Getting more from your own employees

If you believe your workers are motivated without consequences, reconsider. Being truly a good leader means providing checks and balances.

"Average" isn’t sufficient any longer. Not in this competitive environment. Not in this lagging economy. In the event that you accept average performance from your own employees, you’re doing all your company an enormous disservice.

So why could it be then that so most of us mutely accept mediocre performance? Perhaps because raising the bar isn’t easy. Taking corrective action could be unpleasant. And in the event that you haven’t done some of this before, it could not be clear how or where to start.

One place to start has been the 20-60-20 percent rule. It goes such as this: rate the performance of nearly any employee group, and you will find the populace divides itself into three categories:

  • 20 percent are strong performers
  • 60 percent are average performers
  • 20 percent are weak performers

You have three possible places to begin with, but which one’s most significant? Here is a clue: your strong performers already are doing fine under your present management, so don’t spend your time fixing what isn’t broken. We’ll get back to them later.

That leaves your average performers–your majority–and your weak performers, a smaller but more threatening group. Whom do you focus on, and what now ??

The good thing is you can kill two birds with one stone. Research shows that whenever you start vigorously managing your weakest employees, it creates the biggest effect on the next group up–namely, your average workers.

In the event that you aren’t taking action against underperforming employees–employees who aren’t productive, who can be found in late and spend your time or perhaps don’t can be found in at all–what message does that send to the common worker?

It tells them there are no consequences for performance. Remember, your employees are well alert to one another’s behavior, even if management pretends never to notice. This fosters a culture of apathy and negativity that drags everyone down.

However, in the event that you start holding underperformers accountable, a lot of your average employees might just step it up a notch, simply by themselves.

There are a variety of methods to manage poorly performing employees. Begin by creating job descriptions and performance standards for everyone–a step many small employers wrongly overlook.

Job descriptions are incredibly useful tools. They tell employees what’s expected of these. They give you a typical for measuring performance, essential if it is raise and bonus time. Plus they protect employers against wrongful termination suits, because now you have a particular tool for documenting problems.

If someone isn’t performing well in his / her job, find out why. Is it an exercise issue? If so, make training available and you’ll solve the problem. Is this person an excellent worker, but poorly suitable for his job? Then see if there’s a far more appropriate role for him elsewhere in the business. Or does she simply have inadequate work habits? If whatever you try, you can’t motivate her to boost her performance, you should do the toughest thing of most: terminate her.

"Neutron Jack" Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, is well-known for his extreme managerial practices. In the 1980s, Welch insisted that all year, every department manager rank her or his personnel and get rid of the bottom ten percent of workers. His theory was that it increases performance expectations and keeps everyone–even stellar employees–on their toes. Concern with losing one’s job is powerful motivation.

While Welch’s practice was radical, it is also radical–dangerously so–to keep non-performers up to speed. Basically, they are hurting your business! Cut them loose, and you will send ripples during your organization, shaking up other non-performers and prodding average employees to aim higher. As a bonus, you’ll boost morale among your top performers, since it shows that you’re attending to and that you value good work.

According to a vintage Icelandic proverb, "Mediocrity is climbing molehills without sweating." If you wish to climb mountains, not molehills, create a zero tolerance for mediocrity. Utilize the 20-60-20 percent rule to keep your employees moving upward.