We've been told since we were young, "Just work hard and the rest will take care of itself." That's mostly a lie. Because hard work only has value if it produces results.
Hard work can play tricks on you
I see this happen all the time. You hire someone full of potential, and they come in and just outwork everyone! I mean they really put the time in, the activity, the extra hours; you actually see them working harder than everyone else.
You think to yourself, "Wow! If I could only get everyone else to work as hard, we would be unstoppable! The results aren't quite there yet, but with that hard work, it's just a matter of time. Anyone who works that hard will get results."
Fast forward to whatever time you need, to where the lack of results starts to become painful for this individual. You say to yourself, "Gosh almighty, they're still working so hard! I just know the results will start coming soon."
But that's where hard work can play tricks on you. The thing is, if you're engaged and have the right knowledge, skills and experience, hard work delivers real value. But if you don't have the right knowledge, skills and experience, hard work will just expose those gaps faster.
Hard work on its own doesn't yield results.
The value of hard work can deceive you
Let's be clear, we love hard workers! But sometimes we value hard work more than we value results. That's a big problem for organizations. It can really mess with your performance management.
When an employee is a low performer and clearly not getting results, they're easy to fire. When an employee is working their tail off and loves their job, but getting no results, all of sudden you have problems. No one wants to fire the person that's trying hard, but getting no results.
In fact, I've seen managers, during layoff periods, who kept hard workers over employees who got better results. The problem is that they now have fewer people and expect the same results - but they've just chosen the people who actually get fewer results.
Hard work does not equal results. Hard work only equals hard work. Results are a different thing.
Hard work gets too much credit
Here's the deal, hard work only matters if you get the desired results. If you don't look at results, and just look at hours or effort, you'll shortchange your team and your organization. It might upset you that someone on your team doesn't work as hard as others, but if they get the same or better results, that's a "you" problem, not a performance problem! You need to value and reward the right behaviors.
What does this have to do with HR?
We (HR pros) need to coach our managers to distinguish between time/effort and results. They need to know the difference between hard work and talent. Of course, we all want both! We want the most talented people working their butts off. But as we also know, that's rare.
When it comes to value, talent usually beats hard work. You won't find that on a motivational poster, but it's true. It's our job to make sure our managers know the truth, and don't buy into the Nike® commercial.
In fact, everyone in your organization should know: Hard work will get you fired if you don't back it up with results.