Over the last decade, employee metrics have been increasingly used to gauge the performance and success of workers in all manner of enterprises. Certainly, more efficient operations and evaluation of performance are useful to an organization. However, I have engaged with many businesses where the over-use of metrics has caused managers to become obsessed with outcome and neglectful of process.
One of the traits that characterize a good manager is the ability to teach and motivate their teams. This requires a human touch as well as an analytical eye. Managers who concentrate solely on outcome and control fall into the trap of treating employees as a means to an end rather than human capital.
Years ago, I was working for a company which marketed and sold commodity products. The main driver of sales was price and availability. Realizing that the only way to add value to the equation was through customer service, I encouraged my team to go above and beyond to provide exemplary service to their clients. We developed expertise in shipping in order to provide better delivery and customer experience. We launched different business lines designed to further address clients needs. We developed a great reputation for customer responsiveness.
Unfortunately, the CEO of the company was a completely data-driven manager. He didn’t take time to communicate his vision or to provide his analysis of the sector in which we functioned. He neglected to account for our new arrival in various market segments and the time required to develop a client base using a value equation. He wanted to see results today. He was fixated on control and outcome rather than process.
Weekly meetings and calls dwelled only on personal performance data. There were no metrics for increase in market share, customer satisfaction or even case profitability. No case histories, after-action reports, market or industry evaluation, or communication of overall strategy. This resulted in a salesforce in which individuals felt dehumanized and disrespected. It became difficult for me to manage my team. Talent retention and recruiting became increasingly difficult issues.
Great leaders are adept at communicating their vision to subordinates. They develop processes which will motivate their employees and provide them the tools they need to succeed. This is an ongoing activity for great managers and employees appreciate it. Providing context allows great leaders to involve employees in their vision with the result that they become stakeholders. If an employee buys into the system, they will be excited to see their performance metrics and open to a discussion of how that performance may be improved.
Reliance on technology and data in business as well as society can be dehumanizing and isolating. Technology provides highly effective tools to evaluate business success, but a human touch is still required to achieve optimal performance. The best leaders are not only high tech but also high touch. They understand employees are human assets who must understand the mission, buy into the process, and be encouraged to excel. Then their performance can be measured and evaluated and can be used to develop a plan for them to improve and make a larger contribution to the success of the business.