model(ing) employees

An article in the NY Times on Sunday discussed Google's effort to understand what makes their best managers their best managers. As the article reports, the top ideas were not all that surprising:
  • Be a good coach
  • Empower your team and don't micromanage
  • Express interest in team members' success and personal well-being
  • Be productive and results-oriented
  • Be a good communicator and listen to your team
  • Help your employees with career development
  • Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  • Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
    see complete details
The above list is ordered most important to least. Managers that excelled in these areas were typically leading in productivity as well as employee retention and happiness.

Similar results were obtained by a study done around 2005* that attempted to determine characteristics of the best project managers. The report was summarized and discussed in the book, Alpha Project Managers, by Alex Crowe. The book didn't order the characteristics in terms of importance but the overlap is there. Similarly, a quick search yields similar observations. (Some might be grounded in actual studies but many seem to be more anecdotal.)

Of interest might be the relationship between the Alpha Project Manager study and Google's. The Times article quotes Google’s Prasad Setty,
“We want to understand what works at Google rather than what worked in any other organization,” says Prasad Setty, Google’s vice president for people analytics and compensation.
So, whereas Google's study is specific to Google (though global in scope), Crowe's crosscut many organizations over many countries (in North/South America, Europe, Asia and Africa). The point is the characteristics are generally the same.

In terms of modeling itself, this isn't so strange. IBM engaged efforts to model it's employees - both workers (see Steven Baker's The Numerati) and management. As with Google, part of the effort is to understand their best people and how to help the other employees reach their potential. However, on a more practical side, modeling their workforce will help managers find the right person to fill a specific need as well as, particularly with consulting efforts, to optimize teams to be deployed to clients.

What emerges from these studies is advice for those entering, or thinking about entering, the job market. If companies can determine characteristics of their best employees, it would be natural to screen applicants using those qualities. For certain, organizations have always reviewed resumes and interviewed potential hires looking for certain qualities they deemed important. What's different now is that organizations may be approaching the process with hard data.

* I wasn't able to readily find the year the study took place. The book, however, has a copyright of 2006 so I'm estimating the study ended in 2005.

No comments:

Post a Comment