When you face employee performance issues, you risk damaging your relationships with customers and destroying your reputation. A few bad employees or an employee having a bad day can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for over the years. A friend of mine told the story of her uncle who was a big wig at an airline. At the end of a flight, he fired one of the flight attendants on his way off the plane. She argued that she didn’t normally act the way he observed, she was just having a bad day. He replied, “but this is the day these passengers saw”. This exchange emphasized that your customer doesn’t see all the great things done by your employees. They have one experience with your employee and if that exchange isn’t good, it clouds their interpretation of the entire brand, even if they had good experiences with your brand in the past.
Your employees; greatest asset of your business
If you want to guarantee business success, you must have employees that are ready to hit the ground running after training. The problem is that, when we are running a business, we start to become incredibly protective over our baby and may even feel fealty to the employees of the organization, especially those who worked for the company over long years. Case in point, I once consulted with a business that was 150 years old and still run by descendants of the founders. Of course, the world changed a lot in the intervening years since the company first opened its doors. They didn’t have employees who were there at the beginning but they did have employees who worked for the father of the current owner. He felt like they were part of the family. So, he found it hard to fire them but some were so old they were no longer pulling their weight. Others lacked the training to compete with the company’s competition, which had digitized most aspects of the business to streamline and reduce costs. Once a worker’s skills get so far out of date, it isn’t possible to retrain them in modern skills. If you never used a computer before, for instance, you won’t pick up CadCam overnight.
A bigger problem occurs when employee productivity issues impact the overall performance of the firm. A poorly trained customer service rep, for instance, answers customer queries wrong and the company loses a customer. Even worse, employees who perform badly because they just don’t care can sink your business faster than almost anything else. I once went in to buy my first car. I liked a car in the Datsun (now Nissan) and asked the salesman how much he wanted for the car. He pointed to the sticker price. Obviously, I can read so I knew the sticker price. What I was asking was for him to start negotiating for a lower price, which is kinda the rule in buying a new car (and most used cars) in the US. Maybe because I’m a woman, or maybe because I was young, he didn’t think it was worth his time to be polite and professional. I never have considered buying a Datsun or Nissan since that day based on my rude treatment and I tell this story frequently as an example of how employee performance issues can sink your company.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when you think about fixing employee performance issues before they become a bigger problem.
Fixing employee performance issues
Modern management theory argues that most problems in an organization are problems with the system and not with the employee. Thus, hiring isn’t your best alternative for fixing employee performance issues. Instead, consider the following:
What factors contribute to the behavior
If you look for the underlying factors contributing to an employee’s behavior with an eye toward finding a solution, you are likely to see improvement. For instance, employees who are late create a burden for the organization. If you run a customer-facing business, that may mean longer wait times for customers who want service or specific services might not be available until the tardy employee arrives.
There are many things that contribute to employee tardiness. The first step is to determine why employees are late. Snow days can wreak havoc with certain transport infrastructures depending on where you are. You may find that you can preserve your business better during this time by investing in a local snow removal service or encouraging working from home. If the problem is caused by dropoff schedules for schools, you might consider adjusting the employee’s work schedule to accommodate school dropoff. If an employee is habitually late without a valid reason, you need to figure out why. Sometimes, it’s an issue of not properly motivating the employee or not offering a job that fits the employee. We’ll talk about these issues later.
Obviously, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to poor employee performance. Everything from poor training to family issues to health contribute to employee performance issues. It’s your job to determine which factors contribute to poor performance and find a solution that works for you and the employee.
Motivate employees to perform their best
Humans aren’t machines and they’re not interchangeable parts of a machine. Humans have needs and if you’re not meeting their needs, your face employee performance issues. Stealing is often a sign that your employees aren’t motivated within your company. Unhappy employees also generate unhappy customers, so take care of budding problems before they kill your business.
Money isn’t your only motivational tool. In fact, money is only a short-term motivator and, once the employee gets used to receiving more money, they look for their next pay increase. If they don’t get one, it acts to demotivate them. Instead, this job enrichment. Offer job rotation and career advancement to enrich employee jobs. You can also infuse training into your workplace by offering training to aid in career advancement or compensating employees who get training outside the firm, such as at a local university.
Employees who feel loyalty to the company perform better. Hence, offering a serious profit-sharing program allows employees to benefit from their hard work so they’re motivated to perform better and to bolster the performance of their colleagues. It’s all for one and one for all!
Set clear goals
Employees should have clear goals with rewards tied to achieving those goals. To work, employees should have control over achieving the goal. Hence, a manager might have a goal of producing X products per hour but it doesn’t work well to have worker compensation tied to production, as it motivates them toward sloppiness to cut corners and produce more product. You can’t compensate an accountant for achieving a certain level of ROI since they don’t control ROI but only calculate it from the data provided.
When employees fall short of achieving their goals, you shouldn’t fire them or offer any form of punishment. Instead, work with the employee to determine why they didn’t achieve the goal so you can develop a plan aimed at improving the employee’s performance and a timeline for reaching certain milestones related to improvements. Only when an employee controls their behavior and chooses not to follow improvement plans should you consider termination.
The bottom line will always be impacted if your employees don’t perform up to their ability, and this is why it’s not just about punishment, but about being proactive. When you look at it like this, you can start to put the things in place that will improve everybody’s productivity.
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