Your Staff, Not Technology, Will Set Your Company Apart
Most of us have worked with both good and bad staff throughout our careers. Some are bang-your-head-against-the-wall awful. I remember one associate editor I had who was invariably late with his articles. The really bad part was that he didn’t give a hoot that it would impact the magazine, the readers or even other staff members. One time when I asked him, “Do you have your article?” he simply said, “Nope.” When I reminded him that it was past the deadline, he raised his hands and shoulders in a shrug. (Needless to say, we mutually agreed that the job was not for him.) Another assistant I had would get angry and burst into tears if anyone criticized her work—and this was almost a daily routine, not at an annual performance review. And then there was the alcoholic senior editor who fell asleep at her desk so soundly that another executive called her from the fax machine to make sure she was still alive.
But there are, of course, those employees who are please-don’t-ever-leave-the-company fabulous. It’s easy to take those people for granted—it can be much more obvious when people are doing things wrong than when they’re doing things right. And taking these star employees for granted can be enough to send them out the door.
It also can be easier to let subpar staff members continue on as they are rather than try to improve their performance, or an even more difficult decision can be knowing when it’s just time for them to go.
Today, as technology changes faster and more often than Brett Favre’s retirement status, an even greater pressure falls on you and your staff to continually evolve as well. As Andrew Brenneman points out in his column (page 32), “As technologies mature, they become more accessible to competitors. … People will emerge as the true differentiators, not the technologies.”
If one person doesn’t adapt (or even try to)—whether to digital media or new manufacturing technologies that improve quality, speed and costs—and is not contributing to the company’s growth, that person is holding the company back from its full potential. That can be the kiss of death, as your competitors race to the finish line.
Look around your company or department. Are you and the company investing in your staff’s training and development? Some will adapt on their own, of course. But many publishing companies today are operating at minimum capacity, and executives are simply trying to forge ahead with their heads down and their eyes forward, just to get the job done. So, where is the time to learn about new technologies, not to mention develop innovative programs or projects that utilize them?
You can have access to the best technology available, but if you don’t prepare your staff to take advantage of it, it’s all for naught.