There is a gentleman I talk with occasionally who has a viewpoint 180 degrees from my own. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Sam. Sam believes (quite strongly) that personnel development is not his problem. Personnel development in this instance means cross-functional training, leadership training or any other non-direct work-related education. Sam’s stance is his employees are being paid to do their jobs. Their job is to service Sam’s customers – basically provide excellent customer service. Sam owns his business which provides regulatory support for blue collar companies. Sam doesn’t really care about his employee’s personal development or desires. Sam explained to me that if you remove the emotion from the equation, it boils down to doing your job. It is the emotional part he refuses to be involved with.
Sam’s opinion is one that may be rather divisive. It goes against the grain to suggest that employee satisfaction is irrelevant. He has some supporters however because it is cheaper and easier to take this position. If all an organization provides is job-specific training and only an expectation of job fulfillment, there is a reduction in overall cost to the company. However, as John Marshall Reeve states in Understanding Motivation and Emotion “People are motivationally complex.” In essence, people want to be challenged (but not overwhelmed) with positive feedback to support their efforts and competence. Sam’s position does not provide a challenge, feedback or support. So while he may save money he is not getting optimal work from his employees; although Sam’s profession is one where it may not matter.
To put it bluntly, I disagree with Sam. I believe companies are finding the more empowered and supported employees are, the more they engage in the company itself. Companies need to have an edge in today’s global economy and that edge is sometimes the people who are working in the company. Everyone has ideas and improvements that, if fostered, could mean a breakthrough for the organization. Employees, who have the ability to learn, grow and have their input valued, may provide some of the best cost-savings! We all enjoy feeling important by applying our particular skills and talents to problems. Also it is proven that in this ever changing world, the more leaders work together and support employees towards strategic goals, the better the results. My question back to Sam is: aren’t your people worth it? I know mine are.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team