How to turn around poor performers

It can be frustrating when an employee doesn’t live up to the promise they showed during the interview process, leaving you with an underperforming employee. Many business owners and managers spend a large amount of their time covering for staff who are uncommitted yet seemed so capable in the interview – they now arrive late and make costly mistakes during the work day. They appear non-fussed when facing serious problems and now you have to turn their performance around.

The process to follow now involves documented 1 on 1 performance appraisals, performance improvement plans, follow up meetings, additional training, warning letters, more PIP’s and potentially a parting of ways. In my experience, very few satisfactory outcomes are achieved from performance management and almost all staff who enter this process will leave the workplace.

We employed the wrong person and the time invested to remove them was huge and now we’re back to where we started 12 months ago – looking to fill a vacancy. If you’re running a small business, you can’t afford to waste time and opportunity like this. So how did we end up here in the first place?

You employed someone with character and attitudes that don’t fit the culture of your business. They never bought into your culture and vision, and showing their true character, they were unable to deliver on expectations.

If this describes your situation today then my advice is to exit the employee as soon as possible, and start again, ‘this time more intelligently’ (Henry Ford).

So how do you hire people that will buy into your culture? Remember that leadership and culture come from the quality of the people in charge. What values do your company stand for and by? What values do you stand for and by? Are they aligned?

You will want to create a culture centred around you and your company’s values, ethics, understanding, temperament (it’s never acceptable to lose your temper at work) opportunities and rewards – and be consistent with your actions which are guided by these values.

Now we have this in order, we can recruit a person who will fit the culture. Look for evidence of character and attitude in your interviews and don’t be blinded by skills. Remember, skills can always be taught but character and attitude come with the employee.

Look for evidence of where they showed initiative in the past, or went that extra mile – this only happens when they believe in what they’re doing.

Search out their passion and get them talking about it. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be fishing, horses, politics, motorsport, footy, anything which interests them. This will give you useful insight into how they will perform and behave for you IF they buy into your culture and show the same passion. If you can’t find their passion, then then that is already telling you something about their character.

Spend time looking into their background. Not just speaking to the referees they provided but finding people they worked with in their previous workplaces. Don’t tell yourself you can’t afford the time – look at how much time you would be investing if you got this wrong.

Plan your 2nd and 3rd interview – ask peers and people you trust to sit in or conduct these interviews to round out the feedback to you. I have heard that top global IT and social media companies will interview up to 10 times to ensure they’re hiring the right character.

If you invest the time to find the right people who buy into your culture and values, you will never have to performance manage again. You will find people who are better than you, and your joy will be seeing them bring energy, innovation, passion, fun and success into your business for mutual benefit.

 

Phil Saddleton is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Gibson Shopfitters and a member of the WSSBE Advisory Board.

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Novotel Sydney Parramatta
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