How to Change the Performance Pace in Your Organization

How to Change the Performance Pace in Your Organization

I was driving along on a recent October Wednesday, enjoying red leaves, brilliant sunshine, unseasonably balmy temperatures — It was 87 degrees according to my car thermometer! — and waiting for the deep blue Mississippi river to pop into view.

Suddenly, traffic slowed.

"Now what's going on?” I grumbled to myself as I rounded a bend and traffic stopped.

I soon saw the problem: roadwork ahead, and those bright orange traffic cones were funneling vehicles from two lanes into one.

Trouble was, the lanes weren't merging, and we weren't moving.

Signs along the highway instructed drivers to merge using both lanes – in other words, to alternate at the point of merging.

But people weren't doing it. Those in the left weren't allowing those from the right to merge. They weren't performing as directed or expected and as a result, traffic moved at a snail's pace and mostly not at all.

Made me think about business where, despite best efforts in recruiting, hiring and motivating, employees don't perform as expected.

Like the drivers not obeying road signs that instruct them how to merge from two lanes into one, these low performers gum up the works and productivity falls off. Tasks may get done, but seldom on time. Absenteeism and tardiness creep up.

Some call this "presenteeism." But however you label it, tolerating low performers on the job may cost you more than if you paid them to stay home.

What's worse, poor performers bring down everyone else in the company. No one wants to work with someone who is unreliable or who is incapable of correcting her or his mistakes.

And doubly worse, managers gradually shift some of the workload to other, higher performing workers. Saddled with the extra load of carrying dead weight, these top performers often choose to move on.

As manager you wish low performers would simply disappear. But they never do. They seem to hang on and on and…

Just like the drivers who don't heed merging directions.

This traffic problem is a matter of education, I'm told. If drivers understood that studies show merging alternately from two lanes into one makes traffic flow more smoothly and faster, they'd abide by the signs.

Likewise it's in your best interest if your employees know up front what you expect of them.

Studies have shown that, regardless of business, top performers will out-produce low performers by anywhere from 200-900 percent. That means your low-performing employees are costing you money.

Here, then, are five steps you can take to change the performance pace in your organization:

Step 1
Identify problems and set performance standards
for your organization in clear, measurable terms. These could include unequivocal start time and attendance expectations, and productivity guidelines.

Step 2
Lay out your expectations for your employees. Note where performance regularly falls short and make clear your specific expectations for the future. Also make it clear that you will track and evaluate performance. Set and communicate consequences for failing to meet the goals you have set.

Step 3
Work your plan.
Follow your schedule to evaluate performance. When employees fail to meet expectations, give feedback immediately. Timely feedback, action on promised consequences and consistent application provide the key to solving low performance problems.

Step 4
Document your process.
It's important to address poor employee performance, but simply telling employees to do better is not sufficient. You must document in writing performance issues and the steps you take to help them improve. This becomes especially important when they don't improve and you need to terminate their employment. Documentation not only gives you a plan, but protects you if a fired employee takes legal action.

Step 5
Take action.
You may think that following the above four steps is a lot of work, and that it would be easier to just let poor performance slide. But the truth is, failure to act early will cause the problem to get worse and worse. As a result, discontent will spread and productivity will fall. Following the steps above will help you make the necessary decisions for the good of your company and your employees.

Bottom line: Not all employees perform as you expect. And yes, left on one's own an employee likely may under perform.

Your job, therefore, is to help your people perform the way you want them to perform. Give them road signs for success… and then deal quickly with those who don't follow them. Your company and your high achievers will thank you.

Tips: Eight Guidelines for Dealing with an Employee Who 'Just Doesn't Get It'

By following the steps above, you hope to see your employees improve their performance. But you and I both know some still may not. For some reason, they may not abide by the rules and guidelines you set. The question then is: How do you confront someone who fails to meet your performance standards?

Here are eight rules of engagement that will help:

1) Be specific. If an employee is consistently late, for example, specify the number of times and how late. Don’t exaggerate and don't denigrate with statements such as "you are totally unreliable."

2) Refocus the employee on the requirement you set. If you require your employees to arrive at 8 a.m. and this employee consistently arrives at 8:15, say something like, "It's important for you to be at your desk promptly by eight. Our patients begin calling at that time and rely on you to answer their questions and make their appointments."

3) Focus on performance requirements for the job and guidelines outlined for the workplace. To correct inappropriate conduct, for instance, reiterate your workplace guidelines and how your employee's performance is affecting the company as a whole.

4) Consider your employee's needs. Everyone handles feedback in his own way. While some people want straight talk, others are more sensitive. Tailor your approach to the individual.

5) Give timely feedback. Addressing an issue immediately helps an employee to recall what happened. When he is too emotional or pre-occupied, however, wait until he calms down and can think clearly about what happened.

6) Help your employee identify what she can do to remedy the situation. Brainstorm ideas on how she can improve performance or avoid the mistake in the future.

7) Check for understanding. Ask your employee to summarize his understanding of the situation and to lay out the actions or steps he expects to take going forward.

8) Document your discussion. Take notes carefully. Include the problem, the dates, action taken to correct or eliminate the problem and any comments that will help you recall feedback sessions. Remember also to document acceptable and outstanding performance.

Confronting poor performers is never easy. But having a system in place will help. I guarantee you will find that getting an employee on track or a disruption in your workplace eliminated is by far preferable to ignoring a problem.

Your Solution Toolbox: An Ounce of Prevention with Pre-employment Skills Testing

Measuring What Matters

Wasn't it Benjamin Franklin who advised, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?"

Well let me say this about Ben's sage advice: When it comes to employment in today's world, Ben's ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure.

Take hiring an employee who claims to be an expert in an area or tool he must use, but really has no clue.

A bad hire like this can cost you thousands of dollars. In fact, some experts estimate that the cost of replacing an employee at the $20,000 level is $40,000. This cost includes wasted salary, benefits, severance pay, headhunter fees, training costs, hiring time and wasted business opportunities.

Not good, right? But you can take steps to eliminate or at least minimize hiring mistakes. One such step is to assess your candidates with Profiles Skills Tests™ before you hire.

Profiles Skills Tests™ measure essential pre-employment skills and knowledge. They assess computer skills, basic job skills, legal skills, medical skills and retail skills, among many others. For example, the tests allow you to verify skills in the Microsoft Office Suite, Customer Service and Banking Simulations, Industrial Safety and Healthcare.

Further, Profiles International constantly updates its catalog, where it currently offers over 1,500 customizable employee skills tests in six languages.

Profiles Skills Tests™ are easy to understand and simple to use. You can administer them on-site in your human resources office or over the Internet.

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