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May 9, 2011
By Dr. Rick Johnson
“Profit covers many sins”. That means that many of us may have become a little complacent and tend to procrastinate when it comes to problem employees... Maybe we didn’t quite run our business following absolute best practice. Maybe some of us overlooked less than the best performance expected from our employees. Maybe we were a little too compassionate regarding employee effectiveness and as a result we haven’t “weeded the garden” to allow our good employees to flourish. Instead, we just procrastinated on making these kinds of decisions.
If your company is one that got caught in that viscous web of easy success and thought that prosperity in the market wouldn’t end and you didn’t quite pay attention to basic best practice business acumen, you may have fallen prey to the “Procrastinating Concept of Profit Covers Many Sins”.
Now is the Time to Clean up Your Mess.
In other words, it is time to stop procrastinating and focus. Focus on what is the minimum acceptable level of performance. I try to stress to all my clients that in today’s economy -- “average performance” is just not acceptable”. You need to make sure that all your employees are dedicated, competent and necessary core employees to sharpen the focus of every element of your process and system. This will allow you to expand your market share so that you can weather the hard times and be stronger during the economic recovery.
Take the Surgical “Pruning Approach”
No garden can flourish if it is full of weeds. Now is the time to stop procrastinating and get rid of the weeds first. Compassion is a wonderful thing and is often referred to as strength. However, too much compassion can be a life threatening weakness. Keeping “old Joe” around simply because he has been with you for fifteen years isn’t a good enough reason if “old Joe” hasn’t been cutting it for the past five years. Keeping Sally on the payroll because she is your wife’s cousin even though she just figured out how to use the copy machine after five years will do irreparable harm to your organization and lower the performance of other employees.
A surgical pruning strategy only begins with the precision pruning of the workforce. To strengthen the company means you must also invest in employee development and upgrades while you are surgically making precision cuts in the workforce eliminating underperforming unacceptable employees. You may terminate three low performing or non performing employees and replace two of them with higher quality, higher performing candidates.
No One said It Would be Easy -- Be Fair and Consistent
Terminating any employee regardless of circumstance is not pleasant. You are messing with people’s lives; families are involved. You have a moral obligation to make sure that your actions are honest, ethical and above board. However, your decision must be based on some basic premises. The following tips can support your decision making process.
• Make sure employees have had fair and consistent performance reviews. Determine with factual examples which employees are your top performers and which employees are below average performers. Review and analyze contributions to success. This will support your surgical pruning strategy when it comes to weeding the garden.
• Don't cut back on skills training and management development. It’s easy to cut training but in reality it should be the last thing you look at. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a little more cost conscious about it. But don’t eliminate training in its entirety.
• Communicate -- the worst thing you can do is keep employees in the dark. Over communicate. Be honest and open with employees. They are not stupid. Tell them the truth and update them often. If you don’t communicate regularly, employees will make stuff up in their own minds and what they envision is generally much worse than reality. Most employees know before you do, who is doing the job and who isn’t. How often have you terminated someone and employees have said -- “It’s about time?”
Remember One Key Factor
Sometimes performance issues are not always due to the employee not being competent or capable. Sometimes their performance is the direct result of the incompetence of their supervisor.
Terminating any employee is likely to be the most difficult decision you will ever have to make. There will be ups and downs in the process. However, before you come to the conclusion that you are actually going to hand out a pink slip, you must be sure that you have exhausted every possible option and scenario imaginable to solve the problem short of termination. And of course, the amount and type of destructive behavior is also paramount to the decision you make. If you're struggling with current employees, here are some guidelines to help determine it's time to let someone go.
• Their work is consistently below acceptable standards with numerous mistakes
• They fail to reach goals and objectives on a regular basis
• They have a poor attitude and it has a definite impact on other employees
• They do not respond well to coaching or constructive feedback
• They have had good supervision and direction from a servant style manager
As managers, we must continuously look for ways to uncover potential new employees who have the attitude and the skill set to perform up to our expectations. Obviously skill sets come first and they are identifiable and measurable. But, beyond these tangible, measurable factors lies the true immeasurable, cultural factors that separate the winners from the losers. Those factors include:
• Positive attitude
• Inner strength
• Competitive drive
If these factors are missing the odds against the employee living up to expectations are enormous regardless of their skills sets. The most talented “A” players in the industry are competitive to the point where they are actually driven to achieve at a level even beyond their talents. Add sell-discipline, self-motivation and attitude and you have a winner worth keeping. Remember, as a business you do not have the luxury of keeping poor or mediocre employees. You must keep only the best employees for your business. And, don't feel guilty for letting go of inefficient or unproductive employees. You're growing a business, not running a charity.
www.ceostrategist.com – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail email@example.com. Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.