Talking Talent

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I once had a boss tell me that business wouldn’t be difficult if it wasn’t for people. He was right. People are what make organizations interesting and difficult at the same time. What is more, people are the key part of organizational success, or not, so we might as well get used to it.

Harkin back to Management 101, remember when you wrote that paper on the famous Hawthorne Experiments? For those who copied someone else’s report, experiments at the Western Electric plant in the 1920’s proved that short term improvement is caused by observing worker performance. Things haven’t changed all that much. Talent responds to measurement.

We have great tools now to monitor performance and help individuals be successful. SuccessFactors is all about making that happen in an effective and efficient way. Like the simplicity of the Hawthorne Experiments, I still think that people, no matter what the rank or level, only want three questions answered regarding their work:


  1. What’s My Job? A question that shouldn’t be a hard one but too many organizations have trouble with resulting in people wandering around through the bushes and the brambles wondering what the hell they are supposed to do. Should I look busy? I am not talking about a written job description that no one pays any attention to. I am talking about when someone shows up in the morning, do they know what they are supposed to do and is it what they thought they signed up for? My hypothesis is that the reason why so many people spend hours on eBay or Facebook when they are supposed to be working is because they are not sure what their real job is and how to be successful at it.
  2. How Am I Doing? Everyone wants to know an occasional answer to that simple question. Since we are not talking about golf or bowling where score is easily kept, keeping score is a little more nuanced in the workplace. Once again, there are a number of tools, simple and complicated that can help set goals and measure against them but too often, it is not done. I think people usually have a sense of how they are doing but need to hear it from others on a regular basis.
  3. How Does My Effort Contribute to the Big Picture? It is almost never the framed mission statement hanging on the wall that helps answer this question. Almost always, it is clarity about what the organization is trying to accomplish and how any individual can help make that happen. Not that different from the signs in the locker room that ask, “What Have You Done Today to Beat USC?”

Three simple questions, that’s all. By allowing people to answer them you will attract and keep talent. By disambiguating (I heard that word this week and am pleased to be able to use it so soon) the answer, talent will keep moving until they find a place where it can be answered.

For more insight on this topic be sure to check out a webinar with SuccessFactors tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM EDT.


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