Knowing, Understanding and Developing Your Employees


Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D.


A Good Fit, which is at the heart of employee satisfaction, and therefore effective recruitment, involvement and retention, requires that people and organizations really know what they’re like and what they want to become at a level of honesty that may require considerable courage.

It is really appealing, perhaps thrilling, to see oneself as a big winner who thrives on risk. It’s exciting to be SUPERPERSON, someone who can fly cross-country for a two-hour meeting, fly right back and be in the office at 6 am sharp. It’s really seductive to see yourself as the muscled keystone of the enterprise. It’s a lot more exciting to be a Ferrari than a Ford.  But honesty is the only way to get a Best Fit.

  • Organizations must SELECT people whose core needs or highest priorities can be met.
  • Organizations must SELECT people whose attitudes and behaviors are compatible with those of the organization.
  • Organizations must SELECT people whose expectations can be met.
  • Organizations have to elevate the people part of the investment to one that’s equal to that of finance or strategy or purchasing or marketing or R&D. …It’s that simple; which means it’s downright revolutionary.

Realistically, Best Fit will keep changing as people’s needs and priorities reflect what’s happening in the economy as well as their personal development. Best Fit is a moving target in a dynamic economy.  Why do re-engineering, or mergers and acquisitions have such notorious and costly failure rates? Why is the fall-out from call centers so high? In these and other examples, most of the time it’s because the people part of the enterprise is ignored. That’s the simple, real origin of most failures. When I ask members of management, What’s your job?, people reply, I’m in IT or Marketing or R&D or Finance… they identify themselves in terms of their functional area because it’s results in those terms that determine how they’re evaluated. Only once did I ever hear a manager say, My job is to know, understand, and develop my people.  That, I’m arguing, is the only right answer in conditions that are becoming those of permanent wartime. And, equally revolutionary, while peacetime management has generally been successful in relating to people as members of a group or generation, wartime management must “see” individuals.

And these individual members of wartime organizations tend to have their own definitions of success. A very ambitious, apparently driven CEO of a dot-com told me, If things work out financially like I think they might, I’ll stay here for two or three years and then I think it would be fun to stay home and raise the kids for a few years.

While people want technology to make their work more—not less—fulfilling, wartime’s requirement of better! faster! cheaper! has increased a natural tendency to use technology solely to improve productivity. Then, work processes and jobs are designed to increase performance without giving any thought to how the processes or job impacts employees. The result is frequently people-unfriendly. When work processes or jobs debilitate and stress rather than engage and motivate, people don’t deliver sustained performance and they don’t initiate effective innovation.

In turn, people have to KNOW what most matters to them at this time, and the conditions in which they’re more likely to flourish.



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