Keep Performers Close…and Document Relentlessly

January 6, 2010

Our research shows that, on average, every supervisor of staff —from the CEO to front line supervisors—reports 1.78 employees who are not meeting performance expectations. When one considers how many leaders an organization may have, you quickly realize that this translates to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of low performers.

Also, of the “not meeting expectations” crowd, between 40 to 60 percent of those identified are not in any form of disciplinary or performance counseling. For that matter, they also have no documentation. This is not fair to them, to their co workers or to the organization. I will get to that in another blog entry.

The point is most organizations need to let some people go. There is no way around it. And this brings up two important points: 1) alleviate the worries of your middle performers, and 2) get really serious about documenting performance issues.

Last week I was talking with someone who told me when they let a person go from their department it caused what they felt was a higher than expected level of anxiety with others in the department. I asked if they had stayed extra close to the other staff as the departure process was taking place. In retrospect, they said they had not.

My advice is this: when you know you will be taking action on a person who has performance issues, first make sure you are close to the other people who do not have performance issues. While the very high performers on your team may not worry, if other staff members are not feeling safe they will have anxiety—and that anxiety will impact both their quality of life and their productivity.

I’m not suggesting that you say, “You are fine, so when you hear that so and so is leaving, relax!” However, you do want to make sure the others in your department know you want to retain them. It’s important to go over what they do well and to clearly state your commitment to development. This way when a change is made they will not feel unnecessary anxiety.

Now for the second point: It used to be that many staff members with performance issues would self-select out when they were held accountable. Not anymore. Why? Quite simply, there are fewer jobs to go to.

Many times, lower performing individuals at the leadership level would relocate when self-selecting out. Today, that’s less likely to happen. Even if these people can find other jobs, they probably cannot sell their homes. So for supervisors this means more relentless documentation.

In summary, each day is a day for leaders to retain those staff members that are performing at or above expectations, which is most of them. And it’s also a day to keep a close watch on those staff members who aren’t meeting expectations—and to make sure you’re keeping careful records on them.

Both actions will help ensure that you have a calm, focused, productive staff today and in the future.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO
Studer Group

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One Response to “Keep Performers Close…and Document Relentlessly”

  1. Rocky Ruello Says:

    There is a real opportunity for organizations to address performance issues and build co-worker engagement at the same time. Most low performers do not come to work to purposely perform poorly. The underlying cause is that they are more than likely in the wrong position – good person but wrong position! Their thinking skills, behavioral traits and occupational interests are not closely aligned with the traits and characteristics of the position they currently occupy.

    Herein lays an incredible opportunity for improving co-worker engagement, increasing productivity, lowering turnover, reducing costs, improving patient satisfaction/customer service and making the organization a true magnet facility for patients, physicians and co-workers! By identifying the underlying traits and characteristics of each position that lead to successful performance, and then assessing co-workers whose personal traits and characteristics are closely aligned with those of the position, selection decision are dramatically improved. Co-workers, who are in positions that are a natural extension of who they are as an individual, will be more motivated, have higher productivity, work with greater enthusiasm and confidence, provide higher levels of service, have fewer work injuries and have significantly higher retention rates. Wouldn’t we all prefer to work for a company that helps us identify our “hidden talents”, values us as individuals and helps us to “be all we can be”?

    In most cases, low performing co-workers have been there for a while, know the organization, and are a good organizational fit, just a poor job fit. Why not invest in these co-workers rather than continually bringing in new co-workers and repeating the cycle over time? The use of validated assessments can help achieve these goals and provide a significant, hard dollar, return on investment.

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