Archive for September, 2011

Progressive Discipline – a Good Approach to Improving Employee Performance?

Consider the following scenario:

Your administrative assistant compiles a month-end report for you on critical business data.  The report due date is three business days after the end of the month, but recently this has been slipping to four, then five days or even later.  Frustrated, you follow company procedure and give her a verbal warning, telling her that you expect the report to be ready on the due date next month.  She promises that it will be…and once again, the report is three days late.  So, you give her a written warning, and explain that the consequence of continuing to miss the date will be termination.  Once again, the report is not ready on time, so you fire her.

Ask yourself, would you do your best work under threat of termination?  Probably not.  Are there better alternatives to helping an employee improve performance?  Definitely.  Consider the following:
• Lateness is the symptom, not the problem.  Why is the report late?  Is critical data not available timely?  Are there other priorities that get in the way of completing the report?
• Why do you need the report three business days after month end?  Just because it’s always been that way?  What is the actual need and by when?
• Are there unique circumstances over the past few months that have contributed to the issue?  Will they continue?  If not, the issue will likely resolve itself with no intervention.

In a few cases, you may not be successful with these strategies. But if you need to terminate, it’s at least with a good understanding of why things are not working and what you need to look for in the next candidate.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site or call her at 614-395-9440.


The Job Description: How to Ensure You Hire the Right Person

When I read job ads in the paper or online I often see the following phrases:
• Need energetic go-getter! (Sales)
• Partner with the Best! (Accounting)
• Unlimited Opportunity! (Retail)

Or the following:
• (Company Name) is a Management Consulting firm, specializing in distribution design and implementation with the purpose of solving our client’s business problems… (IT Company.)

If you were applying for a job with any of the above companies, would you have an accurate idea of what is required?  Probably not.  So, as an employer,  in 25 words or less, how do you convey what you are looking for and how you will know you have found it?  Here are some suggestions:
• Define your terms in relation to the position.  What does “energetic go-getter” mean?  Someone who will browbeat customers until they buy?  Probably not…more likely you are looking for a salesperson who can build customer relationships and generate repeat sales.  Asking for specific skill sets and experience may prevent applications from every “Go-Getter” in town who thinks they want to go into sales.
• Distinguish between needs and wants for the position.  If your best producers all have at least 5 years experience in the position, then that is most likely a need.  A want might be a college degree.
• Finally, and most importantly, be clear about the impact you expect the employee’s work will have for the company.  Hiring someone to work without understanding what the expected outcomes are doesn’t  benefit the company or the employee.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site or call her at 614-395-9440.