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Why People are Not Your Greatest Asset

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2011

“There is this emotional element of empathy and a rational element of navigation that have to come together. You can’t do that effectively if the first thing a supervisor has to do Monday morning is three days of code writing,” Davenport says.

“So, the investment is less production from managers. The ROI for the hospital is lower manager and employee turnover, higher productivity, and higher engagement.”

For too long organizations have relied on player-coach models, Davenport says. “They think, ‘I can combine that production and leadership.’ But even for the people who are talented enough to do it, you have constructed a job where they can’t do both well.”

Fortunately, organizational attitudes are evolving. Executives across the business spectrum are starting to understand the importance of those immediate supervisors in sustained workforce retention, development, and productivity.

“We are just coming out the era of executive leader worship – that ‘if we just had Jack Welch or Steve Jobs at the top of the organization, then we will have an engaging vision, a direction, and people will come to work ready to work toward that,’” Davenport says.

Executive leader worship leads HR to prioritize things such as succession planning. “They’re thinking ‘I can find the next Jack Welch, or I can deal with the 500 middle managers that are not performing very well. Which seems easier? Well, the managers seem intractable. I’ll deal with succession planning,’” Davenport says.

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2 comments on "Why People are Not Your Greatest Asset"


R Daniel King (9/29/2011 at 9:04 AM)
I disagree with Davenport that today's worker is "better educated, more sophisticated, and more demanding of their work experience." How are the products of a K-12 public educational system that [INVALID]ped from first in the World in 1960 to 24th today and [INVALID]ping "better educated?" It may apply for less than 10% of these graduates but the remaining will need extensive education and constant management to address their lack of education, self-esteem, and work ethic. If Davenport defines "sophisticated" as being exposed to more countries, states, cities, commercial events, sex, immorality, violence, selfishness, cheating, lying, dysfunctional families, entitlements, and the soft discrimination of lower expectations then I agree. But, collectively these are major challenges of the management level Davenport references that need to "manage the environment." If Davenport defines "demanding of their work experience" as a sense they are entitled to work on their on schedule, at their own pace, in their own manner be damn for outcomes, quality, efficiency or impact on other individuals and departments then I agree. Davenport is right on achieving the right environment but it is only achieved through effectively managing an increasing dysfunctional, morally challenged, pseudo-educated workforce. What Davenport has not recognized is there are two contrasting environments that impact organizational culture: accountable and political. The contrast between the two is an accountable environment is where individuals utilize political skills to achieve universal accountability starting with senior leadership. Whereas, in a political environment individuals utilize political skills to avoid accountability for the politically protected and deflect it to the politically isolated. Government, Wall Street, education and health care are all posted boards for the decaying impact of a predominantly political environment.

svbellistri (9/28/2011 at 9:07 AM)
Much of what the artical states has some bearing in the healthcare environment. My thought is that there has been an evolution in management direction and staff motivation. Executives and managers need to realize that one style does not fit all. Our employees are our experts and they can be the solution and the advancment needed in healthcare to obtain better outcomes.