Every company, every department, every manager has action plans and expectations of their staff. We all use metrics to evaluate employees: How many people did you call today? How many sales did you close? Did your presentation land any new clients?
These statistics are all important. But basing your human capital management plan strictly on those kinds of measurements means you’re favoring the stick over the carrot.
If you really want to drive success and maximize the efficiency of your workers, you need to make a more significant investment in them than you may be used to. If I don’t know what John in sales or Tess in IT care about or value the most, how can I expect to get them engaged in and excited about the tasks in front of them?
Driving increases in employee engagement can be a daunting process. It encompasses a slew of factors, including training and development opportunities, the physical and emotional environment you provide for your workers and your organization’s leadership structure.
So how can a leader sift through all of these factors and create a workplace culture that values each employee and maximizes their impact?
How Can You Maximize Human Capital Efficiency?
As the leader, you set the tone. Regardless of how much or how little interaction you have with each employee, your attitude reflects all the way down the line, from the C-suite to the college intern.
The quickest way to cause disengagement in a workforce is for employees to feel like their contributions aren’t appreciated and they aren’t valued as much as they believe they should be. But centering your human capital management plan on helping people feel valued will positively affect your organization’s capital efficiency.
Years ago I watched a video showing workers on an assembly line screwing plastic caps onto bottles. Twisting on cap after cap after cap: very mundane, mind-numbing work. But the next day, one person in the line was dancing around a bit while he worked, twisting caps a little faster than everyone else, energized and more productive than he had been previously, even though the work hadn’t changed. Then the video went back to the day before, as he was leaving. It showed the person in charge pulling him aside, asking a few questions and showing genuine interest in the worker, expressing affirmation and thankfulness for his work.
At Percipio, we call ourselves value investors — and that encompasses our investment in human capital as well. Demonstrating to your employees that you value them and their work often translates into measurable business results. For a lot of workers, they don’t always care about what they’re doing so much as they want to be recognized and appreciated for their hard work.
Recognition and understanding go beyond the individual level, too. It’s really easy for different groups or divisions in an organization to develop the sentiment that, if not for them, the company wouldn’t function. But that kind of myopic self-valuation drives wedges between teams.
In healthy companies, leaders should always acknowledge the value of other departments and stress the importance of other groups to the business’s operations. There’s always a lot going on behind the scenes, and even within a company the left hand often doesn’t know (or understand) what the right hand is doing.
Whether on an individual basis or for collective groups, one of the most important roles for a leader is to effectively communicate the value everyone brings to the organization. You have to understand and appreciate each person and team’s value, and you need to celebrate successes in a meaningful way. If you can do that, you will keep productivity high and prevent walls from going up.
A Relational Human Capital Management Plan
To get the most out of your employees, you have to really know them and what motivates them. But there’s no one right template for effectively building that rapport. When you’re dealing with people, the only constant is that everyone is different. Each person has different goals, a different way of approaching each day, a different relational style.
There are workplace strengths, behavior, communication style and personality assessments you can turn to — CliftonStrengths, Myers-Briggs and Forté, to name a few. You can even learn about the five love languages to know how different people receive encouragement and validation.
These are incredibly helpful resources that can aid you in understanding what makes different people tick. But wandering in a sea of abstracts can make you lose sight of the end goal. None of these tools will have any impact until you apply them to people on an individual basis.
Meet Your People Where They Are
Building these crucial relationships with your staff takes time and a willingness to be vulnerable and transparent — to a certain degree. As an owner, a boss, a leader of people, you need to understand your employees’ goals as well as the company’s goals.
You might have someone who is driven to make as much money as he can, who asks, “I don’t care what it takes, how do I make more money?” As an effective leader, I need to engage with him and discuss the situation. If there’s no hope of advancement, I won’t string him along — I don’t want dissatisfaction and frustration on my team. But if we can decide on an action plan and find an advancement path to better compensation, he’ll be that much more motivated.
There might be another employee who doesn’t care so much about money, but title is incredibly important to her. I’m not going to just make up a new title for her, but I will help her make a plan to reach her goal of a better title.
I don’t have time to sit down with everyone in my company and talk about their lives and goals. But I can build impactful relationships with a smaller number of people. The maximum number of direct reports I can meaningfully invest in is eight, and four to six is the sweet spot. If I do a good job investing in that core group of leaders, I can trust that they will turn around and do the same for the people they’re responsible for.
I currently have three direct reports I can invest that level of time with. For the next ring of staff members and on down through the company, I make sure I model right behavior. After that, I know I can rely on the levels of leadership under me to invest energy and time in each employee.
When you’re a leader, it is your responsibility to deliver results. If you focus on the relational side of human capital management and truly get to know your employees’ strengths, you’ll know how to optimize your human capital planning model. There’s no better way to allocate staff resources than a comprehensive understanding of employee strengths and goals and how they align with company needs. And if your employees feel truly supported and valued, they will give you their all.