Category Archives: #WorkCulture
You have an employee who is not performing up to standards. Now you have a decision to make, whether or not to let them go.
This decision point tends to be a watershed moment for the leader as much, and perhaps more so, than for the employee in question.
When a situation like this arises, the leader does not have a default binary “Should they stay or should they go?” choice, but a different choice that can transform a culture and ensure your leadership – and the future of the employee – pays greater dividends all around.
That choice should be:
Decide To Groom Them Before You Broom Them.
If you were to search for the top reasons for employee turnover you will find every study points to one of these reasons in their list:
- Lack of Growth Opportunities
- No Talent Development
- No Vision
- No Connection to the Culture
- Employees Feel Stuck
- No Enough or Proper Training
Employee turnover is not just voluntary, initiated by the staff member. Involuntary reasons such as lay offs and especially termination define what turnover consists of as well. This means as leaders we cannot turn a blind eye to either one of these, because how we train and provide deeper meaning to our people impacts whether staff leave on their terms, or on other terms.
When a leader is faced with the decision to fire someone, they should ask questions along these lines to themselves first:
- Did we give the employee consistent view of the vision of the company?
- Have we connected as an organization to the individual, making them feel valued?
- Have we listened to their voice, and taking their feedback for us to improve?
- Did we show them everything they need to do their job?
- Did we understand their individual learning needs, and not just try to move them up the productivity chart when their learning curve was slower?
- Are the tools they need to accomplish their job working?
- Are the systems they use too complex?
- Do other employees complain about the same issues this person seems to be struggling with?
- Are they willing to learn and are committed to our culture?
- Did we just train them once and assume full competence?
- Did we continue training and development every day to ensure they – and all staff – continue to improve at their jobs?
Many years ago I had a team of supervisors approach me that a certain individual was not performing to standards after 5 weeks on the job. They suggested that I look to let her go.
My response to them were the following questions:
- “Did you show her everything she needs to do her job?” (Their answer – “yes we did”)
- “Did you truly show her EVERYTHING?” (Their new answer – “well, not really”)
- “Did you see if she needed help on anything you showed her? Did you spend extra time after her initial onboarding to help her understand everything?” (Answer – “no, not really”)
- “Do you think she learns slower than others?” (They replied – “yes”)
- “What are her best traits?” (They said “pleasant, punctual, clean, doesn’t stand around”)
- “Is she willing to learn or does she give you attitude?” (Their answer – “she listens well and seems eager”)
By this time they got what I was saying. they agreed to double down on her training, give her some time to learn, and keep pouring attention into her development.
4 weeks later the supervisor team came back to me and told me what a great job this employee was doing, and that she is starting to stand out as one of the better employees.
I then replied “And we were ready to let her go. What did we learn?” They learned that it was better to ensure we groomed our team before we decided to broom them out.
There are far more times people leave due to our failings as leaders than we realize. Grooming your people must take priority to ensure the role is understood, executed, and aligned with your culture.
The resulting outcomes speak for themselves. If an employee needs to leave involuntarily, then we know we did everything on our end to provide necessary training and can be protected in that decision. If they leave voluntarily, then most likely it’s because they found a great opportunity and are leaving a good culture and role for a better fit for them.
And if they don’t leave but stay with your organization you have benefited by becoming an employer of choice and are giving your people those things they need and want in the workplace.
Groom before you think to broom.
Here are some common statements people make – whether a business leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner or manager:
“We’re not sure this will work for us”
“I’ve been successful without that”
“We’ve always done business this way”
“Who else does this?”
“I need to think about it”
“It’s just a fad”
In the mind of those who utter these or other similar statements, these rationale are legitimate reasons for not going forward.
But in reality the reason they are mentioned is because of one thing: Fear.
Fear manifests itself in the following ways:
- Not willing to take risks
- Unwilling to spend money to increase sales
- Not wanting to take on another system, task, project
- Valuing something with smaller returns over potentially greater returns
- Having too large a comfort zone
- Not willing to stick out from the crowd and establish differentiation
- Wanting to piggy back on someone else’s resources and reputation to blaze the trail instead
- Holding on to today’s profit more than chasing tomorrow’s new revenue stream
When fear creeps into our business decisions, we play defense. We would rather hold onto status quo instead of put ourselves in a position of potentially greater success, sales, and profitability. Not to mention create a buzz in the industry by being innovative, daring and meeting your customers’ needs.
Fear – even the slightest amount – will not only hold you back form being more successful; it prevents culture from growing, people from developing, trust from building, and engagement from happening.
Instead, be on the offense and take any new idea with the mindset “How can this work for us?” versus “This is why it won’t work for us”.
The winners in today’s marketplace aren’t afraid to quickly stick their necks out. And they quickly cut their losses if a new plan doesn’t work. Fear will also prevent us from cutting losses quickly as well – think about the problem employee that you have that you hope will turn it around but you’re afraid to let them go.
The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Be bold, show courage, and find ways to take a new idea and how it can benefit your organization.
A CEO of a small organization once told me why she couldn’t be more effective.
She told me that she spent about 80% of her time involved in employee behavior issues which left little time for her to focus on the basic needs of the company. What added insult to her injury was that it was only a small portion (less than 10%) of her staff members who were chewing up the majority of her time and energy.
Unfortunately this type of workforce dynamic happens far more often that it should. As leaders, we should be allowing the best of employee behaviors to drive the culture and operations, and not allowing negative behaviors to drag things down.
What this CEO needed to do what transition her focus to the core part of the staff who will produce the biggest change in culture and productivity. She needed to not focus on the detractors, but not necessarily on the top performing employees either.
Jeffrey J. Fox in his book, How To Become A Great Boss, suggests that one should spend 90% of their time on their best people. While his theory on maximizing the stronger points of your top performers makes a good deal of sense, it falls short of those in the middle.
The most effective leaders will spend more time on the so-called “passive” employees to build a stronger team and workforce. Passive employees make up the bulk of your talent, and therefore should require the bulk of your focus.
Anyone familiar with the Net Promoter Score system for customer feedback will know that there are 3 types of customers: Promoters, Detractors, and Passives. While this system measures the variety of customers exposed to your brand, it’s also a solid classification of your employee base as well.
To define these better, here are how these classifications relate to your employees in general:
- Promoters – These are your most committed and engaged staff members. They get the vision, are “all in” and give stellar performance consistently. They will view, and speak of, the company in a more positive light and are your best ambassadors.
- Detractors – These folks are truly disengaged. Many times they are just going through the motions and give lip service up front. But behind your back, they give negative vibes to your customers and a few may even resort to various methods of sabotage. Some may be actively looking to leave, but many stay on and take away from the company more than they give.
- Passives – Your “on the fence” staff, these are people who most likely want to do a good job, but are easily swayed by whichever voice is the strongest – Promoters or Detractors. These are people truly want to do a good job, but get lost between the Promoters and the Detractors.
The NPS system for customers shows 60% Detractors, 20% Passives, and 20% Promoters. In my experience, the typical workforce is about 20% Detractors, 20% Promoters, and 60% Passives.
If you want to build a truly great team and change the workplace culture with your people, you need to focus on the passives more than any other group. This is where 60% of your workforce lies, and it makes sense to focus on the largest population of your people. The following is an example that proves this.
I worked for a large entertainment company and went through an internal restructuring designed to foster more front line customer service. We broke out most of my team from the other areas and hired a few from outside the company to round out the staff.
What we got from most of the other areas were people they did not want, and we had what one supervisor said were the “cast offs.” We quickly discovered that many of these people never received the proper attention or training that they deserved.
We had a short period to get the team together before peak business volume. We had to rely on my top Promoters to dive in and help get operations settled, and I rallied my supervisor staff to focus on getting the Passives to learn everything they could so they had solid footing under them, as there was no time to lose.
During this process, a number of Detractors started to pull away our focus for a variety of different reasons. We didn’t know these folks were Detractors at the time – I had viewed that everyone needed our full attention to training and didn’t see anyone in a negative light. But as the days went on it became evident they were pulling on the other end of the rope.
The solution? While we dealt with the Detractors firmly and fairly – some of them we groomed and some of them we “broomed” – we kept the focus on training our Passives. And then two things started to occur that amazed me.
First, many of our Passive staff started to become Promoters. Because of the vested time and value we placed on them, they started to engage and were thrilled that we believed that they could contribute. No one ever took the time to build them up before. Their performance dramatically improved and our sales started to take off.
But the most amazing change to the team is we started to see some of the Detractors slide into Passive, then Promoter types. They realized that our mission was so critical, and our customers the priority, that they changed their attitudes, their behaviors, and their focus. They also, incidentally, started to feel they were missing out on some exciting things by not going “all in.” We were creating a dynamic and fun team, and they wanted to be a part of something big.
We set some sales and profitability records as a result of this, but the biggest achievement was in building a strong team culture by taking the lion’s share of the staff and putting the lion’s share of our focus into them.
Leaders, set the tone for your people. Show that everyone is valued. Don’t overlook the Passives in your organization. Or the Detractors either. Yes, you will always have some Detractors (as I did still back then), but in setting a bigger vision for the company and their role within it you will create an amazing dynamic within your team.
(One note: always use wisdom and discernment from calling or labeling your people. Performance-based behaviors should never take away from the intrinsic value that anyone and everyone can bring to the organization.)