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Do not treat All your employees the Same

Sridhar Jayanthi
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Sridhar Jayanthi
All of us have aspirations and goals. In my opinion, given the right work environment and management style, everyone will strive for high performance and higher goals. A leader’s main role is to promote a culture and support systems where employees can work on their goals independently, make informed decisions, take calculated risks and innovate. On the other side of this, I believe obedience is not a virtue as it often confines the individual to a limited set of ideas and processes. If you want to build a high performance team, you need responsible freethinkers, who can not only think out of the box for solutions, but also question status quo in a constructive manner.

There is yet another unconventional thought that I believe in - do not treat all employees equal. I believe high performers would have no incentive to perform well if the rewards and recognition do not differentiate them from poor performers. In reality, the high performers will be dissatisfied and leave the team and lower performers will tend to stay in such environments. We have to resist the urge not to differentiate for the fear of making someone unhappy.

In McAfee we encourage free thinking, open communication, and merit-based rewards from the time an employee joins the organization. The head of HR and I spend one full day each month with every new employee to drive home this culture, establish McAfee values, and help them feel comfortable with the company they have joined. We ensure that they leave some of their ‘shackles’ behind to enter a freethinking environment where open communication and feedback are encouraged. We also use the opportunity to emphasize the need for all employees to understand the business aspects of their job and not just the technical aspects. This is reiterated on a quarterly basis where we share financial data such as earnings, growth, revenue and balance sheets. I strongly believe in everyone having a business outlook – a racecar driver needs to know how his company makes money and the accountant needs to know how a race is contested and won.

Every employee in McAfee has open access to every single person in the organization. Each person has the right to call or email our President or CEO or any executive anywhere in the world with ideas, criticisms, complaints, and encouragement. Employees need not just report or communicate or complain only to their immediate supervisor or senior. Hierarchy should be used for operational efficiency and should not be taken, as authority or power or more importantly hierarchy should not “choke” communication.

A recent example of this demonstrates this culture well. One day our CEO showed me a mail from a very young employee from India. The mail was a suggestion to acquire a company that may fit well in our portfolio. He had even suggested the business case for that acquisition. Several months later, lo and behold, the acquisition did occur for the same business reasons, although it was not necessarily based on this employee’s suggestion. Open communication with all levels and emphasis on business understanding regardless of their role is likely to pay any company rich dividends in form of productivity and innovation.

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