From Checkers to Checkmate

All the right HR moves.

playing wooden chess pieces
Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock

Move toward, move away – very specific and directive, vague and creative. This is what a manager should be thinking about if they want real performance out of an employee. Marcus Buckingham who is a leading management consultant and performance coach emphasizes the concept; if you let people play to their strengths they will perform better for you at work.

He expands on that concept in his Harvard Business Review (HBR) article called “What Great Managers Do.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Marcus Buckingham brings in the analogy that good managers are playing checkers but great leaders are playing chess. If you think back to Fredrick Taylor and his theories of scientific management, all managers should be playing checkers: each job is subdivided into the smallest unit that anyone can understand, make all workers the same and interchangeable. Scientific management parallels the concept of the checkerboard very nicely. That concept may have flourished during the early years of the industrial revolution but not anymore with knowledge workers and fierce competition of globalization demanding higher level skills from workers and managers.

In today’s organizations leaders need to play chess, each worker has a differing purpose, a different move and interacts on different levels with individuals in the organization. Buckingham talks about the three levels every leader needs to know about their direct report:

  1. Learn your direct report’s strengths.
  2. What are the triggers that activate those strengths?
  3. What is their learning style?

Doing the above with every person you work closely with will give the HR professional the ability to leave the checkerboard behind and work with individuals like a chess master.

Discussion Questions

  1. The first step in any great workplace performance is the ability to know yourself. Ask yourself what are your strengths? What triggers those strengths into exceptional performance? What is your learning style?
  2. Now imagine you are having a meeting with your new boss. Create a written two-minute speech on how the boss should manage you to get your best performance.

Does Someone Always Have To Be The Loser?

 

Road sign with arrows - Winners, Losers
Source: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

During the course of your studies, you may have experienced a class where your grades were bell-curved or ranked in comparison with everyone else in the class.  The rationale for imposing this kind of grade rating system usually comes with an explanation related to institutional policy or some complicated methodology based on academic requirements.  As a result, bell curving or forced ranking systems are not used as a common approach for evaluating student performance.  Nevertheless, they do exist and continue to be used with varying degrees of success.

Does this type of forced ranking system translate into effective performance management for employees from a training and development perspective?  Based on a recent article from The Globe & Mail’s Leadership Lab series, the answer would seem to be a resounding “No.”

Click Here to Read the Article.

As noted in this article, forced employee ranking ensures that someone must be left standing on the bottom rung of the performance ladder in comparison to everyone else.  This happens even though the individual employee’s performance may be the same as his or her colleagues’.  How can this possibly act as a positive motivator for performance improvement and increased employee engagement?

One of the common remarks about forced ranking systems is that they provide an un-naturally skewed picture of the data or the group that is being evaluated.  If the data is skewed, then it would seem that a response to that data would also be skewed.

Again, from an employee learning perspective, it is imperative that any training and development programs are built from a basis of actual employee needs, and not from a system that forces individual performance evaluation into a larger group ranking.

Discussion questions:

  1. As a Human Resources professional, identify three benefits of forced employee ranking systems. When would this type of system be useful?
  2. How would you respond to your performance being managed by a bell-curve/forced employee ranking approach in your current (or previous) workplace?
  3. Do you believe that a forced employee ranking approach improves employee performance and provides positive motivation? Why or why not?

Does Canada Lack Innovation and Productivity?

Is Canada falling behind because of lack of training investment?

HR Directors should raise the alarm! Canada is falling behind in productivity and innovation and it is due to lack of training and development for employees.

Click here to read the article

Statistics Canada has identified Canada as ranking in 20th place in the world for investment in employee training.  That is shockingly low for such a great country.

HRM ONLINE reports:

  • Just 30% of Canadian employees, aged 25 – 64, felt that they were receiving enough training to be able to do their job to the best of their abilities.
  • The Canadian figure sits far lower than that of the US, where 45% of employees reported receiving adequate training.
  • US businesses spend an average of 50% more on training their employees than Canadian companies do.

Think about it; we all know, in order to improve your organization you must develop your employees. The United States is training their employees and Canada is not! No wonder Canada is not improving our productivity, we are not investing in development or innovation.

Maybe the province of Quebec has got it right with all organizations with over $1 million in payroll have to invest 1% into employee training. It is too bad that other organizations don’t see the writing on the wall – If you don’t invest you don’t succeed!

HR Professionals must take a lead, raise the alarm, and get corporate training and development on the radar of corporate executives. Canada should be embarrassed that we are not in the top ten ranks for development. Corporations should make a conscious effort to invest more in corporate training and improve our productivity.

Discussion Questions

  1.  As a HR Professional, what arguments would you make to get increases to employee training?
  2. How serious do feel the lack of employee training investment is to Canada’s growth and productivity?