GET’EM IN or GET’EM OUT: 4 Strategies for Engaging or Removing Poor Performers

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

In these challenging economic times optimizing the ROI of your most important asset – your people – is more important than ever.  Poor performers distract everyone.  They waste management time, damage motivation of co-workers, reduce productivity, damage
quality, lower customer satisfaction, and slow down the achievement of results.

Poor performers demonstrate consistent indifference for   customer needs (internal and external) and/or continuous improvement of their work tasks.

We are doing a dismal job managing the poor performers here in the U.S.:

  • The U.S. is wasting  $105 billion annually on poor hiring and poor management (Lawrence Karsh, SHL Americas)
  •  68% of employee mistakes go unreported (Lawrence Karsh, SHL Americas)
  •  27% of management time is spent on poor performers or correcting their mistakes (Lawrence Karsh, SHL Americas)
  •  23% of U.S. employees believe colleagues are incompetent (Steven Covey, The 8th Habit)

The root causes of poor performance and complex and numerous.  The current leadership tools, such as the typical performance review, are failing to help us manage poor performers. Effective leaders must use new strategies to accomplish either a successful turnaround of performance behaviors or a respectful “de-selection” (removal) of those employees unwilling or unable to fulfill their responsibilities.  Here are four of them to flush out the results.

Strategy #1: Identify the specific outcomes you want the employee to achieve

Always start with the end in mind.  What specifically do you want to accomplish in your department or team?  Do you want to improve the quality or speed of a service or  product?  Do you want to reduce mistakes, improve customer service?  Clarify a specific and measurable goal. Communicate that goal to all the employees.  Ask them to think about how they personally can contribute toward this goal(s).

Strategy #2: Identify a process to accomplish the outcome(s)

Once a goal(s) is identified the team can create a process(s) to accomplish that goal(s).   For example, a client wanted to improve the service to their customers by reducing the
number of surprises encountered when providing services.  The surprises would catch  employees off guard and would disrupt the quality and speed of service and waste the associates’ time (especially when mistakes were made).  The manager and the associates agreed on a process to identify when surprises occurred.  They also agreed on how to collect the data about those surprises.  They also agreed to educate everyone in the department so everyone could participate in the data collection activity.  Once that process was created, everyone could see their roles and responsibilities clearly.

Strategy #3: Facilitate agreements/tasks that must be done to implement the process(s)

Clear processes give way to clear agreements.  Clear processes enable managers to  facilitate specific agreements.  Agreements are tasks that are specific, clear, measurable, and time-sensitive.   It is much easier to hold an employee accountable to their  agreements than it is to hold him/her accountable for the results.  Poor performers need to be put in a position to make a decision.  Will they keep their agreements or not?

High performers can often be trusted to achieve results.   Poor performers need to go back to basics.  Can they keep their agreements?  If yes, then we can challenge
them to meet more agreements with an even bigger goal.   If not, then they can’t be trusted and must step aside.

As the leader, by clarifying the outcomes, creating a process, and then clarifying the specific agreements you put the poor performer in a position to make a decision.  Will they chose to step up and keep agreements or will they step aside and de-select from their responsibilities?  It is up to them to choose, not you.  If they keep agreements there is hope. If they break agreements they are sending a message “I want to leave.”  Help them.
They have already left anyway.   They just happen to still be collecting a paycheck.

Strategy #4: Watch what they do and report successes and document failures

Don’t try to control their behavior.  Don’t threaten. Offer a choice.  Are they with you or not. Will they keep their agreements or not?  If they are with you and they keep agreements then celebrate and acknowledge them publically with a “thank you.”  There is no need to offer rewards and no need to threaten punishments.   Just give them a chance to demonstrate their integrity and to show that they care.

Poor performers waste everyone’s time and often cause negative emotions.  The poor performance must be addressed but not with the current performance management tools because those tools attempt to control the employees.  Control makes things worse.  Instead, offer a choice that is reasonable. Ask them to keep their agreements.  Watch what they do.  If they choose to follow through they are IN.  If they choose otherwise, document their behaviors.  This allows you to justify moving them out while using their own behaviors as evidence. Get them OUT.  It was their choice anyway.

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