as a path to becoming more valuable to the business, and as a path to advancement there, everyone there comes to see this as a positive to be sought out. And the entire business as an organization, and as a place of work improves as a result.

I am going to continue this posting’s discussion, and the flow of discussion that I have been developing throughout this series up to here in a next installment, from the perspective of how all of this applies to rapidly developing, innovation-driven industries and marketplaces, and as a means of creating longer-term sustaining value in that context. As a part of that, I will also discuss the issues of “correctable” in the context of communications and interpersonal skills challenges and how these issues can and do raise risk management concerns.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 (with this included as a supplemental posting there) and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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