Here’s an insightful management and business reminder called “moving the needle.” It’s a useful metaphor for inspiring employees and achieving personal goals and recognition. It’s also about achieving greater success for the company.
Recently, a business colleague told a story about an employee who was feeling under appreciated in the work they were doing for the company. Although they were new on the job, this person believed they were smart (they are), that they worked hard (also true), and that they were busy and productive (busy, yes – productive, maybe.)
After some discussion, it turns out that the proper question—for both the boss and the employee—is: How does what you do have an impact on the business? What is the measure of productivity and meaningful impact? Success for an individual employee, a department or team, and the company itself, requires significant, noticeable and positive achievement.
People want to do a good job. And they want to be appreciated and recognized for hard work and accomplishments. An employee is justified in his or her “under appreciated” feeling. But this is not about their growth potential or intelligence they bring to the job. To be appreciated—and for a strong organization to grow—people need to tune into where or how “they are moving the needle.”
“Moving the Needle” is a bit of business jargon that’s been around so long that it’s back. In its current revival, it sounds fresh again. Maybe you recognize this as an analog idiom—moving the needle on a speedometer, the needle gauge on an audio VU meter or otherwise measure a meaningful difference or progress.
Context is everything, but it usually means a positive or productive gain on the scale. In marketing and advertising, the measurable gain would be achieving specific growth goals, generating business prospects, or hitting the objective for new customers or sales.
Not long ago, a survey of top hospital administrators, presidents and executives revealed that they didn’t always have a high opinion of their marketing and communications department. From their top-floor perspective, they did not believe that marketing plans were clearly and specifically supporting the top-level organizational goals—both near term or long term.
It’s really not surprising. Health system and hospital administrators were unimpressed with measurements of "website visitors," or the number of "social media LIKES or TWEETS," or simple accounting of activity. They do take notice of measurable (moving the needle) productivity via specific ad campaign results that brought a specific number of new patients to the cancer center within over the last year.
For any organization, the lesson here is that success is likely to follow when both the boss and the employee are watching and moving the same needle. A meaningful contribution (followed by recognition and appreciation) is based on a mutual understanding of what’s important and how it is being measured. Ask: How are you moving the needle in your organization?