Sunday, May 23, 2010

Do you REALLY trust your employees?

I read one time that Google (the company) allows full time employees 20% of their week (1 day) to do what they like.

I love that concept – it works on an assumption that workers are adults and trusted. Google clearly believes employees will bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the organisation if they are allowed free time to think creatively. Seems to work pretty well for Google.

Most organisations still don’t recruit for attitude and train for skills. We still look at qualifications and experience as the be all and end all and then say – “We’ll work on their attitude once we’ve got them on board”

Speaking from my experience the challenge is this; how do we get hard-nosed, objective, rational managers who are primarily interested in bottom line stuff to buy into such liberated cultures?

In my own 35 years experience in the National Health Service if I suggested anyone on the payroll should be allowed to spend even 30 minutes a week doing what the hell they like that would probably result in me being referred to the mental health service.

Sad to say we still prefer to chain people (metaphorically) to their desks in far too many organisations and get them to fill in forms for permission to go to the little boys/girls room.

OK, OK …. Slight (ever so slight) exaggeration.

We still operate on the basis ‘If we know where they are, we know they are working’ – that has always been factually incorrect and is a crazy rationale in my opinion. Actually if you manage with that belief the only thing you know for certain is where someone is. I’m sorry but you just DON’T KNOW what OUTCOMES they are CAPABLE of producing simply because you know where they are – that make no sense whatsoever – there is just no positive correlation.

Summary: The best measurement of effectiveness is OUTCOME not hours worked – Simplicity isn’t it?


Tom said...

Spot on Trevor! Create the vision, milestones and measurements and then set people free to bring the idea to life.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Tom - vision, milestones and measurement - presumably that's why and how Google get it right so often. Have a great week.

Kavita said...

Good observation Trevor! Yes, organizations make themselves very restrictive when it comes to a lot of things regarding the employees. Trust is minimal, and the workplace is made very constrained, which prevents people from actually enjoying what they do. Vineet Nayar, in his book ‘Employees First, Customers Second’ has described quite an idealistic work environment which all companies must actually start implementing. He discusses quite a few concepts, the most relevant to what you’ve said being the ‘Trust through Transparency’ principle. Here, he explains that all companies must build an environment of honesty and communication that will increase the level of trust among employees. Another concept, i.e. that of the ‘Inverted Pyramid’, describes how traditional organizational hierarchy must be turned upside down, making employees directly responsible for customers. Thus, the responsibility and level of accountability with the employees is high, which gives them a sense of significance and value in the organization, thus making them work harder towards achieving goals for themselves and the company. This way, the company will get outcomes, and make the most of what they are capable of, and with customer satisfaction being the end product, it will also be a simultaneous measure of effectiveness.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Kavita and welcome to Simplicity blog- glad you could stop by. The trust through transparency and inverted pyramid concepts are brilliant and congrats to Vineet Nayer for publishing these things in a book. I am 100% with him. I’ve argued for many years that the best leaders and managers put their faith in front liners in very visible and tangible ways and that the trust our leaders demonstrate (rather than just say) sets the tone for the entire organisation. I don’t understand why some managers don’t understand.

Steve F said...

And do you trust your employer?

Trevor Gay said...

Great point Steve - As a self employed sole trader with many projects on hte go at any one time I have many employers - most of them I trust - any that I don't, I don't work for again!

Steve F said...

definitely good to have choices like you do trevor but what about people who are employees of companies they don't trust? probably not too many options.
take care.

Trevor Gay said...

Agree again Steve and I fully recognise and appreciate the dilemma when our mortgage depends on earning the money our emplyer pays us! In the end though - for our own mental health I support Tom Peters view -" Life is too short to work with jerks"

Marilyn Jess, DTM said...

Isn't it the manager's job to coach people and then get out of the way so they can use their talent? That isn't so clear in many companies today.

The idea that we lack choices and have to live with mistrust is, I think, plain wrong in many cases. We lack confidence, and the courage to ask for what we need. We sometimes get trapped in roles that don't suit us, such as male "breadwinner."

The best antidote I know to this malaise and unhappiness is action. Tom Peters certainly hit the nail on the head.....our time here is way too short.

Trevor Gay said...

I think you are right Marilyn. I am not talking here about people in very deprived situations who just cannot get out of the situation but for most of us there are ALWAYS options.If we consciously decide to stay in an unhappy place in our work then we are complicit in the culture. I’m not pretending it’s an easy option to just simply leave a secure and well paid job because there will always be anxiety about that. But in my working life where it has appeared risky to jump off has always ended with a comfortable landing. Taking the risk might seem a huge step but I'd rather be poor and happy than be well off and miserable.

Mark JF said...

I broadly agree with the point about outcomes but it's also the nub of the problem: what is the desired outcome and how do you guage who had what impact?

Many managers and, I suspect, many staff are happy to operate a culture of 'presenteeism' (i.e. people physically being present at work) because it creates an illusion of endeavour. It thus saves the manager the strain of actually having to think about a) what is really required and b) who will do it. Or even - whisper it quietly - talking to the staff about outcomes and how to achieve them. This in turn means not having to think about about whether s/he's got enough / too many of the wrong / right people with the appropriate resources. (And in turn, on having to act on these thoughts.) It also saves the staff the tedium of actually having to deliver against stated objectives.

Also, let's not forget that there are plenty of jobs where presenteeism is absolutely necesary. Next time you dial 999 / 911 you'll probably want the call answered quickly. And someone present when you buy milk and eggs next Tuesday. And someone to operate the turnstiles when you troop into Old Trafford to watch Man Utd continue their descent into towards once great status!

So, it might sound simple and I broadly agree with you - but I don't think it's nearly as easy as you make out. In fact, I think it's quite difficult because it's really about profesionalising the enire management cadre and not just a part of it.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Mark – I’m with you totally about the need to ‘be there’ in certain jobs. I should have made that clearer. Of course we need people ‘there’ in the emergency services and we also need people ‘there’ when people are clearly required to deal with our customers. As a manager during my career, I’ve always found the best way to handle that requirement is to agree through discussion with the team how many people are needed to ‘be there.’ Then we can leave it to the team to sort it out between them about who needs to ‘be there’ at what times. People are sensible and far more capable than many managers believe.

Managers really do have to let go and trust front liners. The reality is that front liners know all about this. We as managers just need to put some stakes in the ground about boundaries and then leave it to the people doing the work. They know how to do it. (I see it as similar to the things we do as parents)

By the way Mark - far from laying off turnstile attendants we will be recruiting more and more of them at Old Trafford in coming years as our massive trophy count continues to far outstrip all other pretender ‘Johnny come lately’ money-driven clubs such as Chelsea and Man City who have no history of success when compared with my beloved Reds.

As the old saying goes “form is temporary – class is permanent” my friend :- )

J.KANNAN said...

I do "Trust my employees" for simple reason If I don't ther's every possibility for me to become "Rust" and I don't intend it.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks JK - Indeed my friend - a rusty boss is no good for anyone :-)