When looking to contract with an outside company, it’s important to do your homework. You shouldn’t just evaluate the product or service they are offering, but also evaluate the company itself. Just like you try to run a good business that attracts great employees and retains them, your vendors and service providers should be doing the same. Essentially, the quality and continuity of service you receive is directly related to their employees, and their turnover is very likely to affect you.
I can recall working with a software vendor and having three different project managers in less than a 12-month period. Very frustrating. I had to re-explain my company, and our scenario, over and over. So, what are some additional things to consider when choosing to contract with an outside company?
I joined my former company when they were in startup mode. Having worked for several of the federal contracting mega-giants in my prior jobs, I was genuinely excited to be on the ground floor of what I believed was a great opportunity. I was working for people that I admired and respected, and we had a shared enthusiasm that made it exciting to go to work every day.
When I began recruiting people to join our company, a standard question that I asked every candidate was “What attracted you to our company?” Almost without fail, each person answered that it was the ability to be a part of something where their voice mattered, and where they weren’t just a number.
As our company grew, we worked hard to make sure that our employees’ voices were heard and we enjoyed growth and profitability while maintaining a fun, employee-centric culture. As in any growing company, though, there were times when tough issues forced us to make unpopular decisions, and we learned what you probably already know – the larger a company becomes, the less likely it is that the decisions you make will please everyone.
So, what is most important when making decisions that may seem to favor the needs of the business over the wants of your employees? Transparency, and honesty. Simple, but I believe it really is true. Decisions need to be thoughtful, they need to be communicated properly, and company leaders need to be able to explain the “why.”
When it comes to employee commitment, “Transparency isn’t just a public-facing practice. Allowing employees to see where the business outperforms and in which areas it’s weak binds each employee more closely to the company’s strategic goals. Openness and trust (two effects of transparency) create a comfortable environment that spurs innovation and experimentation and reveals early failures or oversights. The more a company trusts [its employees] with its wins and shortcomings, the greater [their] personal connection to the company is and the harder [they] want to work...”
What people really want is to be treated fairly. They want to believe that you are telling them the truth, and that you have thought through each decision carefully. The way company leaders handle difficult decisions and explain them to their employees can make a huge difference between acceptance and discontentment, which could lead to attrition. Unpopular decisions can be tough to communicate, but being transparent and honest is your best bet. Your employees may not like it, but they will respect you for it.
The traditional process of managing employee performance does not always deliver on its intentions. The purpose is to motivate and reward employees, but motivation is intrinsic. External factors either foster or squelch motivation. So many managers are squelchers without even realizing it, and many times, it is not entirely their fault. Companies often impose rules so intensive and processes so complicated they can make an educated person feel completely inadequate, and they fail to capitalize on doing the small but valuable things that could motivate employees.
You would probably agree that performance management is often viewed as the “necessary evil” in your organization. It is the non-subjective way of figuring out who ends up at the top of the heap for increases and bonuses at the end of the year. It can be an arduous and dreaded process that yields the same end result that you might have achieved if you simply lined up your people and subjectively decided who should get what, and when not carried out correctly, it can be a lose-lose for the manager and the employee. I'm not suggesting that you go wild and dump your review process. It has merit, and documenting performance is important for legal reasons, particularly in the event that you ever need historical data to deal with an employee issue. I’m simply suggesting that companies should empower managers to get to know their employees beyond the formality of a process if they really want to motivate them.
So, what if performance management began on day #1 with a focus that was less about a person’s skills, knowledge and abilities, and more about what motivates them? You spend 40 hours a week with your co-workers - often more time than you spend with your own family - yet how many managers know much at all about what motivates their employees and what would make them feel excited about coming to work each day? The way in which you are attempting to motivate your employees might be squelching their motivation instead.
Finding out some very small but important things about the people in your organization should be the first step in the manager-employee relationship building process. This doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple survey can be incorporated into the new hire process to gather the data, and the results can be shared with the hiring manager. Here is a sampling of just a few questions that every manager should be able to answer about their employees.