Top managers sometimes make stupid decisions. The goal of any support group is to help prevent these decisions or quickly point out the negative impacts of decisions so they can be reversed before they cause terminal damage to a business. You can't do that without solid metrics, and often in real time, because you're rarely guided before a bad decision has been made.

Instead, after the fact, you must create and present a compelling case for damage limitation.

My bad approach to a problem.

Years ago, when I was working for IBM, I had the opportunity to meet the head of my division and talk frankly. The rule was that he could not be held responsible for anything he said. (I hope this policy was reviewed after my meeting, since the first words out of my mouth were, "Are you a complete idiot?") I had just joined the Internal Audit Division, but before that, I ran compensation sales – and I have a degree in a related field. So he knew how the commissions worked and he knew that the division chief had just killed the division.

What have you done? She took the sales compensation package and turned it over. Instead of the fixed low-pay, high-commission setup that had many sales reps earning seven figures, he wanted a high-pay, low-commission model. The change caused all the top sellers to quit. Revenue fell by two-thirds, plunging the division into the red and costing him his job.

The Problem: Executives Who Don't Understand Motivation and Productivity

It amazes me how many top executives don't understand the tools used to motivate and engage employees. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he wasn't happy with employee performance, so he was going to change performance metrics mid-year and kick out underperformers. Instead, he may have told all Facebook employees to look for jobs at other companies. Zuckerberg isn't the only one doing stupid things. Elon Musk's recent comments about Twitter employees have prompted resignations at that company, and his comments about working from home at Tesla are undoubtedly doing the same there.

Reminder: This is happening in a job market that remains very tight.

Part of the job of any employee group (IT is an employee organization) is to prevent top executives like Zuckerberg and Musk from making stupid decisions that could hurt the business. This is where employee metrics come in; the ability to investigate and pull a pearl from employees is key to potentially overturning a bad decision before the outcome is irretrievable. Of course, neither Musk nor Zuckerberg seem capable of admitting mistakes, let alone using measures to avoid them, and both are known to be vindictive. (That's something Sheryl Sandberg seems to be learning right now.) Therefore, presenting only the metrics could be problematic and enough to avoid working for either one. The response to an internal memo from SpaceX employees is also likely to prompt key people to leave the relatively successful company.

In the technology industry, there is currently a significant shortage of employees, so it seems like a mistake to push employees to leave. With the right employee metrics—monitoring things like increased searches on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, longer lunches or time off during the day, or union recruiting—a business leader can recalibrate messages and determine if these messages alleviate pain. issue. (The metrics can also let you know that maybe you should consider a company that is more supportive of its employees and doesn't suffer from out-of-this-world leaders.)

Learned lessons?

Messing around with compensation and benefits is something executives seem to do too often, since most don't understand how these things relate to productivity. Musk and Zuckerberg aren't the only ones mistreating workers, but if you monitor employees properly, you can at least determine how bad the problem is before a company becomes unsustainable. And you can use this information to potentially mitigate or reverse what those at the top of the food chain are doing.

Ultimately, we all work in a numbers business. It should be unacceptable not to use data to ensure the care, nurture and above all loyalty of employees essential to success. When top executives misbehave, it's up to those who understand the real issues and can act to convince them to reverse a bad decision.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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