管理B級員工:組織中的核心靈魂

Managing B Players
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哈佛商學院教授湯瑪斯.狄隆(Tom DeLong)表示,高階主管只要認可並激勵自己的B級員工,就能從自己的勞動力中獲得更多價值。

保羅.麥克曼:哈囉大家好,我是保羅.麥克曼,擔任哈佛商業數位的總監。我們今天的嘉賓是哈佛商學院的管理實務講座教授湯瑪斯.迪隆。湯瑪斯,感謝你今天可以來上我們的節目。

湯瑪斯.狄隆:這是我的榮幸。

保羅.麥克曼:湯姆,在你的職業生涯中所研究和撰寫的眾多主題之中,有一個是關於企業中B級員工的價值和重要性。我們今天的任務就是要搞清楚這些人是誰,他們對組織的價值,經理人怎麼做才能最有效地激勵他們。讓我們從他們是誰開始。誰是B級員工,他們與A級和C級員工有何區別?

湯瑪斯.狄隆:我最初著手研究時,目標不是要檢視或定義一個全新的族群。當我查看執行長怎麼樣安排自己的時間時,腦海中才突然浮現這個念頭,根據他們的日記或日誌,他們把90%的時間花在這些所謂的高績效人才身上。因此,也許有15%的人被認為是高績效人才。然而,剩下大約60%到80%的其他人,我現在在其他談話中都把這些人稱為是組織真正的核心靈魂。他們經常被忽略。所以這才是我要定義的,我們可以再多談一些關於怎麼定義他們的問題。但他們是員工中的最大多數。

保羅.麥克曼:讓我們來談談怎麼樣定義他們。他們占了組織的60%到80%,而且他們也不盡相同,對嗎?他們有不同的樣貌和種類。因此,在為《哈佛商業評論》所撰寫的〈看見你的潛力股員工〉一文中,你找出了三個對組織特別重要的群體。可以逐一介紹一下嗎?

湯瑪斯.狄隆:好的。第一個,有些人在人生的特定時期曾是A級員工,他們自己決定(退居二線),實際上,有位A級員工在32歲時對我說,她說,你知道,我已經搞清這個制度了,我知道自己想達到頂峰,但這並不是我想要過的人生。所以,她可以偶爾扮演這個角色。她可以去當一名A級員工。但這是一個很好的尺度。你可以跟我說說我自己定義的其他兩個類型嗎?

保羅.麥克曼:我看完文章後,對幾個族群特別印象深刻。其中一個是所謂「說實話的人」。

湯瑪斯.狄隆:在我看來,這些人具備長期和短期觀點。說實話的人擁有這些機構的知識,並帶著這些知識走動。我的意思是,你在組織裡要怎麼樣完成工作?如果你需要完成某項工作,誰才是你真正該聯繫的對象?如果你確實需要為客戶提供服務,那麼這就是三件事。他們對組織的裡裡外外都很了解,包括流程和人員。

第一,他們沒有因此得到任何功勞。第二點是,從某種意義上說,他們採取了長遠的眼光,我要做的事情是符合組織的最佳利益,而不只是,我怎麼樣爬到組織最上層?因此,在此過程中,他們可以很確定地說,這些資訊對於短期目標很有用。這些是對長期目標有用的資訊。但是他們能夠保持客觀的看法。如果我是執行長,我希望確保與我交談的是說實話的人。因為他們沒有必要告訴我我想聽的內容。

保羅.麥克曼:為了讓這些人的形象在觀眾的腦海中更加清晰,我現在想像的是一個破解軟體工程師,她很高興擔任破解軟體工程師。她很擅長自己的工作,她不擔心自己的工作。但是她也不玩弄政治。她不想在組織中往上爬。所以她可以自由地說實話。一個人如果試圖建立自己的職涯,可能會對這種實話保持沉默–

湯瑪斯.狄隆:沒錯 我們看到的最大擔憂是,如果她在某方面表現得太出色,這位軟體工程師會發生什麼事?他們會說,你的工作表現實在出色,你來負責管理其他人吧。難道你不往上升遷嗎?因此,這種假設是電腦工程師想要成為微軟的總裁,這是一個錯誤的假設。我們研究過的一些組織,發現他們對待這種優秀軟體工程師的方式是,第一,他們不一定會表揚她,清楚說明她的工作表現多麼出色。

他們只是簡單地認為,最重要的獎勵就讓人升職。然後,你開始面臨實際問題。那個人會說,請稍等一下,這不是我來這個組織要做的事。我不想處理人事問題,我不想管理其他軟體工程師,而且我知道你覺得我應該想這麼做。但是對我來說還有一些更重要的事情。

保羅.麥克曼:很有意思。所以我們還有第三組,我想我們已經開始談論他們了。他們被叫「請益對象」。這些人是誰?

湯瑪斯.狄隆:譬如,比爾是家律師事務所的出色律師。比爾很沮喪,因為他的老闆很愛罵人。比爾正在考慮離開該組織。他正在考慮離職,他已經在這裡待了四年,他真的可以把工作做得很棒。所以情況是這樣的,比爾在思考,如果繼續去律師事務上班,工作環境一定要比現在好。或者我應該以法律專家的身分去另一家公司工作。所以情況就是,比爾的上司無視比爾,而比爾已準備好離開。

突然之間,另外一個作為請益對象的經理人注意到比爾看起來很沮喪。作為公司內部安定力量的他,伸出援手說,比爾,發生了什麼事情?向比爾表達關注,向比爾詢問他的工作,向比爾詢問他需要什麼,他需要組織提供什麼,比爾可能突然之間就改變心意,要挽留比爾其實不需要付出太多的東西。但是「請益對象」是那些把人留在船上的人。把合適的人留在船上,以免他們離開。這就是組織所面臨的兩難困境之一,我認為身為B級員工的經理人非常精明。他們能確保合適的人留下,合適的人在適當的時間離開。

保羅.麥克曼:我們怎麼樣確保他們留下來?以及他們和其他有價值的B級員工?就像你所說的,你的研究指出,執行長把時間都花在A級員工身上。經理人自然傾向於把注意力集中在明星員工身上。這顯然不是個可靠的策略。作為經理人,對於怎麼樣管理B級員工,我們應該知道哪些事情?我們怎麼樣激勵他們?

湯瑪斯.狄隆:第一,不要把B級員工的績效管理討論留到最後一刻。因為這樣一來,所有時間都會花在A級員工身上,然後你將有20個十分可靠的員工,他們會覺得自己在年底被卡住了。經理只是在膚衍了事。因此,首要的是確實進行績效管理討論。

第二是要表揚這些忠貞的員工。我所訪談過的100位執行長,沒有一個人曾採取了明確的策略,真正去表揚這些苦幹實幹的員工。如果你和一群人共進晚餐會怎樣?這些是感謝晚宴。身為中流砥柱的B級員工,不需要大量的讚美。他們不會像你的高績效人才般,對於回饋意見需索無度。但是,我想告訴執行長,我希望你每個星期花15分鐘寫一封電子郵件,或感謝箋給表現績效穩定的員工。一旦他們這樣做,這些內容自然會在組織中傳播。因此,要讓這類員工感到滿意,其實不需要做很多事情。

保羅.麥克曼:最後一個問題是,我認為管理B級員工的挑戰之一,是確保他們不斷受到挑戰。B級員工定義的一部分是,他們不一定要想在組織中升遷。作為經理人,我們怎麼樣確保他們有新的專案?確保他們的工作不會一成不變?

湯瑪斯.狄隆:這就是為什麼圍繞任務和設計任務的分配變得愈來愈重要。職涯發展是基於經理人實際上是怎麼樣管理保羅的職涯。而且,一個人決定不追求升遷,不意味他們想要做我所謂的商品化、常規化、加工化的工作。這也不意味你可以給他們一成不變的工作,只因為他們更加忠誠,我們可以把他們視為理所當然。

這意味,我們是否每季都會進行一次談話,了解你的能力、才華是否得到發揮?你有被指派延展型任務?但是,這些可靠的員工想知道的是,除了自己之外,是否有其他人對自己的職涯感興趣。同樣地,我們確實知道,追求升遷的員工會確保他人關注自己的的職涯。而且,如果你沒有給予足夠的關注,他們就會離開。但顯然,我們需要在任務分配及如何進行對話方面做得更好。同樣地,這不需要花很多時間,但絕對扮演著關鍵的作用。

保羅.麥克曼:非常感謝你,湯瑪斯.狄隆。

(劉純佑譯)


Tom DeLong, Harvard Business School professor, says executives can get more value from their workforce if they recognize and motivate their B players.

Paul Michelman: Hello. I'm Paul Michelman, Director of Content for Harvard Business Digital. And our guest today is Tom DeLong, the Philip J. Stomberg Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. Tom, thanks for joining the program today.

Tom DeLong: It's my privilege.

Paul Michelman: Tom, among the many subjects you've researched and written about in your career is the value and importance of a subset of company's employees called B players. So our mission for today is to learn who these people are, what their value is to organizations, and how managers can most effectively motivation them. So let's begin with the who. Who are B players and how do they differentiate from A players and C players?

Tom DeLong: When I originally started my research, the goal was not to look at -- or define -- a whole new category of people. When I was looking at the at how CEO's spent their time, all of a sudden it just jumped out at me, in their diaries and in their journals, that they were spending 90% of their time with these so - called high performers. So you have the maybe 15% that are seen as the high performers. And then you see this anywhere from 60% to 80% of -- What I am now saying in other conversations -- these folks are the real heart and soul of the organization. And they often go ignored. So that's what I would define as the -- and we can talk a little bit more about how we might define them. But it's the majority of the employees.

Paul Michelman: So let's talk about how we might define them. We've got 60% to 80% of the organization. And they're not all the same, right? They come in different shapes and varieties. So in your Harvard Business Review article, Let's Hear It for the B Players, you actually identify three groups that you say are particularly important to the organization. Can we walk through those?

Tom DeLong: Yeah. Number one, there are those who have been A players at particular times in their lives, and they've decided -- in fact, one A player said to me at 32 years of age, she said, you know, I figured out the system, I know how I want to get to the top, but that's not exactly what I want my life to be about. And so occasion, she can play that role. And she can go and be an A player. But that's a good size. Now, you may want to walk me through the others that you've identified. What were the others? You mentioned a couple of others.

Paul Michelman: There are a couple that stood out, in my mind, from reading the article. One of them was this group called the truth tellers.

Tom DeLong: These are individuals who, in my mind, have a perspective on long term and short term. And truth tellers have all this institutional knowledge that they're walking around with. And what I mean by that is, how do you get things done in this organization? Who do you really call if you need something to get done? If you really need to serve clients, these are the three things. And they just know the organization inside and out -- both the processes and the people.

Number one is, they get no credit for that. Number two is that they take a long-term perspective, in the sense of saying, I'm going to do things that are in the best interest of the organization. Not just, how am I going to get to the top of the heap? And so, in that process, they're able to just to pretty well say, this information is useful for short-term goals. This is information that's useful for long-term goals. But they're able to keep perspective. And if were a CEO, it's the truth tellers that I'd want to make sure that I have conversation with. Because they don't necessary tell me what I want to hear.

Paul Michelman: So, just so we can kind of cement who these people are in the minds of our viewers, I'm imagining now a crack software engineer who is happy being a crack software engineer. She's so good at what she does, she's not worried about her job. But she also doesn't play politics. She doesn't want to move up in the organization. So she feels free to speak the truth. The kind of truth that someone who was trying to build their career might be reticent to –

Tom DeLong: That's correct. And the biggest worry that we see is that if she's in some ways to good, what will happen with this programmer is that they'll say, you're so good at this, we will be a manage other people. Because don't you want to get to the top? And so the assumption is that computer program wants to become the president of Microsoft, which is a faulty assumption. And so we've studied organizations that they take this fabulous programmer and, number one is, they don't necessarily recognize her and make explicit how terrific she is.

And they simply believe that the single most important reward is to promote the person. And then you start running into real problems. About the person saying, wait a second, this is not what I came to this organization to do. I don't want to deal with the people problems, I don't want to manage other programmers, and I know you think I should want to do that. But there's something else that means a great deal to me.

Paul Michelman: Interesting. So we have a third group, and I think we've already begun to talk about them. They're called to go to managers. Who are these people?

Tom DeLong: So, Bill is a fabulous associate in a law firm, for example. And Bill's frustrated because his boss is abusive. And Bill's thinking about leaving the organization. He's thinking about leaving, he's a fourth year associate, and he really can do the work very, very well. So what happens is, that Bill is thinking, things have got to be better at a law firm. Or I should go work for another company as a legal expert. Well, what happens is, is that Bill's superior ignores Bill, and Bill's ready to leave.

And all of a sudden there's a go to manager that sees Bill frustrated. And this is a solid citizen that reaches out reaches out and says, Bill, what's going on? Shows Bill some attention, asks Bill about his work, asks Bill about what he needs -- what does he need from the organization – and all of a sudden, Bill didn't need a lot to stay with the organization. But the go to managers are ones that are keeping people on the ship. Keeping the right people on the ships so that they don't leave. And that's one of the dilemmas that organizations are facing that I think that the B player manager is so astute at. Are they ensure that the right people stay and the right people leave at the appropriate time.

Paul Michelman: So how do we ensure that they stay? And they and their other valuable B players? As f you noted, your research suggests that CEO's spend their time with the A players. And it's the natural inclination of a manager to focus their attention on the stars. Clearly that's not a solid strategy. So what so we, as managers, need to tell ourselves about managing B players? How do we motivate them?

Tom DeLong: Number one, don't leave performance management discussions of B players to the last minute. Because what happens if that the A players will fill up all the time, and then you'll have 20 of these terrific, solid citizens, who feel like they're being jammed at the end of the year. That the managers are just putting in time and they don't really care about it. So number one is to have authentic performance management discussions.

A second is to recognize these solid citizens. I don't have one story, through 100's of interviews of CEO's, where the CEO had an explicit strategy of actually recognizing the solid citizens. What would happen if you had a dinner in groups of people? And these are appreciation dinners. The B players, the solid citizens, don't need a lot of attaboys and attagirls. They don't have this insatiable need for feedback like your high performers are going to need. But when I ask a CEO, I say, I want you to spend 15 minute a week writing an email or I writing a thank you note to a solid performer. Once they do that, that word spreads throughout the whole organization. So it's not a lot that they need to do to keep these folks satisfied.

Paul Michelman: So one last question with our manager's hat back on. I would think one of the challenges to managing a B player is to make sure that they are continually challenged. It's part of the definition of a B player that they're not necessarily looking to move up in the organization. How do we, as managers, make sure that they have new projects? Make sure that they don't get caught in a rut?

Tom DeLong: This is where assignments around task and designing task is becoming more and more important. Is that career development is based on how managers actually manage Paul's career. And just because a person has decided not to get to the top, doesn't mean that they want to do what I would call commodities, routinized, processed, work. This doesn't mean you get them scut work because they're more loyal and we can take them for granted.

What this means is, is that we have quarterly conversations about, are your competences, are your talents, being used? Are you having stretch assignments? But what solid citizens want to know is that someone other than them is interested in their career. And what we do know, again, the high flyers are going to make sure that people pay attention to their careers. And if you don't pay enough attention, they're going to leave. But clearly, we need to do much better in terms of task allocation and how we have those conversations. Again, it doesn't take a lot, but it's absolutely critical.

Paul Michelman: Ok. Tom DeLong. Thank you very much.



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