[Counter Intelligence – May 2011] I’ve had the pleasure lately of getting to know members of a local chapter of STC – The Society of Technical Communicators. These are the folks who write Operator and Policy Manuals for complex machines, software applications and services. One member has been writing articles for medical journals for 30 years. She works with doctors and medical researchers to understand what they’ve done and then puts it in words other medical professionals can understand. [Which, by the way is an excellent use of a Strength].
In listening to STC members talk about what they are paid to do, I am struck by the thought that companies place a lot of value on keeping their machines running in tip-top shape. STC writers aren’t getting rich, but many of them command a decent hourly fee for their work because companies want to make sure people know how to operate and care for their equipment.

Do the machines in your company live a better life than the people who run them?

Think about it:

Before someone in your company is allowed to operate the fancy new X96-WhachamaCallit, they get extensive training, and are required to score a passing grade on a competency exam. You probably
set aside time and money to have production people attend updated training sessions on proper use of their tools.
Machines have regular, established maintenance schedules to keep them running in peak condition. Many of them come with built-in service contracts that provide time with an outside expert who specializes in the care and feeding of equipment.
Most companies of a certain size have departments dedicated solely to installation, maintenance and repair of equipment.
If an employee were found to lack certain operational skills, they’d be taken off that machine and assigned elsewhere – where they couldn’t damage the machine. Because, after all – machines are the company’s “most important asset.”
Oh wait.
That “most important asset” line is usually used when referring to the people we hire to operate the machines. But what’s the reality?
Play with me for a minute and replace the word operator with the word manager. Swap out machine and use employee, instead.

Are the people who operate your employees, trained in their assigned duties to the same extent you train those who manage your machines?

Do the people who manage your “most valuable asset” understand the unique functions (or Strengths) of each and every “asset” on their team? Have you given your managers the training they need to maximize each employee’s potential?

How about your Human Resources team? Do they have the tools they need to give you the greatest return on your payroll dollars? Is the concept of developing your human resource to its greatest potential part of your growth strategy, or is HR merely a necessary evil that keeps track of rules and spends money on benefit programs?

Companies seldom purchase machines without a plan for using them. But we often hire people to fill a slot without considering exactly how their individual skills will help us grow.

And what about that incompetent operator? I can’t think of a single company that would look the other way while a machine was mistreated or allowed to run without proper care. Yet, we can all name incompetent managers who are allowed to destroy morale and send good people running for the door – over and over again.

Consider this:
The people on your payroll in all likelihood have more to offer than you are getting from them – and it ain’t their fault.
You have a goldmine of talent out there waiting for someone to tap it.

Get your leadership team together and ask these questions:

  1. Who do we have who has more potential than we’re currently using?
  2. What changes can we make to tap into the wasted potential?
  3. Do we have any shining stars who are on the verge of taking their talent elsewhere?
  4. What do we need to change so we don’t lose them?

Until next time –