Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A personal thought…


Every year we receive from our top management the high level corporate objectives set by our board, and each of us, as members of the units of our company, define the different activities to execute in order to achieve them. One by one, all the levels of the company subdivide and lay down strategic guidelines, functional objectives, tasks, and concrete deliverables, which according to the plan, and once completed, will make the global plan a reality.

One of those high level objectives has been around with us for several years now. It is heard in hallway conversations, at lunch, in the elevators; it is simply a perfect small talk subject. We are reminded of it at all the kicks-off events. Most of us find it to be crucial to help the company mature, grow, and, as our CEO usually says, become a major league corporation. I am talking about professionalization, such an abstract concept that we have to always keep in mind, and for which I have seen different sorts of interpretations.

This article is intended to invite all of you to make a personal reflection. Many of you might feel touched by its content, but what I like about this formula is that I can show the message so you can make you own evaluation, and right from it, if you think you have the chance, take any action to make this high level objective a reality. Otherwise, if your personality does not allow criticism, then I suggest to you not to keep reading, because, even though I will be polite with my words, I do believe that most of us will find something touching in the message.

Oftentimes I talk with people who say “we have to get a master to be professionalized”, “the company needs to give us incentives to study in order to grow in our profession”, or “if we do not study we will be held back”. Believe me, I totally agree with improving the academic level of employees to help professionalize the company. Studying definitely helps us be more efficient, better understand problems we encounter, have a better ability to respond, be in touch with better professionals, etc.

However, there is a point where all of us, myself included, can give a lot in the short term. It does not require a lot of effort, time, or investment. Some people prefer to grow through experience and “brute force”, whereas others prefer to study and gorge themselves with books. But, regardless of how they approach increasing their knowledge increased, we all have to interact with other human beings as we develop our activities; and the manner in which this interaction is carried out might completely invalidate the academic effort.

At this point I believe we must observe our own behavior, ponder over how we act every day, and ask ourselves one simple question: “is my behavior in the company professional?” Please, do not be alarmed; I am neither being pretentious nor intending to teach you manners. As I have said, this is a reflection we can individually make. Think about sentences like “I have a friend who works in such company, and over there everything is different, people are not treated like this”, and then ask yourselves “How do I treat people here?”

In order to better illustrate the idea, I am giving this list we can immediately evaluate and you can choose which one you can help with.

1.- Inappropriate use of email: email is not a chat; it is not a board; it is not a forum and it surely does not replace the tools to be used to complete your work. I will not go further on this; I will only list the common problems regarding email abuse:
  • Copying too many people.
  • Replying all to say “Thanks”, “Got it” or any other confirmation message.
  • Language in emails: you can have a personal relationship with a coworker, but it is rather different to write to that person in relation to a work activity.
  • Email is not an excuse: think about how many times you have heard “I sent you an email with the information years ago”. Yes, the email information is binding and we assume that the recipient is in the know; however it does not excuse us from backing documents up, following up and appropriately managing the information. Email is lost when backing up, people change their areas or projects, they take new challenges, etc., and when they leave, basically that information, which is already hard to manage, tends to expire.
2.- Professional treatment: some days ago I told somebody that sometimes we can forget that ten factor we grew up with. Sometimes we forget we are over 500 employees. I understand that one of the greatest assets of the company is the almost familiar bond we have with each other, however it is convenient to look at each other eventually and think “OK, right now, we are working”.

3.- Punctuality: it is simple and easy; an appointment at any particular time is at that time, it is not 15 minutes later. We tend to underestimate things, and we need to say this, make people wait, apart from being expensive for the company, is disrespectful for the person who is waiting for us. We all have cell phones, so if 10 minutes before you know you will be late, let the other person know; if you know you cannot get to the meeting, call it off in time.

4.- Meetings in the work areas: It is natural to have sporadic discussions which take about 5 or 10 minutes. But if the discussion goes further, take into consideration people around you; voices and noises get them distracted and make their work harder to complete. There are meeting rooms. This idea applies to things like listening to music at the desks, using the speaker mode to speak over the phone, or having loud phone conversations.

5.- Respect for others’ work: this is the most sensitive item, but unfortunately it is the most frequent one I have seen. We have to acknowledge the value of the work of each one of us. It is common to hear comments of a department thinking that other departments “do not understand that I have a critical work”, which is a sort of minimization of the others’ work.

Although we all have different jobs, I am pretty sure that nobody has a job which description says something like “Value the work of other people, classify them as relevant or not, and in case they are not, do not care about their opinion or assessments”. Ask yourselves the following question: “is there anybody who is better trained than the person in that unit to make the decision he/she is making or to ask for what he/she is asking for?” If the company has done a good recruiting job (and I think they have), then the answer would be: “No”; and like someone who works here says, we do not argue with he/she who knows.  

I would not like to turn this post into a debate about pertinence or not; as I said at the beginning, I am only sharing a very personal thought. We do not need a lot to change the environment to continue seeing “professionalization” in Smartmatic, it does not depend on a decision made by the CEO, it depends on us deciding to have a more professional environment.
Heider García

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