A couple of years ago I took a summer to learn as much as I could about “analytics” and especially about “predictive analytics”. I believed that such knowledge would improve the work of Human Resource Departments by making them more efficient and effective. I was so impressed with what I learned that, along with another colleague, we created a company designed to apply analytics to HR. We didn’t get far. Why is a puzzle. I believe we were likely a little ahead of the curve regarding analytics and HR. Today I have the opposite concern. I believe we have given over too much of the role of HR managers to algorithms and computer based, key word, information gathering.
To test this theory, I conducted a little experiment: Although I operate a small coaching company and am not actually looking for a salaried position, I changed my LinkedIn setting to say that I was looking for a job. In the last several weeks my account has been “pinged” upwards of 100 times by, mostly search firms, checking out my credentials. Key words in my profile include “Director”, “Vice President” “International Experience” and of course “Human Resources”. Of those approximately 100 “pings” exactly zero follow-ups have taken place.
The reason for the absence of any contacts resulting from these search hits, I believe, is that it only takes a couple of minutes to calculate my age, which is just north of 70, from my profile. One could not tell from the profile, for instance, that I am a high energy, highly motivated and physically fit executive, fully able to “parachute” into the most demanding of circumstances and immediately add value. These human elements are not revealed from the key word search.
During the last four years, I have had several intensive coaching assignments. What I learned from them is that none of them had anything to do with the manager’s competency insofar as his/her technical acumen was concerned. The same was true with the team coaching assignments I completed. What was revealed during these engagements was a near void on the part of these managers in the fundamentals of actual management, i.e., how to motivate, develop and get work done through other people.
Algorithms are not good at uncovering “human” strengths and weaknesses. I believe this is true in hiring and at all stages of one’s career. Yet we do little or nothing to develop our managers in the human side of their role; increasingly relying on the computer to give us the right answer. Think, for instance, of the dreaded “performance appraisal”, now automated to a level of incompetency that virtually eliminates all but the most cursory human interaction.
I do not believe computers have the ability (yet) to modify human behavior through a series of clicks and box checks. Until they do, we would be better served developing our managers in the human (dare I say “soft”) skills of their role.
Developing truly competent managers regarding the societal/human aspects of their role is not easy, and certainly cannot be done quickly. I have yet to meet a manager who has taken even one course in “pure applied management” or who can articulate what that entails. We have great accountants leading accounting departments. Great sales people leading sales departments and so on. Few if any of these leaders knew how to manage when first given the opportunity and, as such, they had to rely on their experiences being managed and that old, inefficient, standby – trial and error. By the time they became halfway decent managers, the damage to their teams and colleagues was done. Good salespeople left the firm; motivated employees became less motivated.
A computer will not tell you if a prospective manager is a person of character, or if she has the necessary degree of compassion. Current algorithms will not assess the levels of intensity, self-awareness, empathy, social skills, and good judgment that an effective manager needs to get the job done. Conversely, managers who have acquired the skills and mindset needed to effectively engage, encourage, motivate, and empower others are far more likely to succeed both in their own careers and as skilled developers of the next generation of managers.
The operative word in the above sentence is “skills”. Almost anyone willing to spend the time with a knowledgeable coach can learn to be a much better manager. I urge the readers of this note to consider true management development as a fundamental right for each newly appointed manager and as a requirement of good corporate governance for those already in place.
Should anyone kind enough to read the above wish to engage me in a conversation regarding what was said, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at: 904-321-7089. Thank you and regards.