As a manager, you would think that knowing your departmentís role and value would be an obvious requirement. That said, itís not as simple as it seems. Definitionally, a departmentís role is related to the specific work that it performs. A departmentís context refers to why the department exists and the value it provides to the overall organization.
Most managers understand and clearly describe their departmentís role to the employees within it because it is directly related to the work its employees perform. A departmentís context/value is not as often discussed.
When trying to compare a departmentís role versus its value, consider a human resources department. The role of HR department is to administer payroll, coordinate employee life cycle events (hiring, performance reviews, promotions, etc.) and other associated activities. The value of HR is its ability to help maximize company success by enhancing the companyís workforce. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but itís extremely motivating for employees to understand the value of their efforts, not simply the tasks to be performed.
When communicating with your staff, you should discuss the following:
Your departmentís value within the company. The way you and your department interact with other internal departments. The value of each individualís work.
With some department types, such as sales and customer service, itís easy to understand how they help the company increase revenues and/or reduce costs. For other departments, such as information technology, it can be hard to see how you help the company increase revenues because your clients are other internal departments. Therefore, if you are managing this type of department, you should take the time to personally understand and then explain to your staff how your department helps maximize your companyís profitability. For example, if you are in the IT department responsible for customer resource management systems, then you should explain how your team is helping the companyís sales force be more efficient, thus helping the salespeople generate more revenue.
Using another example, if you work for a government agency or charitable organization, then your ďprofitability,Ē so to speak, is the maximization of the services you provide to your constituency.
The reason why explaining your departmentís value is motivating, is because it brings purpose to your work. Explaining to a staff member how his/her efforts are helping the company can not only increase an employeeís motivation, but in turn can increase the employeeís performance, reduce employee attrition and enhance overall department effectiveness.
In closing, as the department manager and an employee yourself, understanding your departmentís value can also enhance your personal performance for a number of reasons. First, knowing your teamís value to the company is personally motivating. Second, it will allow you to maximize your groupís value by tuning your internal processes to further enhance your departmentís value. Lastly, the action of viewing your departmentís context as a component of the overall organization, allows you to open your mind beyond your current role, thus beginning to position you for future promotions.
The primary advice and takeaways from todayís column is to know that:
A departmentís role is related to the specific work that it performs. A departmentís context refers to why the department exists and the value it provides to the overall organization. A staffís understanding of its departmentís value can help maximize employee motivation and department effectiveness.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well and continue to build your professional brand. Eric P. Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a management training company specializing in information technology leadership and is the governing organization of the ITMLP and ITMLE certifications. He is also a keynote speaker, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of the books ďThe CIOís Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity,Ē ďYour IT Career: Get Noticed, Get Promoted, and Build Your Professional BrandĒ and ď52 Great Management Tips.Ē Contact him at, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom or visit