Compensation experts say time and time again that "what you measure and compensate is what you get for behavior" and yet it is amazing how many companies fail to motivate the behaviors they want through their compensation system and then complain that people are not acting the way that they should. Many companies have "core values" that are no more than mere words on a page somewhere deep in an employee manual that never gets read. Even that is far beyond what most law firms have, since I have neither seen or heard of a law firm that touts of having a set of common values (other than vague references to integrity, quality, etc). The true test, of course, is to ask an employee to recite them. Our goal at Exemplar is to find a way to integrate these values into the evaluation and compensation system so that the values really do become common values. What seems to be the age old challenge is that the most important things are perhaps the hardest to measure.
This particular blog is about Communication, which is one of the 8 core values at Exemplar. Why did I start with this one? Because it is less common to have communication as a core value and I also believe it is among the hardest value of them all to measure (and very important). Why? Well, let's start with the fact that most people don't even know what the heck it really means. How do I know this? Well, we put in our job ads that we are seeking people with excellent communication skills. Hundreds upon hundreds of resumes come pouring in with candidates who claim that have such skills. After interviewing them it is clear that most people think "excellent communication" means that they know how to talk and complete a sentence. In fact, I don't think I have ever met a person who thought they did not have great communication skills, yet I also don't think I have ever met a person that did not know a long list of people who have terrible communication skills. This tells me that we all seem to be suffering from a crisis of self-awareness. One thing is for sure: Miscommunication is costly to an organization and often unnecessary, and no organization has ever failed because it over-communicated. Therefore, it seems to be a worthy mission to explore how communication can be measured and rewarded in an organization. Here is where your input comes in. I would love to hear your thoughts on the following questions:
1) Since most people are not self-aware of how well (or poorly) they communicate, the feedback needs to come from the people with whom you work. If the system is to be effective, the feedback itself needs to be constructive. If you were designing this system, how would you collect and deliver the feedback? Should you "rate" a person on a scale based on several adjectives that describe good communicators? Should it be open form to allow for examples and explanation?
2) Firm Yet Flexible: A system for promoting good communication needs to be firm enough to offer guidance on what excellence in communication means within the organization, but also needs to be flexible enough to accommodate various communication styles and cultural norms in communication. Since the people giving the feedback will not be communication experts trained to make evaluations against set standards (some of them will themselves receive poor feedback in their communication review), should everyone be involved in this process?
3) You all know and have worked with someone who was a terrible communicator. How much easier would your life be if that person communicated better? How important do you think good communication is in an organization? If you could find a way to evaluate and promote good communication through an evaluation system, would you do it?
I appreciate your comments and look forward to the discussion. Feel free to post them below or email your thoughts to me and I will either post them with a response or keep them private if you wish: firstname.lastname@example.org