Archive for October, 2016

How to Stop Poor Performance From Draining your Company

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I obviously don’t work for your company, but my experience tells me there is a better than average chance that you have subpar performers that you’re letting work at your company and it is draining your company’s productivity, profit, and growth.  I wish I was wrong but I see it everywhere, every day in every industry.

Think about the poor performers in your life.  At work, at school, at church, at the stores you frequent, maybe even at home. Infuriating isn’t.  Missed deadlines, waiting in line, poor customer service, sloppy or slow processes, etc. Do you feel your blood pressure rising?  Believe me, top performers really appreciate having to do more work to cover for their uninspired co-workers. In fact that’s a leading cause of turnover for top performers – burn out over cleaning up the messes made by their slack co-workers AND frustration that their managers will not clean it up.poorperformance

Bruce Tulgan, noted management author and thought leader and past speaker at CAI’s HR Management Conference believes that “undermanagement” is one of the most detrimental phenomenon affecting business today.  He wrote a best-selling book called “It’s OK To Be The Boss.”  Why are so many managers not “being the boss” and letting poor performance slide?   We hear things like…

  • “Well Sally is better than having no one in the job and it’s hard to find good people.”
  • “At our pay Jim is the best we can afford.”
  • “I’m not dealing with this behavior because I know other managers let it slide.”
  • “I don’t have time to deal with Terry.”
  • “Don has been here forever and he’s always been this way, why should I have to deal with it?”

HR is blamed a lot.

  • “Our HR Department won’t let us fire anyone around here.”
  • “I would address it, but HR won’t let me because Joe is in a protected category.”
  • And on and on.

Poor Performance generally comes in three categories:

  1. Don’t know what to do.  Many employees regularly wander around our workplaces not knowing what is expected of them.  This category of poor performance rests with Managers, who simply need to take the time to provide clearer expectations for their employees.  Most people will perform just fine when they know what to do.
  2. Can’t do what you’re asking.  Sometimes we can salvage this “can’t-do” category with training.  Sometimes, though training will not correct the performance and in those cases the employee should be transferred to an open job they can do or they need to go work for someone else.
  3. Won’t do what you’re asking.  This is the most dangerous category.  Employees who won’t do what you’re asking create tremendous problems in the workplace every day.  Whether they vocalize their refusal or utilize more subtle activities, like slowing down, or overlooking things, there is only one solution for these people – they need to leave, and soon.

I once heard it put, hire slow and fire fast.  Good words to live by.  Yet I frequently find companies actually do the opposite – they hire quickly and impulsively and then take forever to separate the problem employee.  Many performance problems are really hiring problems in disguise.  So my advice, take more time assessing candidates. Most HR professionals know within the first five minutes of orientation if a new hire will make it or not.  Why didn’t they uncover that earlier?  HR professionals sometimes tell me the line managers decided to hire the person against HR’s advice.  So who is at fault?  I advise HR professionals to stand their ground and use turnover data to make your case.  And once you know someone is a poor performer, address it quickly. Fairly and respectfully, yes, but quickly.

The time between losing confidence in someone and them leaving is one of the most expensive in a manager’s life.  So if you’re a manager, start being the boss and quit letting poor performance slide and quit hiring people that should not work for your company because you are desperate. Your employees will thank you, because believe me they know who shouldn’t be there and they talk about it and suffer through it every day.  If you’re in HR do not let a lawsuit that will probably never happen overly impact how you deal with problems.  The EEOC actually dismisses two-thirds of all claims filed and only finds cause in about 3% of the charges it receives each year.  However, letting poor performers remain is a real problem that is draining your company every day.  I’m not advocating for a wild west management style absent of warnings and second chances.  I am suggesting we run our companies in a way that maximizes results versus running it out of fear.  After all a rising tide lifts all boats right!

I know this sounds pretty straightforward.  Who doesn’t get this right?  Ask yourself that question the next time as a consumer you have a bad customer experience at the hands of a problem employee.  You’ll be in that situation sometime this week and you’ll ask yourself why that company lets that person treat its customers that way.  Well, for the same reason it’s allowed at your company.  Think about it.

If you need help dealing with problem performance at your company please reach out to our Advice and Resolution team.  They answer thousands of questions each year that deal with performance management.

 

doug

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

 

Time to Break the Link?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Conventional wisdom often creates a strong linkage between performance evaluation ratings and compensation. On its face, this link seems completely appropriate. After all, it is only natural for people to think that stronger performance deserves more pay, weaker performance less.

However, a performance / compensation model with this direct link has a number of inherent downsides. First, many managers “force fit” employee rankings into desired compensation distributions in order maintain budget.  This practice discredits the performance system, breeds cynicism, and demotivates employees.performance-ratings

Another unwanted side effect of a direct linkage between performance rating and compensation is that many employees worry excessively about the pay implications related to the differences in ratings. As a consequence, they become fixated on their rating and drown out any discussion about developmental needs.

Focusing less on the link itself between performance and compensation allows companies to worry less about tracking and rating, and the consequences thereof, and more about building capabilities and inspiring employees to stretch their skills and aptitudes.  Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that compensation has no linkage with performance. I simply believe that the focus on the immediate linkage, at the time of the review, has several drawbacks that take away from the intended outcome of the performance review process and discussion.

Here is the rub: Since only a relatively few employees are truly standouts, (5-10%, perhaps 15%) why risk demotivating the broad majority of your employee base by focusing almost exclusively on the linkage between pay and performance.

Even General Electric, a long time proponent of the performance – pay linkage model and all the related processes and templates that go with it, is currently reinventing itself in this arena.  They are considering options ranging from dispensing with the entire model to a more gradual shift over time. They also understand that they must equip their managers with new tools and methods to motivate and reward employees.

The growing need for companies to inspire and motivate performance makes it critical to create managers and supervisors who are better coaches. Without great and frequent coaching, it’s difficult to set goals flexibly and often, to help employees stretch their jobs, or to give people greater responsibility and autonomy while demanding more expertise and judgment from them.

If you’re rethinking your organization’s performance management process, you don’t have to go it alone. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team to help you and your leadership team evaluate alternative models and coach you through making a change.

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Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Think Beyond Bonuses: Use Low Cost/High Impact Benefits to Maintain a Highly Engaged Workforce

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

As we prepare for the Overtime Rule (effective December 1) and continue to address increasing cost of insurance, we may feel the financial impact and strain on the budget.  It can be hard for companies to provide benefits to maintain employee engagement and stay competitive in the workplace with limited spending available in the budget.

I know that as employers, we recognize that a key motivator, or perhaps the number one motivator for many employees is compensation – the salary that is earned each week.  We work to make money and provide for our families and or achieve other goals.  But don’t underestimate the power of low cost benefits. employee-engagement

When I planned to move to CAI from my previous job in Banking, one of my biggest factors in finding a good employer was one that had a similar family oriented culture and flexible schedule. I have a young child and being able to have time if he is sick, to participate in his events, or work from home when needed was a key decision maker for me. CAI is an very employee-friendly organization that offers many low-cost perks: unlimited personal time, ability to work from home if needed, supplement to a wellness program of my choice, and continuing education classes (so I can maintain my certification).  The new CAI office in Raleigh further establishes CAI’s commitment to creating a great culture for employees. There are free snacks/drinks (including healthy choices like fruit and flavored water), several “We Spaces” that allow employees to move from their traditional desk spaces if they need a break or want to work in a different location for a bit, a lactation/meditation room, and several nice outdoor spaces for breaks and lunch.

Here are some other creative, low-cost ways that you can provide benefits to your employees:

  • Community Service/Volunteer Days: Allow your employees to have a couple of paid days per year to spend giving back to the community. Employees can participate in events such as Habitat for Humanity or Big Brother/Big Sister Program, working at a soup kitchen, or helping with Special Olympics. As an employer you could put requirements on the process for requesting the time away (to ensure coverage and ensure it is a legitimate request) and your participation will help build relationships in the community as a good steward.

 

  • Flexible Schedules/Time Away: Not all companies can provide a flexible workplace due to customer/production needs. If your culture would allow for a flexible schedule or time away, give it a try. You can build in parameters to ensure compliance and avoid abuse while creating an environment that communicates a trusting relationship: you trust that the employee will get the work done and take time as needed without abusing the privilege. Some employers utilize a seasonal “summer schedule” that allows employees to take advantage of the longer day light hours.

 

  • Employee discounts on company products or services. Does your company offer a product or service that they could give employees at a discount? We have companies that manufacture pocket books that allow employees to purchase at a discount, hotels that offer family/friend rates, and food processing companies that allow employees to have a certain number of free products per week worked.

 

  • Education Assistance: Providing a small fund for educational assistance or student loan repayment can go a long way. You can also tie in parameters to ensure that the employees don’t get the assistance and leave – have them sign a reimbursement form acknowledging that they will repay the company at a certain rate if they leave within a predetermined amount of time. Providing educational assistance will allow your employees to grow and become more valuable.

 

  • Wellness Programs: Wellness programs can range from super low cost to expensive. You can run a wellness program on a low budget by doing small walking challenges (have a couple small prizes like gift cards for winner), a newsletter outlining healthy eating/lifestyle tips (ask your employees to contribute) or a small ‘match’ on an employee’s choice of wellness program (Weight Watchers, Yoga, Gym Membership). Contributing to a wellness program will tie directly in to a healthier and happier work staff (and hopefully lower insurance/work injury claims).

 

  • Casual Dress Days: Do you know how much wearing a pair of jeans matters to your employees? Seriously, allowing employees a casual day once a week will be LIFE CHANGING for your staff. Of course you can require that the dress code still meet requirements of the business and maintain the professional image for customers.

 

  • Company Swag: I am sure you have (or can get your hands on) some logo items at a cheap cost. Employees love to have a water bottle, t-shirt, pens or small lunch container with their company logo. Double bonus: free advertising!

 

  • Partnerships with Other Companies: Do you have a local business that you could partner with to offer employee discounts? Maybe there is a tire shop up the road that will offer a 10% discount to employees of your company or a local restaurant that will provide a discounted lunch for specific days during the week.

 

  • Training: Show your employees that you value them and have a plan for their growth in the company. Sending an employee to a training class says that you have plans for them and are willing to invest in their talent and future with the company. As a member of CAI, there are many opportunities for cost-effective training and free webinars.

Overall creating a culture that values employees and puts emphasis on the employee’s work/life balance is a key to maintaining an engaged workforce and staying competitive with applicants.

Learn how CAI can help you improve performance and engagement in your workplace.

hinesley_emilyEmily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

 

Can We Talk…? How to Have a Difficult Conversation

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Every manager at one time or another has been faced with this awkward situation. The need arises for them to have a difficult performance conversation with one of their direct reports. In most cases, it has become clearly evident that the employee’s performance has dropped below the acceptable standard, and the issue must be addressed.thx7vghl8u

Yet, it is generally at this point that they begin to question how to best approach the matter. Because of a strong desire to be liked (a.k.a. high need for affiliation), many managers bury their heads in the sand and hope that the matter will fade away. The reality is that this is seldom the case.

Still other managers just feel too uncomfortable to give constructive feedback. To assist them, here are several practical tips that you can share with your management team:

Tip # 1: Don’t procrastinate

When you see performance issues, address them as quickly as possible. Putting them on the back burner will only delay the inevitable. If you allow the matter to pass, you may inadvertently send a signal that the performance is acceptable.

Tip # 2: Don’t dance around the subject

When they are about to have a difficult conversation, managers tend to try to ‘break the ice’ with some small talk. Fight that urge. The best approach is to avoid the small talk and get to the point. A good starting point is to immediately state… ‘This is going to be a difficult conversation.’

Tip # 3: Provide examples

Being too general when addressing a performance issue doesn’t give the employee enough to work with. In order for them to fully grasp the issues, give specific examples of their performance lapses. You don’t have to beat them over the head with every instance, but you do need to make it clear.

The use of ‘talking points’ allows you to keep focused on the issues at hand. By sticking to the script, talking points also help to reduce the likelihood that emotions will hinder your ability to deliver a clear message.

Tip # 4: Listen to the employee

This is a frequently overlooked aspect of the difficult conversation process. In their zeal to get their point across, many managers turn this into a one-sided monologue. It is critical that you give the employee the opportunity to share their thoughts. Sometimes all you will hear are lame excuses. Other times, there are valid points that mitigate the performance deficit.

However, if the employee becomes defensive, politely interrupt them, and return to your talking points.

Tip # 5: Clarify expectations

This is the ideal time to reinforce what the expectations are. If the matter is part of an ongoing performance issue, you would be best served to create a performance improvement plan. Either way, you’ll need to restate what the expectations are, and gain employee commitment to those expectations.

Another best practice is to keep a real-time log of such discussions (date, time, issues etc.).

Tip # 6: Set a follow-up meeting

The best way to ensure that the employee fully understands that this matter will not be ignored, is to keep it on their radar. During your discussion, arrange for a follow-up meeting in a couple of weeks. At that meeting, make certain to get a progress update from the employee and provide them with your observations.

Nearly all of us avoid having difficult conversations. To start providing important and necessary constructive performance feedback, contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!

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Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Keys to an Effective Performance Incentive Program

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

When it comes to increasing the return on your investment in your company, many business owners think of getting increased value through investments in new computer systems, or more sophisticated warehousing equipment, or a larger facility.  Yet, in today’s business climate, it is the company’s employees more than anything else that represent the single biggest investment that a business owner will make.incentive

That’s why effective performance incentive programs are so important.  Properly designed performance incentive programs not only help to ensure that you achieve your business objectives, but they can actually help employees develop or enhance job skills, thereby improving employee performance and productivity.  And, more productive employees become even more committed to achieving company goals, leading to repeat success and reduced staff turnover.

While the variety and complexity of a performance incentive program will vary from company to company, here are a few ingredients that are critical to the success of all such programs, regardless of your business:

Has High Visibility Among Employees: An effectively-designed performance incentive program will really get the attention of the employees.  But managers must also ensure that they create a continual “buzz” to keep the program objectives foremost in the minds of employees.  Regular progress reports and updates, as well as interim celebrations will go a long way to keep people focused and motivated.

Provides A Variety Of Incentives: Not all employees have the same responsibilities, and not everyone is motivated in the same way.  Successful performance incentive programs include opportunities for all employees to “win,” regardless of the type of work that they perform.  And including different types of rewards (a choice of either “cash” bonus, gift card, or a day off, for example) ensures that there’s something for everyone in achieving the goal(s).

Delivers Rewards In A Timely Fashion: The greatest satisfaction in achieving a goal occurs when the goal is realized, not a month after the fact.  And timely acknowledgment more directly connects the achievement itself with the reward, providing additional incentive to win another time.  Make sure that your performance incentive program provides for prompt recognition of achievement.

Includes Employee Involvement: Incentive programs developed by top managers only without the involvement of employees are likely to be not as effective as when there is employee involvement.   The people performing the job are often best positioned to know what is an appropriate range is for actual and stretch goals. Also seek employees’ opinions regarding types of incentives that will truly motivate them.

Reflects Business Goals And Company Values:  Remember that performance incentives are a very effective way to reinforce the goals and objectives you have for your business, as well as to remind people of the company’s overriding values.  Get the greatest impact from your performance incentive program by ensuring that it rewards performance consistent with that vision.

Should you need help thinking through an approach that will work best for your organization contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today.

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Rick Washburn leads the Advice & Resolution team at CAI. In his role, he advises executives and HR professionals on strategic and organizational issues, tackling subjects ranging from employee engagement to talent management. With his 25 years experience in HR management, Rick is uniquely poised to advice and lead businesses to successful HR strategies.

Coaching in the Workplace

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

There are more coaches working in corporate America than in all of college sports. What are these workplace coaches doing?coaching

So many kinds of workplace coaching exist because individual circumstances vary greatly. Generally, internal coaches are experienced mentors or managers assisting an employee.  Internal coaches tend to focus on performance improvement or career advancement (succession).  Staff coaches know so much more about the business and how it works than external coaches.

External fee-based coaches generally focus more on employee behaviors. Of course, behaviors affect performance but in different ways than a lack of job skills or experience. External coaches usually have more experience with assessment tools and helping an employee understand the role of behaviors in their success.

Whether called coaching, mentoring, managing or succession planning, the idea is a coach can help someone see what they cannot see by themselves. The coach is there to help create a pathway for change and growth.

The best workplace coaches are great listeners. Before employees trust a coach’s process or guidance, they have to feel heard. This is especially true in behavioral coaching.  Behaviors are so personal and emotional, change often requires an equally strong emotional counterweight created with the help of a coach.

Great coaches are always looking for ways to bring awareness to the employee. Until we see what we do not know, how our behavior impacts others, or how our role (or future role) will test us, we cannot change.

Good mentors, managers and coaches are willing to devote the time needed, first to build a good relationship and second to create the space to process and learn. Performance coaching (managing) can be directive at times with steps and instructions. Behavioral coaching usually includes more questions than answers plus the use of objective personal assessment data. Mentor-style coaching might be mostly about providing a newer employee with helpful context and scope earned from experience.

Logic, emotion, listening, direction, awareness, venting, conversations, context, history-telling, role-modeling, sticks and carrots: all these and more fit under the big umbrella of coaching.

Successful coaching matches the purpose of the engagement with the tools and techniques of the right coach. Is a coach needed to keep an employee’s career train from jumping the track? Or is a coach assigned to help a high potential employee grow into their next role?

The best managers in any organization are already coaches without the label. They use patience, conversations, relationships, listening and direction to provide employees every chance to succeed.  Poor managers need their own coaches to help see the damage created by bad behaviors.

The mistake we often see employers make is offloading a problem employee onto a coach’s (or manager’s) plate expecting a miraculous conversion. Good coaching requires workplace reinforcement by leaders with skin in the game.

Employees sometimes reject the help. Behavioral change is key to success as responsibilities increase, but it is hard.

If offered a workplace coach or mentor, seize the opportunity as a gift to you and your career!

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.