In the early days of my career, I was so doggedly loyal that I terminated people (you know go through the “process”) only for serious underperformance or major offences. It was a major shift (guess as I grew older, and theoretically a little bit wiser?) to realize that “welfare management” – failing to hold people accountable and allowing the wrong people to stay in key positions – hurt everyone (it is so de-motivating to your good people). It took years to learn to be compassionate and tough. Once I balanced my personal “nicely, nicely” attitude with my professional duty, the termination process took a life of its own. In fact, it usually ended with an underachieving employee offering to terminate him or herself and there was always a sense of relief.
Deciding whether to free up someone’s future demands a detached viewpoint. Detachment does not imply you do not care. It simply means caring deeply but from an objective place. Ask yourself, “does this person have what it takes to get the job done”. Hopefully you are now better equipped to answer that question. A wise past mentor once said to me “there’s something more scarce than ability, it’s the ability to recognise ability!”.
Based on the study of millions of people (no not by me but by many organisations around the world) and based on what I see everyday with the clients that I work with, there is a huge difference in productivity and profitability in a good A player on your team and a B and (ouch) C player. Hoping that you have no D players at all! If you do, why are you sitting on your hands… This is no exaggeration but if you have an A player, they will make on average 3 times the profit that your non A players make. So what are you waiting for!
51% of under performing employees (yes exactly 51% of a stereotypical under performing employee) perform “poorly” due to not understanding their accountabilities. Often it is a matter of talking through what they are responsible for as they are confused to start with, thus their outputs are not what they are supposed to be. It is not good enough to have a job description – most job descriptions are pretty poor in engaging employees to deliver at an A+ level. A motivational job description is worth its weight in gold. With some of my clients, once we updated their “usual” job descriptions and made them motivational, the difference in the performance of their team is astounding. Their C and D players moved up to B players and the odd one has even hit A level now!
Do you have an appraisal system in place too? I mean a proper appraisal system? The power of communication and feedback is immense. Most NZ workplaces have quite poor feedback systems on employee performance. The most effective form of appraisal is a quick 20 minute catch up each month (with a little structure re some good questions). Make sure there is two-way feedback too as in, as the boss you want to be told where you can improve also! I have seen some clients where we have implemented appraisal systems double their profit vs the prior year (yes even in todays hard times). Of course we worked on more than just appraisals, but appraisals were an important cog in the improvements implemented.
Something very scary is that the average NZ company has only 30% of their team turn up to work who want to be there. So 7 out of 10 staff turn up for little more than their pay packet. They have limited desire and do not buy into what the company is trying to achieve. Is your company the normal – don’t be too optimistic, be objective. The best way to find out is informally (chat with your team regularly and ask the hard questions) and formally (do a staff survey, they are so enlightening). Staff surveys (where you might ask like 60 questions on various aspects of the workplace and performance) are such an eye opener. The best thing about them beyond you having to face the reality that your workplace is not potentially the dream that you thought it was, is that you can see what parts you need to improve on. So it might be on staff understanding what they are accountable for, it might be that they have no idea how they are doing in their performance level, it might be that they have no idea what the company is trying to achieve. Plus you will find out what your strengths are – whilst it is important to try and fix your weaknesses, it is wiser to put more time into where your strengths are so that they get even stronger. Again with the clients that we have done staff engagement surveys for and put improvement plans in place (and there is accountability in delivering the improvements!), the outcome has been a huge turn around in the business results and also the attitude of the people. Beyond the commercial positive impact, your team just love knowing that you will listen to their opinion and that you are willing to face the reality that potentially not everything is perfect.
There are so many ways to get more and more out of your people with huge impact on your team, division, business, brand and company results, where everybody wins. Good luck in your business in 2012. Luck does not have much to do with it though. Enjoy the changes and improvements you make in your areas of responsibility in 2012.
If you need a hand on growing the profits of your business via people improvements or commercial advice or any aspect (including customer experience and service), you know the drill. I am there for you…