Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When expertise becomes an enemy of quality service 12 – helping good employees with potential to become great employees 8

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 14, 2016

This is my twelfth 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 1-11.)

I began successively discussing a set of personnel policy and practice issues in Part 9, in terms of three business model approaches, as identified by the corporate names:

• The Alpha Company: a mature manufacturing business working in a stable and technologically settled industry,
• The Omega Company: a more fast-paced enterprise that focuses on producing and providing the newest and greatest in a very rapidly evolving high-tech field such as consumer electronics, and
• What for purposes of this discussion is a more middle ground business: the Mesotech Corporation.

And the issues that I have been addressing in this progression of postings are:

• Developing and supporting current employees so they can realize and work up to their true potential (in Part 9.)
• Hiring and how these businesses present themselves as successful places to work (in Part 10.)
• How they each decide to dismiss employees when they do that too, and certainly when non-performance or under-performance are the primary cause for taking that action (in Part 11.)
• How they promote and advance employees who show particular value and potential in that direction.
• And of course, how they set, develop and manage employee enrichment as a part of their overall employee benefits system.

My goal for this posting is to address the last two points of this list: best employee recognition, and employee development and promotion. Those two sides to employee recognition go hand in hand, as effective businesses look for both employee accomplishments achieved, and employee potential that could be developed into new sources of ongoing exemplary performance. In this, recognizing good employees for what they do and can do is both reactive and responsive to the up to now, and proactive in building for a more productive future.

That dual vision approach is the basic one that a company such as Mesotech would follow. If you acknowledge and reward exemplary work performance you build trust and loyalty, and in the employees that your business is most likely going to see as the most important to retain. If you overlook and ignore your best performing employees, that conveys a clear message too – and it is one that if consistently repeated can lead your best employees towards the exit; they are the ones who would find it easier to move on and find new work opportunities where they might be more appreciated and rewarded for what they can do. And this brings me to what might be the most important single point that I could make here in this posting:

• The most important reward that you can offer an exemplary employee is not necessarily a pay raise or extra vacation time off, as much as they can be appreciated. For many, and particularly for employees who work in rapidly changing technology fields, opportunity for professional advancement and the learning of new skills and the securing of new professional certifications can mean more – and longer-term than any additional one-time, extra time away (for example) and even if it is essentially an all expenses paid employee perk (e.g. a few days on a cruise ship to warmer waters in the middle of a cold winter season.)

If a company like Mesotech takes this approach in recognizing exemplary employee performance, how would companies that follow the Alpha and Omega approach respond to this set of challenges? I begin with Alpha and simply note that this is a company that is not likely to see particular value in, or need for more advanced, new skills-oriented training. They are built as a business around skills that their leadership would call traditional, and that others might see more as legacy in nature – and even as technologically obsolete. So if they did decide to support, or require updated training, that would be decided upon and followed through upon as a special case exception. The entire process that entered into this for them, would be more one-off and ad hoc in nature. And this would most likely be reserved for employees and/or managers who hold special long-term relationships with the business and with its owners.

Omega would be much more like Alpha here, than it would be like Mesotech. If it was allowed and supported, employee or manager training support would more likely be be special case exception in nature.

Basic business models and the mind sets that determine them and that drive their execution might not be explicitly framed in anything like personnel policy terms. But they fundamentally shape those policies and how they are carried out, and how their underlying logic would be enforced. And they fundamentally determine when and where and how and for whom, exceptions would be made in those policies and practices as they are put in place.

• Alpha and Omega would in most cases be more likely to offer one-off perks as reward for exemplary work performance if anything, than longer-term training and professional skills and certification support, while Mesotech would lean towards offering both.

Up to here I have focused on the employee training and skills enrichment side of this posting’s discussion. But employee recognition also includes promotions. And this requires two fundamentally distinct criteria being met:

• There has to be a hands-on employee or a manager who shows potential for advancement to a higher level position in the organization, and
• There has to be a vacancy in the organization that this employee could be advanced to fill. This might mean a vacancy in an already existing position in the table of organization, or it might be a new position that would be created as a matter of business growth and expansion.

If both of these criteria were met, then any of the three business types under discussion here would at least significantly likely see reason for offering that promotion, and both to advance their business and its interests and to retain this member of their overall team who has shown such potential. If only the first was met, Mesotech would be more likely than Alpha or Omega, to offer employee enrichment support through continued training. It might also, or alternatively, offer one-time perks. Alpha and Omega would more likely only offer those one-time perks.

• A well-seasoned and thoughtful senior manager at Mesotech, would use this opportunity, absent a position to promote into, to in effect further groom a high potential employee for future promotion and as soon as an appropriate opening became available for that.

If the second criterion was met and there was an opening that an employee could be promoted into, but no one was presenting themselves in-house as a really strong candidate for this, any of these three business would likely consider hiring from the outside to fill it. This brings in “new blood” with new skills and perspectives, which can be a decisive hiring consideration in and of itself, where simply advancing from within can come to be seen as opportunity wasted. Omega, of the three is most likely to see value in bringing in fresh perspectives and new blood in this way, and Alpha is the least likely to even consider this as a source of value.

Any two pairs of company types of the three discussed here would very likely hold some personnel policy and practice features in common and systematically so. And they would differ and even fundamentally so, on others. Over the span of the five bullet pointed issues that I have been discussing here since Part 9 however, each would on the whole present itself has hewing to an overall-unique personnel policy and practice model profile though, that was aligned with the relative uniqueness of their overall business models and the business philosophies that guide them.

I am going to step back from the particulars of this series as I have successively discussed in its first twelve installments, to consider personnel policies as dynamic and at least ideally, coherently and consistently organized operational systems. And as part of that, I will discuss gaps and inconsistencies, how they can and do arise, and their impact and both on a service such as Human Resources itself and on the business as a whole. 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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