Growing and Retaining Productive Employees

Recently, on one of the e-mail lists to which I subscribe, a colleague mentioned that he had been counseled by one of his mentors that the best thing he could do for his good employees was to fire a bad employee. Sounds harsh, yet it is true that for the greater good, we have to sometimes admit that we will not be able to help an underperforming employee to make the grade. It’s best for them and for the organization if we “make their services available to industry.”

I admire the companies for whom I have worked that have gone out of their way to make sure that they did everything possible to help their employees be productive and happy. They provided training. They moved people from one place to another. They provided internal mentors or professional coaches to both high performing employees and those who needed to “push on some growing edges” for the sake of their career. But what I and others appreciated the most was that they were also willing to set some goals and if they were not reached, the employee was dismissed, compassionately.

I have found that this view of “tough love” approach to employees is particularly difficult in small businesses. In many small businesses, employees are like family, except they get a salary and benefits instead of an allowance! The problem is that we should never hire someone we cannot fire, and family members, real or adopted, are extremely difficult to let go. Now is the time, however, to really pay attention to and begin action on shaping your corporate culture to be one based on performance, consistency and fairness – at all levels.

I know that many of us have been forced to “cut to the bone” during this recession. You may well believe that there is no room for more cuts, and perhaps you are correct. That does not mean, however, that your culture is one that will support an understanding of performance, consistency and fairness going forward. All of your executives, managers and employees know that you were “forced to downsize” in order to stay alive. They will not see your actions as being performance based so much as needing to cut costs, unless you truly did reduce your workforce based on performance. Perhaps you used the seniority or LIFO (last in, first out) method to make your decisions. If so, your employees do not believe that their performance will influence their employment with you – so no loyalty either.

If you believe you have really made the reductions in force using performance as the main criteria, then you don’t have a problem. If, however, you were not consistent and fair in how you reduced your workforce, then you will have a very difficult time as the economy turns around and people are willing to change jobs. Many of us are dealing with workers who are sticking with us, even though they are not particularly happy, because they know they do not want to be “on the street with a resume” at this point. They feel overworked, burned out, and in need of something exciting to pick up their spirits. How will you keep the good employees, the ones that are the most productive?

I recommend two things that are a bit counter intuitive. First, be ruthless in getting your employees to stop doing things they and you can do without. Stop making that report you’ve always looked at but on which you base no business decisions. There are likely many other tasks with which you can do without. Unburden your employees by making sure that no expendable or marginal tasks are continued. Nice to have no longer cuts it.

Second, and more on topic, begin now carefully, consistently, and fairly evaluating employees for performance and how well they adapt to change (like letting go of tasks). You must not allow poor performers to stay in the organization or you will totally demoralize your whole workforce. I’ve said before that there are many good employees, excellent employees, who are either available now or because their present employer is not as enlightened as you, will be available if they know you are prepared to bring them on board. It is a good time to build a winning team comprising your best players and the best players who have yet to be hired.

To help companies and hiring managers identify some of the things that managers can do to retain their best talent we have put together for you to download our 8 Level Retention Matrix. This matrix will help you identify whether or not your managers are doing what it takes to retain your best talent.

If your managers do some, or most of these, you won't lose your talent to a recruiter. Your competition will.

You can also download for free our most popular chapter on sourcing top talent from our best-selling book, You're NOT The Person I Hired. CLICK HERE to download your free chapter.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after business advisor and mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Is Your Organization Going To Make It To 2010 and Beyond? Part 1

If the question above is keeping you up at night, we have some ideas for you to consider and implement so that your organization will not only make it through the current storm but will thrive well into the future!  You’ll know by reading this article if your ship is heading towards the rocks, towards the open sea, or on a clear course to your destination.

Think for a moment about the various components of a boat that are needed in order to keep it afloat and heading in the intended direction.  Observe how they compare to your organization.

Components of a Seafaring Vessel

Hull – Need to have a structure that can endure and thrive in the elements.

Fuel – The energy needed to move the vessel forward and towards its destination.

Crew – The crew will either make sure the ship reaches its destination in a timely manner or cause it to go off course or cause an incident that could result in loss of resources.

The Changing Environment

Water is the most unstable surface on our planet.  No matter how much planning a business does, a rogue wave can come along and cause havoc. This might be changes in the market, unhappy clients, distribution channels, technology, financial, etc.  Preparation can only go so far, yet if your organization has one key ingredient you’ll be able to survive and thrive beyond your wildest dreams.

Key Ingredient to Thrive

The answer always comes back to having the right crew on board.  It all begins with the selection process, mentoring and staff development.  If this is done correctly, or you have the right people with potential for growth, you’ll not only make it through to 2010… you’ll also be ready to ride the wave of 2011 and beyond!  Let’s take a look at how this works.

By having the right crew on board, you’ll have:

  • Contributors – That will help the ship reach its course through innovation, ingenuity, timely fulfillment of tasks, follow through, etc.
  • Happy customers – They’ll keep coming back due to the outstanding service and quality of the product.
  • Happy employees – They’ll go the extra mile for the organization and its customers.  This also leads to positive word of mouth that can attract top talent.
  • Open Minded Culture – Problem solving is the key to anticipate needs, deal with weather changes, being open to adapting to the environment.
  • Profitability – You’ll meet your organization’s goal and objective where everyone is rewarded for doing a great job and your organization will be able to continue to provide services and products with the opportunity to visit other destinations in the future.

An organization can build a sturdy ship, but without the right people behind the scenes it won’t leave port. All of this starts with the captain of the ship and with its officers.  If they select the correct crew up front, they know the job will get done correctly, in a timely manner and the work can be trusted.  Can you trust that your crew will do their job not only correctly but in a timely manner? Do they also contribute ideas for further improvement so you can get the maximum value from each individual?

If the answer is “I’m not sure” then your answer may be reflective of the future survival of your vessel.  Every organization must have all hands on deck with crew members that are excited and grateful to be aboard and have the ability to perform the best they can.

A Whale of a Tale for Teamwork

A manager once had an outstanding team but always told everyone what to do.  This person didn’t listen, didn’t ask questions, demanded a higher level of volume without asking if the organization could handle it and created a closed environment. Over time things started to slip through the cracks, customers were not getting the attention they needed, sales slipped,  people started to leave and the organization began to develop a bad reputation where recruitment became a problem.  Upper management stepped in and started to ask the team members for their feedback.  It turned out that the manager was not a good fit for that position and was transitioned into another department.  When the new manager was selected, it was based not only on experience but also the ability to work with others.  They learned that it is vital to understand a person’s work style and how they interact with others in order to have a high performing team.  If just one person isn’t “playing well in the sandbox” the effects can ruin a brand and effect sales and future growth of an organization. You can gather additional ideas for working with your current and future crew members by reading Cracking The Personality Code. To order this book, go to:

Is your culture one of team work and does everyone in your company agree? Have them take our Company Cultural Assessment. CLICK HERE to download your assessment.

Is  your hiring methodology designed to attract top talent and weed out those candidates that embellish? You can download our 8 Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard and find out. CLICK HERE to download.

Author's Bio

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC has over 25 years experience in the area of business consulting and helping organizations both nationally and internationally in raising the hiring bar through using in-depth work style assessments.  Dana is a nationally recognized speaker on this topic and has built a well recognized organization that provides expert interpretation of in-depth work style assessments during the hiring process, providing a variety of workshops and assisting those with communication challenges. He is the co-author of the book, “Cracking the Personality Code”.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA  90403, (310) 453-6556, & our Website: Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth personality assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, conflict management, workshops, and executive & employee coaching.