The project was huge. It would span multiple years and cost millions of dollars. Almost everyone in the company would be involved in implementing this in some way, whether it be building, testing, programming, or training. The project was mentioned at each and every company-wide staff meeting and its importance was reaffirmed at every turn. Why, then, did Human Resources seem not to care about it at all?
The Training Function was part of the HR function, and there would be a lot of training involved in this project. The company’s one trainer, already overburdened, was assigned to be the person to teach the company how to work the new system. He wasn’t alone. There was someone else working with him to plan out the education, but his was the primary responsibility to produce all training for the company. Happily, these two people got on well with each other, and understood not only the task, but the bandwidth limits each had.
Throughout the meetings the trainer and his associate would have a conversation where the associate would ask why the trainer’s department didn’t bring on some temporary assistance, as the trainer’s burden was vastly increased by the project. The trainer replied that he had mentioned this several times, but the powers that be in his department didn’t think it was much of a big deal.
The associate then asked why the trainer, if he couldn’t get help, didn’t press more to have this on his bonus goals — the goals that would lead to a bonus. Everyone else did. The trainer would tell the associate that he tried, many times to tell his department Director this, and each time, he was brushed off.
The associate offered to send her Director, who was over the whole project, to talk with his Director and the Director’ boss. The trainer said it would not make much of a difference. Since HR did not use the system being developed in the project, it didn’t much matter to them. Plus, the training function never seemed to hold much interest for them.
The associate was respectful of the trainer’s opinions, though really didn’t believe his protests, thinking that he simply didn’t want to press the subject with his management. That changed one day when, during a meeting, he recounted the following.
It seems that, during a meeting the Project Manager had with the department Director, the PM took the opportunity to stress how important the project was, how much work the trainer had to do, how vital he was to the workings of the project. In recounting that meeting with the trainer, the department Director dismissed it by saying, “…and she told me how much work it was, how much you had to do, how important this was, blah, blah, blah.” She promptly went on with other discussions. The associate was stunned at this, and finally understood what the trainer was up against.
Throughout the meetings on the project, the associate would ask the trainer what the department Director had him working on, what she considered important. At various times, the trainer would mention that the he was working on part of the application process so the company could be considered for the Best Place to Work in the state, revising websites at the Director’s direction, and manning tables at a fair for the company to show how much the department did for the company. The associate began to see the pattern. What was important to the department Director was an activity that she could brag about as having implemented, building her own reputation. Something to help the whole company? That would be secondary. Get help for the trainer? No, he would just have to learn to do more, be more efficient, or she would have to discipline him for not completing his duties.
There is nothing inherently bad in wanting to do projects that will display your talents, showcase your abilities, and gain you some notice, especially if it will wind up advancing your career. However, when a manager doesn’t keep the balance between what is good for the company and what is good for the manager, their ambition takes precedence over everything else. A good manager realizes that, even when something might not benefit themselves or their department directly, they need to do it for the corporate good. They don’t put on blinders to the work it will take, the efforts of their employees, or how important it is, simply because it may interfere with their own goals. For their efforts, they will get the respect of their employees, appreciation and recognition from their peers and decision makers, and greater support for their programs when the time comes.
Managers always talk about needing teamwork to make their goals a reality. Their managers need it as well. When that call comes, a good manager does more than say, “Blah, blah, blah”.