Regardless of the industry, most companies loudly proclaim that their workforce is their most valuable asset. I wonder if this is really true as I consider how many organizations tend to manage those precious assets. (Education, healthcare, media, professional services, and technology workers in particular.)
I believe that the workforce is indeed an organization's most valuable asset. I also believe that they are a companies biggest investment. Which is why business leaders need to give the same attention to their people as they do other assets. As project leaders, can you answer these questions about your project team?
What is the value of each team members' contribution to the team? On most teams every member contributes to the success of a project with different skills. Although there may be team members who share the same job description, their contribution and skill-sets are not always the same. Can you identify the value of each member of your team?
Are there members of your team that feel undervalued? I read an interesting statistic once that suggested most people don't tend to leave a job for financial reasons, it's usually working conditions and a bad relationship with the boss. In an economy that has cut budgets and the workforce to the bone, one would think that a highly-skilled and technical workforce would be more valued than ever. If that's not the case with your project teams, you run the risk of losing high-quality people as the economic situation improves. Good people by the way, are not easy or inexpensive to replace.
Do the members of your project teams understand the business value of what they do and how it contributes to the success of the organization? I believe that most people want to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Do your project teams understand the value of their contribution, and what's more, do you? Surprisingly, most organizations are chasing around the wheel that squeaks the loudest instead of focusing on those activities that provide business value. And many of those that are focused on the right things, fail to share it with the team. We can't expect individual project team members to pull together if they don't know what they're all pulling together for.
Do you have a clear understanding of what each member of your project team does? If you answered yes, you might be in the minority. I recently read a study that suggested the majority of managers and knowledge workers believe that missing or inaccurate information about team member activities was a significant contributor to financial waste in their organizations. The traditional top-down project management approach makes it difficult to capture accurate information at the source, and makes managing valuable human resources problematic.
In my opinion, the solution to these issues is really very simple. You've got to walk the talk if you expect the workforce to believe the claim that their contributions are valued. How does an organization do this? If people really are the most valued resource on your project teams, the answer is really very simple and it's less about project management methodology than it is about project leadership. Let me suggest a good place to start:
Empower the team! People want empowerment, with ownership and flexibility regarding what they do. Nobody wants to ask "Mother, may I?" for everything. Most likely, you hired these people because you thought they were smart. Allowing team members to make appropriate decisions for themselves gives them a sense of ownership in what they're doing—and that equates to better performance.
Recognize accomplishment. People take pride in their work and they care about what their managers and peers think of them and their accomplishments. Organizations that facilitate the recognition of individual team member accomplishments and contributions foster an environment where team members are more inclined to work hard and surpass expectations.
In my opinion, the above suggestions are just a start, but they validate the contribution of the workforce and give managers more confidence in the team and the information that percolates up from the workforce. After all, regardless of your organization's particular work management methodology, business leaders rely on accurate information to help them make good decisions. Project management tools that help facilitate that are what most project managers are looking for.
What do you do to ensure that every member of your project teams feels like their contributions are valued and essential to achieving business goals?