Author: Coach Cindy

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In a recent survey, I asked 200 employees their thoughts about several subjects I write about in this blog.  One question was: “What advice would you give your CEO that you think he/she needs to ‘GET’ about what’s needed in your company?”

The following is a response from an employee that, in my experience, is representative of one who could be in ANY company. “They (Executives) should walk a day or two in each job under their management. Then they should ‘interview’ each employee holding that position to learn about the job responsibilities, their individual skills and experience — and their untapped talent.” I have heard the spirit of the underlying message here in different ways hundreds of times in my career.  SIMPLE TRUTH #7: People want to use their talents in challenging work.

Suppose for moment, that each individual who works in your company wants to live their life purpose by using their core talents. Now, multiply this example by the number of employees you have. That number is the amount of people who come to work – every day – wanting to use what they know.  People are yearning to contribute, to bring their whole person (e.g. the cumulative of their experiences) to their work and apply it, yet many managers ignore, or overlook many of the talents their people have.

I have listened to hundreds of departing employees as they exit the companies I’ve worked for. They described how their manager was too busy to meet with them. They were miserable in their jobs and had decided to leave because they felt underutilized or misunderstood (because their job duties weren’t in line with their talent), while others were just flat out, intellectually BORED.

Here one cause of how this happens.  A job becomes vacant, the manager pulls a job description of last employee in the job.  They mentally scan their team thinking about the jobs and skills they have and assume no one is qualified for the role, so they post the ‘old’ job.  They proceed to hire a new person, expecting them to perform according to the job description – nothing more, nothing less. The new hire is put in an imaginary “job box” and any skills he/she has beyond that are wasted.

At one tech start-up I worked in, the executive team was going out for its third round of financing.  Ten of the first thirty employees had previously owned businesses and most of those ten had experience raising millions of dollars from investors.  Even though the company employed people with direct experience raising large amounts of capital, the CEO and other executives never asked for input from their employees.  The team assumed they didn’t have the talent they needed and hired an expensive consulting firm instead.

“Why didn’t they use the talent they had right there in the company” you ask?  Because THEY DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS THERE!  Every day, this scenario happens in companies and I believe they are missing out on huge opportunities because they don’t know the full scope of the talents and experiences they have within.  And while there are currently no effective management tools that enable managers and companies to comprehensively inventory their employees’ talents – EVERY company should take time to solicit this valuable information.

I have seen companies attempt to collect information about their talent by pulling resumes from their ATS (applicant tracking systems) into their performance management systems and having employees add their education and training to a profile of some kind.  But, resume databases are worthless.  Resumes are marketing tools.  They do not reflect the sum total of a person’s talent, skills and experiences.  And the data in resumes is not always factually accurate.

What I am talking about, is the fact that managers need to take the time to create a comprehensive inventory of each employee’s work history, experience, skills and education.  In addition, pull the results of any pre-employment psychological assessment taken by the employee that provide a picture of disposition, personality strengths and weaknesses. And until the day comes when this type of knowledge management technology exists, I recommend managers do yourself a favor.  Simply: Get to know your people.  Although you hire from a resume and interview notes, you do not know what someone knows when you hire them.  Unless you spend time asking your people about their work (and life) experiences, and the skills they have and would like to use – you waste a decent percentage of what you are paying for in the talent you hire.

People want to work for managers who show interest in them and who help them use more of their talents in their work.  When that doesn’t happen, engagement declines and talented people withdraw.  They eventually do just enough to appear they are doing their job while they look for a new one, or they buy time until they retire.  Your company has been losing hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars a year paying employee salaries while using only a fraction of their talent.  Knowing your people and using ALL their talents is a WIN-WIN.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

As leaders communicating all types of information to your organization, please know your people, in return, want to communicate with you. They want to give you input and feedback based on their perspectives. However, in order to have the ongoing dialogue your employees expect, you need to be receptive to hearing what they have to say and be prepared to make behavioral or operational changes needed to address their concerns.  SIMPLE TRUTH #6: People want to be heard and understood.

Your employees’ beliefs, thoughts and actions impact your organization’s operations a great deal. The closer you are to understanding the daily activities, conversations and beliefs of your people, the more effectively you can manage expectations and lead the business. The further removed you are from the collective ‘pulse’ of your people, the higher the chance your company has misaligned activity, waste of resources and frustrated employees.

Because your employees hold the key to productivity, improvement, innovation, and ultimately, the profits of your company, you need to provide ways for them to speak to you and be heard.  Not providing avenues to hear from employees, limits your ability to learn useful information, process improvements and other creative ideas they have to share. Besides that, you hire smart, talented, insightful people who want to be involved and who know how to solve your business problems – you should be tapping into your valuable investment.

A novel retention technique I think most companies don’t take advantage of, is implementing “stay interviews.” These are when you interview current employees and solicit feedback you need to hear while your talented employees are still working for you (i.e. “what is working?” “NOT working?” etc.)  The resulting information is more useful and relevant to improving your organization and/or addressing concerns than if you wait to survey someone who has resigned and scheduled to leave your employ.  The stay interview is concerned with keeping great talent by giving leaders a chance to address potential issues in real-time. The more popular exit interview is retrospective and doesn’t help you keep a talented employee who is walking away.

The second half of SIMPLE TRUTH #6 is harder to accomplish but worth the effort if you intend to keep high performers, increase productivity and ultimately – profits. In order to show you understand your employees, you first need to know what they expect.

What employees expect from their employer is not the same across the board. They come to work for your company for different reasons. Over the course of their employment, those reasons change priority as time passes and their career evolves.  It is important for you to understand what I call – employment variables – that both potential and current employees make their work/life decisions based on.  Psychologists usually refer to them as tangible and intangible benefits or rewards. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Company culture
  • Job content
  • Job title/level
  • Ability to learn (both formally and informally)
  • Manager quality (competence)
  • Available technology
  • Caliber of team members
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Training opportunities
  • Job location (length of commute)
  • Work environment (includes ability to work remotely)
  • Financial stability of company
  • Company’s views on diversity & inclusion
  • Company’s actions re: giving back – philanthropy, the environment
  • Etc.

Whether they’re candidates interviewing for a position, or current employees, people base their employment decisions on a combination of the variables listed above that are important to them.  On a regular basis, they review those variables and determine whether they want to spend their discretionary time and energy contributing to the company’s success.  Thinking “is it still worth my time?”  They continually gauge if they are getting what they expected and their resulting engagement – and productivity reflects where they are.

Here’s how it looks: Ed Employee’s top 3 variables are job location, caliber of team members and compensation.  Some of his teammates have recently left for other jobs, his recent pay increase wasn’t what he expected and didn’t reflect his high performance rating, and company leadership announced it’s moving the office 20 miles from its current location – further from Ed’s home.  For these reasons, Ed is now an unhappy employee.  His level of engagement decreased because his current reality is out of sync with his expectations.  If Ed is a top performer, it is likely his manager will see a change in his attitude and behavior including absenteeism – and he will likely pursue new employment making his productivity lower as well until he accepts a new job and leaves.

In order to more fully understand employee expectations and the variables impacting their engagement, leaders need to solicit different information than what current employee satisfaction and engagement surveys measure.  Surveys need to ask: “What are your expectations of…” (and provide a list like that above.)  Then, after 6 months or a year, ask: “What have you received in relation to that same list?”  These questions, in addition, to the usual ones like: “How satisfied are you with your benefits?” and “What could be improved for you to be more engaged?” will result in better data.

If you understand my equation and apply it to the decisions you make related to the employment variables I listed, you have a better chance of increasing engagement.  Remember: profits are a result of human behavior. Employees’ behavior either helps or hinders business activities that lead to increased, or decreased, profits.  The more leaders understand the expectations of employees, the more effectively they can lead.  When you start asking the right questions, your employees will know you, in earnest, want to understand them. When you then change things within your organization based on their feedback, your employees will know they are being heard.  This SIMPLE TRUTH is important to them — and your company profits reflect it.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

Are we there yet??  Information and how effectively it is communicated through an organization directly correlates to its overall productivity and the engagement of its people.  That said, I have found that many leaders spend little time planning how or what information they will communicate throughout their organization. SIMPLE TRUTH #5: People want regular and relevant communication.

Employees need – and expect – specific types of communication at regular intervals. From executive leaders, they want to know and understand the goal.  They need to hear your vision, the business strategy, broad direction with milestones, and appreciation. Those sound like: “We are still going in this direction…” and “Here is how we’re doing in relation to that strategy…” and “Thank you all for helping us get to where we are.”  Then, when the business needs to course correct its direction or strategy – which it will – you want them to know that things will change and why and how it affects what you’ve previously communicated.

From direct managers, employees want more granular information from what executives provide. Managers need to convey more specific direction regarding department activities and the individual’s job tasks.  Employees expect real-time communication with their managers in order to do good work and not waste time and money redoing things.  They regularly need a chance to get clarification about aspects of their job, progress against goals, expectations of behaviors, consequences, as well as, recognition and appreciation.

We condition people early in life through our education system to receive regular report cards; yet, when they get into the workforce, managers drop the ball on applying that concept.  Part of a manager’s role is effectively providing a report card to their employees on an ongoing basis.  It’s called performance coaching.  While the term “feedback” gets a negative wrap, if you are transparent in your communication and share the positive and negative behaviors or outcomes you see – on an ongoing basis – it becomes part of normal dialogue.  And, your employees expect it.  From this type of communication, you gain trust and respect from your employees along with their engagement. If you are a manager and you don’t regularly sit down with (or video chat with) each person who reports to you – you are not doing an important part of your responsibilities.  Please read SIMPLE TRUTH #4 and schedule 1:1s with your people. 😉

Regular communication is important regardless of which levels of the organization it comes from.  If you don’t communicate frequently enough, your people fill in the gaps between what you last said and what they think is going on. It’s human nature. People will make up information in the absence of real data – which often creates a culture of uneasiness, worry and gossip. Having misinformation circulating is never in your organization’s best interest from an employee morale standpoint. If you aren’t sure of how often your people need communication from you – ask them.  Don’t assume you know.

All communication is a key organizational “system” that holds as much importance as your IT infrastructure and other business information systems in the overall effectiveness of our company. If you think about communication as THE most important tool your employees need to accomplish their jobs effectively, you’ll make it a priority.  If you do, you’ll see a positive return in the areas of productivity, operational improvement and morale.

From my interviews with all levels employees & leadership, the term “relevant” came up as much as the word “regular” when it came to communication.  Relevant communication is about audience focus.  Tell them what they need and want to know.  That means – what’s important to THEM – not what’s important to you necessarily.

If you hold corporate meetings and regularly talk about stock value or bonus calculations and a majority of your workforce don’t own stock options or they have bonus amounts that, after taxes, can barely pay for a tank of gas, consider communicating that information to a smaller subset of your employees.  I’ve seen this too many times.  While you think you are sharing positive “news” when the stock value is up and/or pending performance bonuses are significant, your financially unaffected employees leave the meeting feeling angry and unmotivated.  All they heard were executives they describe as ‘bragging about money they are going to get’ when they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are struggling to feed their families.

Understanding your communication should consider the audience and what information is relevant to them, is paramount.  If you aren’t sure exactly what kind of information your employees consider “relevant” and what they need from you – ask them.

At your next company meeting, if you provide information that is audience focused, your employees will appreciate it.  If a strategic project has been cancelled, say so because it’s the truth.  If you can only tell part of something due to confidentiality, say what you can say – if that topic is important to them.  If you’ve got no new information to share about topics you regularly cover, you can always spend time recognizing people for their contributions and saying “THANK YOU.”  Hearing that is important to them, too.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

You don’t have to look far to find articles about employee engagement because, aside from being a popular buzzword these days, it is a relevant indicator of productivity and business performance.  And it’s not surprising to learn from these articles that a person’s direct manager remains in the Top 3 of the most important factors that affect his/her level of engagement and job satisfaction. SIMPLE TRUTH #4: People want a competent Manager.

You can ask your people and they will tell you there is a direct correlation with their manager’s management abilities and the positive, or negative, affect they have on day-to-day morale and productivity.  Employees would even go on to tell you that their long-term commitment to your organization is connected to whether or not they think their manager respects them, knows and uses their talents, and will help them grow and develop in their career or not. Unfortunately, you have made it hard on your people managers to be competent at this important role and you may not even understand why…

Within the last two decades, many corporations made widespread organizational changes affecting people managers that continue to negatively impact productivity and employee engagement today. From the mid 1990’s through the early 2000’s, executive leaders were led to believe there was too much “management redundancy” in their companies. They chose to cut most, if not all, middle management positions in the pursuit of massive savings by reducing payroll costs.  Thousands of people managers were handed pink slips and shown the door.

By cutting middle managers, leaders were effectively removing professionals whose full-time job was to manage people. These individuals not-only knew all the talents of their team members, but also how each was motivated and how to effectively coach individual performance. They had their pulse on the collective employee heartbeat. They knew human behavior and how to influence it. Their roles were important to workforce planning and deployment, employee morale and engagement, operational effectiveness and how all of those positively or negatively affected business profitability.  However, because executives didn’t see the value in the “soft skills” espoused by people managers of yesteryear, they considered them expendable and rationalized their decisions by the resulting cost savings.

As displaced professional managers started their own businesses becoming the management consultants, trainers and coaches we know today – the poor individual contributors directly underneath the terminated managers – were promoted to be the ‘new’ managers.  What companies had naively done was re-title individual contributors as people managers expecting them to perform a full plate of individual contributor duties – in addition to – expecting them to manage the people who report to them.  It was a lose-lose proposition. Overnight, these newly flattened companies became grossly ineffective operating with inexpensive but also completely incompetent people managers.

Fast forward to today and we see the result of the restructures and middle management decimating actions of the last two decades.  Business performance is down. Companies that have started up since then believe it’s a normal course of business to have people managers with a full plate of individual contributor work who, on the side, happen to also manage people.  How do you think your company is going to be MORE productive and have engaged employees – if your people managers do their management duties when they get around to it?

Today’s people managers don’t have support by their leadership, or the TIME to be competent people managers because companies have made people management a “nice to have” instead of realizing it should be a non-negotiable.  Years ago, people used to aspire to be in management positions at some future point in their career. Management was a career path in and of itself and companies would pay to have high potential employees train to become future managers and leaders. Management was differentiated from the career path of an individual contributor who could choose a non-management career path if they weren’t interested in managing people. Nowadays, employees don’t want to become people managers because they don’t want two full-time jobs — nor do they want the headache of responsibility that they will receive little to no formal training or recognition for.

Your employees want and NEED to report to managers who have time to spend with them providing direction, useful coaching, immediate feedback, and recognition. They also want their manager to be trained in managing effectively and who has the authority (and resources) to enable them to be successful.  Employees feel valued when you have taken the time to hire and/or develop quality people managers. If you put people in management jobs, you need to make sure they know what to do, have time to do it, are measured on how well they do it, and that there are consequences when they don’t.

How much or how little time your people managers spend managing people is of paramount importance to the engagement of your workforce and the productivity of your company. And you, ultimately, need to be at the forefront modeling the management skills and behaviors you expect to your leadership team so they, and the managers who report to them, see it from you and take it down the ranks of your organization. It’s important. People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

One of my favorite sayings is “Leadership is not about you. It’s about them.” I like it because it focuses on the fact that leaders have followers. Followers are willing individuals who choose to follow because they believe the leader is going somewhere or doing something they, too, would like to experience. On any given day, your following can be large or small depending on your actions and words. SIMPLE TRUTH #3: People want Leaders to Lead.  

Years ago, I was at an off-site management meeting where the leader had planned for us to go hiking after we’d been sitting and listening to presentations the first half of the day. He’d been to the location before, but none of the rest of us had.  So, when he swiftly walked off leaving us behind, we were unclear as to which way we should go when we encountered a fork in the path.

I had been coaching the executive for a couple months by that time and I laughed out loud because the situation was indicative of his leadership behaviors in the office. He often went off on his own believing he had to solve all of the organization’s problems. Many times, he believed he had given directions to people but actually he had never uttered them out loud to anyone.  The team had voiced frustrations with his leadership style, so it was not surprising that we stopped at the fork in the path that day on our hike.  Collectively, we tested our leader to see how long it would take for him to notice we were no longer following him.  When he came back loudly yelling expletives at us, one of the more outspoken of the team said, “You didn’t make it clear where we were going, or even if we were supposed to come along with you.”

Successful leaders need to know that followers have expectations of them. Articulating direction and plans for an organization is not a one-time, once-a-year, or even once-a-quarter event.  Your people want you to stand in front of them often — communicating vision, current state of business, any changes in direction and what the consequences are when milestones are not met.  When you lead without understanding your follower’s expectations, human behaviors in your organization are negatively impacted.

Just like the management team was at the fork in the path that day on our hike, without a regular infusion of direction from you, your people are unsure of what needs to happen next. Their productivity stalls while they wait for it — or they take action without direction which may result in work having to be redone later when clear information is forthcoming. Both are frustrating to your employees, cost you time and money and make your organization ineffective.

Your people expect you to engage with them. You need to be personally involved and physically present in the daily operations of your organization. They want you to regularly walk among them, ask their opinions and listen to their ideas.  You spend a lot of time, energy and money hiring smart people who have solutions to many of the problems in your organization; yet, you don’t spend enough time collecting these insights from them and putting them to use. You don’t have to solve all the problems alone.  Remember SIMPLE TRUTHS #1 & 2.

Two things to note here: 1) When I use the term direction, I do not mean that your employees expect you to direct them by telling them what to do or how to do their jobs. They know what to do. What they want is for you to provide the bigger picture vision, the long view of what the outcome is to be (e.g. “We need to complete and launch product X by Y date to stay on our strategic course.”) 2) You also don’t have to determine exactly how your organization will reach your vision because your employees want to help you determine that.  If you provide clear vision and direction, your people typically know how to line up their talent and energy with them in order to be successful.

Another expectation followers have of leaders is that there are consequences for not meeting, or exceeding performance expectations. In general, most people are – and want to be – accountable.  Where many companies fall short, is the lack of leadership ability to set clear performance measures, in addition to, establishing appropriate consequences. You spend huge amounts of time creating strategy and tactical goals and objectives; but, many leaders don’t typically determine what will happen when the goals aren’t met. You lose your most talented followers when you state the goal is X and then you allow under-performing individuals to lag behind without consequences.

By being clear about where you want to go, what you want your employees to spend time on and modeling conscious behaviors and actions, you have a huge impact on the behaviors of your people.  You will have followers if you:

  • Provide direction (and remember, this doesn’t mean telling people what to do – or how to do their jobs),
  • Walk among your people in all areas of the business to regularly talk and listen to what they have to say,
  • Drive accountability behaviors that include having consequences and applying them consistently.

People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

As I wrote in my previous blog, people want to do work that matters. I view TRUTH #2 as an extension of #1.  It expands beyond the individual person to a larger context of where people want to work and the result they want. They want to be part of a team and connected to something bigger.  SIMPLE TRUTH #2: People want their company to succeed.  

They want be able to take pride in the company they belong to, what it does and what it stands for. They want their company to be successful because they believe it will:

  • Be financially stable and provide them continued employment
  • Attract quality team members they will work with & learn from
  • Have enough employees & other resources to do the work to be successful
  • Reward them financially as they help increase revenue and profits
  • Enable them to grow & develop in their careers as business evolves

Employees know and understand that executives and investors in for-profit companies go in to business to make money.  In fact, they like to make money, too.  They assess your company financials, your leadership and your corporate culture (values and behavior) as they choose employment because they want a return on their investment, too.  Their time away from family and other life activities matters to them.  What your company does (service/product it makes) and what you value in terms of organizational behaviors and how you treat your people has increased in importance to employees over the years.  Many people are willing to work hard because they believe if they contribute to the company’s financial success there will be financial rewards in it for them.

I worked for a company that earned its place on Fortune’s “Top 100 Best Companies to Work For” list because they really were.  They attracted top talent, had the right systems in place for effective business operations, supported employee learning and development and shared their financial success with employees in the form of bonuses and other monetary rewards. The company’s leadership knew that it made money because of the actions of its people and its executives kept that perspective at the forefront of their words and actions. They ‘practiced what they preached’ and I witnessed it firsthand – alignment of words and actions coupled with positive reinforcement works.

Where I see most company leaders lose their employee’s engagement and commitment, is when the financial going gets tough.  Typical leadership actions when they embark on cost-cutting measures are: 1) driving “do more with less resources” behaviors which usually means hiring people who are minimally qualified for the cheapest salaries OR not hiring people at all;  2) not paying performance bonuses when employees have worked hard to help notably increase profits OR adjusting pay scales to reflect increased value of certain job types or cost of living inflation; and 3) cutting spending in training and development – which in turn – creates stagnation in your talent pool and can directly limit the company’s ability to stay relevant and innovative.

Couple those kinds of actions with the fact that technology enables today’s knowledge workers with the resources to know what “market value” is for their talent.  You spend huge amounts of time and effort hiring smart, knowledge workers; yet, when it’s convenient for you, you forget they came to work for your company for the very reasons you cut when the going gets tough.  And although they may work hard for a period of time, they reach a point where they become disillusioned and you get very little output from them.  They disengage.  Eventually, as the market turns around and jobs are available, they go work for another company where they believe they will be appreciated and successful.

When the financial going gets tough, I challenge business leaders to think about other ways to address cost-cutting.  What you are doing isn’t working. Every time you take a cost-cutting measure like #1-3 I listed above, you end up losing the assets that are very thing you need to get your business competitive and profitable again – your people.  They Matter.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2013

There was a time when there were generally two kinds of jobs – those where people’s lives were on the line everyday (law enforcement, fire/rescue, the armed forces, etc.); and office jobs where people sat at a desk all day and whose only potential safety threats were minor hazards like tripping in the hallway and paper cuts.

Over the last two decades, heart wrenching events like the terrorist attacks on 9/11, 2001 and, countless workplace violence examples since then – where disgruntled workers opened fire at their workplace – have SIGNIFICANTLY changed the realities of work.  Having a desk job in an office has never been the same since.  Flying on business travel has never been the same either.  As a result of those tragic events, people realized they can die doing their jobs – regardless of the kind of work they do. And, on a massive scale, human beings are now regularly assessing their career pursuits and whether their jobs reflect their true talents and passions.  You can say that people are now VERY aware that their time spent doing their jobs needs to be worth their while. They don’t want to perish doing work they don’t like to do or their hearts aren’t in to.

I am not sure how many business leaders understand that while those awful events were catalysts for increased human awareness – they subsequently became an impetus for employees expecting more from their employers.  I am not talking about whether companies give benefits to employees who serve in the military or whether employees get time off to balance their work and personal lives.  I am talking about something bigger and deeper than that.

SIMPLE TRUTH #1: People want to do purposeful work.  They want to know that when they come to work each day they are making a difference in some way.  Employees now expect their leaders to connect their daily work to the bigger picture and purpose of their company.  The spirit of their expectations is: “show me how I fit here” and “tell me what I can do to help – so my work matters.”

If you ever followed Herb Kelleher, now retired CEO of Southwest Airlines, you’d recall that he was a leader that ‘GOT IT’ as far as people go.  He got this very simple point about purposeful work and, by making connections between every job and company strategy, he enabled it to have huge financial success.  Although his wacky personality and leadership methods seemed radical in the early 2000’s, Herb proved he was an innovative leader.  He made sure that every person in his company knew why their job existed, how their behaviors affected the company’s income and how each and every employee could make a positive difference to the bottom line.  From the top corporate roles, to the flight crews, down to the baggage handlers and ground crew, he evangelized that no position was more important than another because each was important in its own rite in order for the entire company to be successful.

Every job in your organization needs to have a reason for existing.  I’ve worked in small companies where job descriptions didn’t exist and when I asked the employees what their job is – they couldn’t articulate it. Yet you pay them to do it. Hmmm. What do they show up to do each day, if they don’t know why their job exists? or the expectations the leaders have of them? Every employee you hire to do a job (contractors, too!) needs to know the reason the job/work exists and understand their job’s importance to the team, department and overall company.  You need to connect people and purpose like Herb did.  By making this important connection to every position in your company, you are supporting people’s need to do purposeful work which, in turn, increases engagement.  If you don’t, you can’t expect the employees doing the work to be engaged – it’s that simple. People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2013

It is not a mystery that many companies are struggling to get the same financial results they had in the past.  While the lagging economy is a big factor in the decline of profits, so too, is the fact that any time money gets tight in business, executives focus more on cutting expenses and less on people.  Some executives believe that MONEY is the core of business. They say, “We are in business to make money – not make employees happy.” And in their companies, money has more value than people.  What I have found in my career is that even though some companies have hundreds or thousands of employees – a lot of executives don’t really know much about people. And, it is hard to value what you don’t know.

The truth is PEOPLE, more specifically, human beings and their behavior – are the core of business.  Executive leaders and owners have control over all aspects of their companies: products/services, strategy, direction, organizational processes, technology, communication, human capital – and at the core – CULTURE.  Without a solid understanding of humans and their behavior, many executives make business decisions about those aspects which consequently affect their people.  As a result, employees’ behavior then either helps or hinders a wide range of business activities that lead to increased (or decreased) profits.  If companies are to increase profits, leaders need to become more knowledgeable about PEOPLE.

As a talent and organization development professional, I have worked in a variety of industries and sizes of companies interacting with hundreds of employees, managers and executives for twenty plus years.  Regardless of what is going on in the economy or in companies, human beings continue to change and evolve.  As people vented their frustrations to me, I began noting themes in their wishes that someday executives would “GET IT” when it comes to what their people want and need.  They want leaders to know who they are, understand what motivates them, what doesn’t, what they value, what they don’t – and bottom line – why they aren’t performing like they used to, so executives can make different decisions and take actions to change things for the better.

The good news is: both employees and executive leaders ultimately want the same thing. The not-so-good news is: both regularly lose perspective of the other’s point of view.  And, in some cases, they don’t even know each other’s perspective in the first place which creates further disconnect.  My career reflects my deep curiosity and commitment to understanding both sides and my desire to help bridge the gap between them. I believe full-heartedly that everyone can get on the same page – resulting in positive performance and profits.

A heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to the hundreds of frank, caring and insightful employees, managers and executive leaders I have interviewed over the last two decades, as I now share the Ten Simple Truths about People:

  1. People want to do purposeful work
  2. People want their company to succeed
  3. People want Leaders to lead
  4. People want a competent Manager
  5. People want regular and relevant communication
  6. People want to be heard and understood
  7. People want to use their talents in challenging work
  8. People want tools and resources to do their best work
  9. People want to feel valued and appreciated
  10. People want opportunities to learn and grow

In future blogs, I will describe each of these Ten Simple Truths about People in more detail. I hope you will come back and take this enlightening journey with me.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2013

‘hr lady’ – but not really

May 4, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

I get apprehensive in public when strangers ask me what I do. When I am not at work, I am more introverted and I enjoy observing human interaction. I am a behavioral scientist at heart – passionate about organizational psychology and human performance.  Although my off-duty wish is to avoid communicating with chatty networkers, it is usually inevitable that we end up talking.  When that happens, I think quietly of alternate professions I should say when I answer…yoga instructor, professional chef, brain surgeon.  The problem is, I don’t lie well.  So, I take a deep breath and I tell the truth.  “Me?  I work in Human Resources.”  And then I quickly try to deflect the conversation to the weather or some other innocuous topic.

Then, just when there is a lull in our shallow dialogue – my new acquaintance dives deep into a story about how awful a company treated her, her significant other, or friend.  Then for what feels like eternity, she drills me with questions, “My manager did this…can they DO that??”,“is it LEGAL for a company to…” blah. blah. blah.  I am not kidding when I say – this has happens to me more often than not.  [Now you get why I wish I could say I’m a brain surgeon.]  Although I know employment laws at a depth necessary to do my job effectively and keep my senior level certification, I am not an employment attorney.

All these legal questions make me wonder what people really think “Human Resources” people do?  Then I review my career and realize why there is confusion.  I have wore many hats as a senior HR generalist: employer brand evangelist, talent recruiter, policy maker and enforcer, complaint department, welcome wagon, and terminator.  At one company, there was actually a guy who yelled “HR on the floor” when I walked into the call center.  Underlying his announcement, he was telling co-workers the “HR Lady” was present and they better look busy, be serious and have no fun. It was kind of an inside joke he and I had.

People who have worked with me know that I am an approachable, caring woman who is passionate about people.  I appreciate the uniqueness of every individual.  I am not a police officer whose job is to make yours miserable. I am not a nun who can’t hear a good joke or doesn’t have a sense of humor.  I am a talent professional and a performance coach.  I care deeply that you are, or aren’t, using your talents, skills and abilities in work that you enjoy.  As we all know, we spend a majority of our lives working.  My belief is that we should apply our talents in work that connects us to our core human desire – to make a difference in the lives of others.  Our work lives should be purposeful, satisfying and the time we spend working should matter. People Matter.

I am an advocate for the talented human beings that make up businesses.  I help leaders translate business strategy/vision/direction down organizations through people managers resulting in tactical actions employees take.  I bridge two usually disparate perspectives (employees and executives) and work to find ways to get everyone in sync and positively driving human performance. I earned my chair at the table with business leaders in order to influence their behaviors and decisions about people.  I remind them that the talented humans in their business are key assets – human capital.  And that their employees’ behaviors determine process, productivity and ultimately – profits.

I have listened to hundreds of employees coupled with the perspectives of leaders and executives throughout my career.  At the heart of business, everyone wants the same thing – to be successful and to make money.  But, not everyone is on the same page about how that should happen.  I have decided it is time for me to use my talents and publicly share my observations and insights in order to help leaders and their businesses flourish.  In future blogs, I will explore human perspectives about talent, motivation, productivity and money.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2013