Lawrence Zammit's article on The Times of Malta.
Over the past weeks I have written about the challenge that employers have in finding suitable employees in terms of both numbers and skills. There are other aspects that one may touch upon in relation to this issue. Today I would like to focus on one element which employers need to think about.
All managers would love to have stars in their team. At recruitment stage all employers seek to look for that star person that would fit exactly with their identikit of the ideal employee. When they do not find such a person, then they claim that there are no suitable persons they could recruit.
It may be worth asking of we know how to lead a team of star employees. Do we see them as a threat who could eventually take our position? Or do we see them as an asset, as they could release me from what I am doing today to do work of a high value? Being unable to manage a star employee would eventually lead to that employee losing one’s sparkle. Eventually that employee would leave and we would complain about the lack of employee loyalty and we would never recognise that it was our leadership style which was the issue and not the lack of employee loyalty.
At times persons in leadership roles make a worse mistake. They ignore the so called plodders – the employees that plod along. Unfortunately, a cursory look at the meaning of the word plodder one would find two contrasting explanations. One is “idler” or “slowcoach”. This gives a clear message that a plodder would not be someone who an employer would like to have around in one’s company.
The second meaning that is given is a person who “works or acts perseveringly”. Such a person is someone I would like to have in my team. Such a person is not an idler or a slowcoach. Plodders work hard, but they do not shout about it. They know their own strengths and weaknesses but may be a bit reluctant to ask others for help, an in consequence may carry too heavy a workload.
Plodders are not particularly innovative or assertive but are loyal to their colleagues and the boss. They are willing to help anyone who asks and don’t demand too much recognition or praise.
They hope that someone notices the effort they put in, the diligence with which they work and their achievements. Unfortunately this does not always happen and as a result, eventually they get disheartened, demotivated and disengaged from their employer.
Such persons tend to cope with their personal problems and do not stop the world from turning until their problem has been seen to, even though, at times, the personal problems they have to cope with are much more severe than those who cry wolf every time things do not go their way. They make it a point not to let their personal problems interfere with their work. Again they hope someone would notice, but very often this does not happen.
Admittedly such a situation occurs not only at the workplace. At school, the plodder is very often ignored and undervalued because one does not create problems, but neither does one obtain grade A’s in exams. Very often teachers would end up being pleasantly surprised when they hear of such a plodder’s achievements later on in life, and have no qualms exclaiming, “Oh I never thought you could get there”.
Going back to the workplace, one would note that plodders very often get passed over for promotion, because we are more likely to award promotions to employees who speak loudly and persuasively about their achievement, even if they are small.
The moral of the story is that employers need to value plodders more. They need to understand fully what each person is producing in terns of value for the organisation (and not for the individual’s ego). At that point, an employer may realise that after all, this quiet plodder is in effect a star employee.