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Not to toot my own horn but for a while now I've been riding this same horse - managers are the key to engagement. The one-to-one discussions and experiences that occur between the employee and their direct supervisor (manager) are pivitol and critical for employees to be engaged. It's an old saw but sometimes they are true - people join companies and leave managers.

What concerns me is that (and I'm not saying you Ann - just some folks) consultants and managers believe that they should manage the process of interaction between managers and employees with software, procedures and paperwork. When in reality we need training for individual managers with respect to human motivation, engagement, decision-making.

Managers need to understand the "machines" they are repsonsible for. We'd never let a welder go use his/her machine without fully understanding how it works, what each knob and button does and how to recover from errors, etc.

For some reason in business we believe it is more important to teach managers about the processes their people work "within" rather than teach them about the people who work the process.

Don't "get ahead of this wave with structure and guidelines in order to ensure that the arrangements being granted are equitable and defensible" - we first should teach managers how to do - then decide if we need controls.

So to answer your final question...

If managers are truly responsible for "people" it is no stretch to educate them on the proper application of these influence techniques and require they create an individualized plan for each person they manage. Their performance against that plan should count for at least 50% of their performance ranking.

The net-net... Teach and Trust but Verify.

I'm not sure I follow your logic. You say you are concerned that "consultants and managers believe that they should manage the process of interaction between managers and employees..." Sounds as if you are advocating a "hands-off" approach.
Yet, in closing you seem to advocate in favor of taking steps to "educate them on the proper application of these influence techniques and require they create an individualized plan for each person they manaage." That sure sounds a lot like setting up procedures and paperwork, though perhaps not software. In fact, it sounds a lot like the "structure and guidelines" Ann suggested in her post.
So, what are you really saying?

I'm saying that in most cases we want to abdicate the responsibility for these things to systems and procedures versus trusting the manager to do it right. Think of how we tell managers they HAVE TO have so many in each of the ranking levels so it fits a normal curve... things like that are designed to remove responsibility. I'm saying give them responsibility.

I'm saying - train managers correctly - give them free reign to reward as needed (assuming there is training) and follow up regularly to make sure they are applying their training effectively. The ONLY requirement is that a manager needs to think about their people and have a plan. I'm not saying others need to approve it - just that managers take time to make one. And... this would only have to be done once since I'm convinced if done once the managers will see the benefit and then do it on their own moving forward.

So yes - hands off - but train initially.

Paul and Steve:

A great conversation, and I really (honestly) appreciate the tactful pushback, Paul. That is how we learn from each other. I agree that we don't want to structure these kinds of rewards to the point that we allow (or even encourage) managers to abdicate their responsibility for knowing their people well enough to structure an engaging work experience for them. Northing like the "forced ranking" scenario you mention. I think that what I have in mind (which is still, admittedly, vague) is more along the lines of a broad roadmap and a wide set of guardrails - so that everyone works from a common understanding of why this "customization" is an important part of the work experience ... and they are not given sufficient rope with which to hang themselves (which might be a challenge to "unwind", once verified later). (Is this where you are coming from, too, Steve?)

I've seen what management teams with a lot of flexibility and little direction can do with cash rewards - one of the results is the host of discrimination regulations we are now (or about to be) facing. I'm likely dragging a lot of baggage from my cash experience over to this side of the equation - rightly or wrongly, I'm not quite sure.

I admit that it's a delicate balance.

What say others? Am I overthinking and overengineering this (heaven knows that I am prone to both)?

All the posts make sense.

The ancient sports analogy is that of a supervisor as a downfield blocker who opens up the path for their employees. They should be trained to enable their subordinates to maximize their various contributions. Managers may not have direct reports but are additionally resposible for crafting and tweaking any management systems and procedures for optimal effectiveness by users. One of the most vital supervisor/manager functions is fast, timely, accurate, meaningful, etc., feedback, which is a form of reward itself.

Thanks for clarifying your position! I feel as if I have a better understanding of what you are saying. I suspect your program would be a bit less structured than one I would design. However, I understand and agree with your concern about too much structure. I think Ann said it well in that it is a delicate balance. Perhaps company culture even comes into play. That is, there likely is not a single "sweet spot" that is right for everyone.

I believe that some structure actually helps encourage some managers to take actions they otherwise would not. Structure sometimes encourages the less bold to take steps they wouldn't otherwise.

Jim, I appreciate your reminder that appropriate feedback can be a form of reward in itself. It is amazing how impactful a few sincere words of encouragement or praise can be, even when offered to a peer or other employee not directly reporting to you.

Thanks all!

To be honest, I think there should be a mix. Micro-management is good in certain times and situations of the business, but then sometimes you need to be lax as well. I think sticking to one extreme for all situations is not good.

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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