One of the core issues that you face as a manager/owner is that the people you supervise often don't do what you want them to do. This problem often confuses many managers because they don't really understand why it happens. So they often feel at a loss to remedy the problem and then it just gets worse.
I recently revisited a fascinating book called Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed To Do-And What To do About It, by Ferdinand Fournies (1999). I had used the book in preparing material for a client on the best ways to conduct performance reviews. Having read too many mediocre management books over the last 35 years, I look for books that have withstood the “test of time,” that is, they have key things to say and not simply repackaged what everyone else has already said. Although only 11 years old, I was pleased to find that Fournies’ book fits those criteria.
Over a 15-year period, the author asked over 20,000 managers the book's title question. Interestingly, he heard the same answers, over and over. I was particularly impressed by how simple and even obvious the responses were. Yet I also thought how rare it is that we actually deal with same issues as the real reasons why employees are not motivated.
- They don't know why they should do it.
- They don't know how to do it.
- And they don't know what to do.
Why They Should Do It
Fournies makes the interesting point that answering the question of why an employee should do something is really a two-part answer. The first part involves teaching the employee how a particular action will affect the larger vision and immediate health of the company. For example, doing a particular thing may increase the bottom line through cost-cutting or it may strengthen the company's reputation for excellent customer service.
Employees should know the larger purpose of their actions. But Fournies emphasizes that this answer is not good enough because some employees may not care about the company's bottom line or reputation. So they may not bother to comply.
To resolve this, Fournies says that they also need to know the positive and negative consequences of doing-or not doing-something. For example, positive consequences might include an award, a raise or a promotion. Negative consequences might include avoiding a reprimand, a demotion or being terminated.
Now this may seem fairly obvious. But since it's the number one response on the survey, it's not so obvious after all. So be clear with your employees that there are consequences to their actions. It will make a big difference.
What They Should Do
In relations to the problems of employees not knowing what they're supposed to do, Fournies' answer is simple: tell them. But tell them in great detail. He emphasizes that you should not arbitrarily limit the behavioral job description to one page. He says you should be as detailed as necessary so there won't be any misunderstandings.
He gives the example that 'be on time" may mean different things to different people. One person may think it means having a cup of coffee in the cafeteria at 8 a.m., while another may think it means getting to the parking lot at 8 a.m.
Be sure to answer all of their questions. Check back frequently to make sure they're doing what you asked and to see if they need any additional information, resources or help.
How They Should Do It
If your employees don't know how to do a particular thing, Fournies emphasizes that you need to train them. He says that you should never assume that your people know how. Always assume that you need to show them.
Fournies makes the point that you should not just ask an experienced employee to teach someone new because the person with experience may not know how to teach someone else. So he suggests that you train the trainer and that you should create a training manual so everyone will be trained the same way.
Finally, he emphasizes that everyone should be tested after training. If they don't pass the test, train them again.
Fournies emphasizes that these issues are really management problems rather than employee problems. As you learn to manage your employees more effectively, they will learn to do more of what you want.