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Misconduct or Poor Performance?

Deciding on appropriate action when dealing with employees.

Deborah Hartung

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Many employers are unsure of what action is appropriate to take, under what circumstances, within the workplace. Should an act be dealt with by means of a written warning, or worse still, a disciplinary enquiry that may lead to dismissal? Or was it just a mistake, a human error that could have been corrected by means of a less formal, counselling approach? Fear of making the wrong decision and paying dearly at the CCMA or a Bargaining Council often causes many employers to simply take no action at all.

Misconduct

‘Misconduct’ is defined as the blameworthy breach of a workplace rule or a rule of relevance to the workplace.

Incapacity due to poor work performance

‘Poor work performance’ on the other hand, refers to a situation where an employee is not able to perform the duties and tasks associated with their position, at the standards that are required of them by their employer. In many cases, this poor performance may be as a result of the fact that the employee requires some additional training on the use of equipment, or they need help with their time management and planning skills.

But many incidents that occur in the workplace seem to inhabit a grey area between misconduct and poor performance, causing confusion for line managers on what the appropriate action would be under the circumstances.

Consider the following example:

Your business has grown to the point where you now have 250 employees and you hire John as your new full time HR Manager. He has 10 years’ experience working in HR and employee relations and you are confident that he is the right person for the job. Part of John’s job is to ensure that the annual employment equity report is completed and submitted to the Department of Labour. Three (3) months after the report was due for submission, a labour inspector visits your premises and you learn that your company didn’t make a submission. You are livid and when you confront John about this, he says that he got busy and he totally forgot – it just slipped his mind.

Two Questions to test for Misconduct

In order to determine the appropriate action to take in this situation, you need to answer two simple questions. If you answer both of those questions in the affirmative, then you are dealing with an incident of misconduct and you would need to take appropriate disciplinary action, instead of some kind of performance management and improvement initiative.

Did an act or omission occur?

In this instance, John has omitted to submit the annual EE report, so you can answer this question in the affirmative.

Is there any form of blameworthiness – either intentional or negligent?

The question here is whether John can be held responsible for his actions in any way. We have no evidence that he intentionally did not submit the report, but his actions may have been as a result of negligence.

The legal test for negligence, is to ask yourself ‘would a reasonable person, given the same circumstances, have acted differently?’

If your answer is ‘yes’ then you are dealing with negligence.

So, in this case, would it have been reasonable to have expected of John – someone with 10 years’ HR experience – to know when EE reports are due and to take action to ensure that your report was completed and submitted on time?

Definitely! This is not merely a little ‘mistake’ or human error that should be addressed by means of a relatively informal counselling session, but an act of misconduct that would most likely be addressed in a disciplinary enquiry.

If the misconduct is of a serious nature and you are intending taking formal disciplinary action (such as a disciplinary enquiry) it is extremely important that your charges are framed correctly and it is advisable that you seek assistance from an employment law professional, in ensuring that you have drafted the correct charges.

Everyone makes mistakes in addressing situations at work and in their private lives. They often think that they would have done something differently, had they known better at the time. By asking the two crucial questions herein, you can ensure that you always differentiate between misconduct and performance problems and that you start addressing these serious workplace issues, in the correct manner.

Deborah Hartung has almost 15 years’ experience in Human Resources and Labour Relations management and has consulted across various industries. Visit the Hartung website or the HR Guru site should you require assistance with any matters relating to HR or Labour Law within your organisation, or should you wish to improve your knowledge through attending informative training sessions and workshops.

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Managing Staff

8 Ways To Upskill Your Call Centre Team Before Year-End

For South African call centres, November is the busiest month of the year, so to get in on the action, it’s only appropriate for Olico to provide a few tips on how to upskill your call centre agents.

Gareth Moutain

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As we’re heading into the 2017 home-stretch, many companies will be concerned about hitting those final sales figures. Apart from being a tough year financially, traditionally sales tend to lag behind at this stage. But there is hope.

For South African call centres, November is the busiest month of the year, so to get in on the action, it’s only appropriate for Olico to provide a few tips on how to upskill your call centre agents.

1. For sales, balance is key

A firmly held belief is that the more leads allocated per seat, the more sales that seat will bring in. That’s incorrect. Give the agent too many leads, and they will give up too easily on a call, stopping at the first hurdle experienced. Too few leads mean they might miss out on sales opportunities. Finding the right balance is essential, bearing in mind that all leads should be made the most of.

2. Improve the opening script

In a call centre environment, agents must know how to capitalise on that brief period of time to get a foot in the door. The opening script is absolutely vital, and it can be enhanced by simply adding personalisation to it. Make sure the person is greeted by their name/surname, with agents encouraged to add some energy to the lines to make it stand out from other call clutter.

Related: The Festive Season Might Be Over, But There’s No Rest For Call Centres

3. Provide the origin of the lead

Tying in closely to the above, sales will improve if agents know where the lead comes from. If the lead is from a person who responded to an email campaign, it must be mentioned in the script. Once the person knows the call is related to a request they sent, they will immediately form rapport with the call centre agent.

4. Product refresh training

Much like a car sometimes need a retouch to bring back the shine, so too do call centre agents need a refresh on the products they are selling. Products also evolve, so providing agents with a short course on new benefits, while re-emphasising the key ones, is a great idea.

5. Objection handling

Closing a sale through the telephone is hard work, and call centre agents must be made aware of all the tricks of the trade to seal the deal. If a consumer is not keen, sell harder. If there are regular excuses, find their counterpoints. Is the client’s home language isiZulu? Find the agent who can help. Give them a reason to stay on the phone.

6. Stick to the appointment

Time is money they say, so if the person requested a call back on a specific time, make sure the appointment is kept. Customers don’t respond well if a time slot was missed and yet another call catches them at a bad time.

Related: Why Tyra Banks Cold-Called Zappos’s Tony Hsieh

7. Improve quote ratios

It’s easy – more quotes mean more sales. If the potential customer is provided with a quote, the chances of them converting to a sale is considerably more certain. Where the problem comes in, is guiding a lead through the call to be able to quote. For call centres this means tailoring the script to elegantly move from “Good morning, Mr. Williams,” to “Our life policy will cost you R350 per month”.

8. Incentivise!

With the holidays and Christmas coming up, everyone needs that extra cash, that’s why the time is now to really incentivise sales. Big paydays for agents and teams who sell the most will provide the kindling needed to get those sales fires burning.

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Managing Staff

How To Avoid People Leaving Your Company

How can entrepreneurs ensure a better business model to limit the impact of high staff turnover in these environments?

Joel Stransky

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If your business requires a call centre or service centre environment the chances are that you will find yourself faced with a high staff turnover (attrition rate) versus other departments in your business.

The main reason is a generational issue as these environments are increasingly being staffed by members from the Generation Y cohort, also known as Millennials, with digital natives from Generation Z looming on the horizon.

How can entrepreneurs ensure a better business model to limit the impact of high staff turnover in these environments?

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

Understand why staff turnover is high

Firstly, technology innovation regularly introduces new skills and competencies that staff is required to learn, while also creating some degree of uncertainty with regard to what the future holds in terms of job security.

Secondly, the call centre or service centre environment is often considered a stepping stone to other career paths, and is seldom viewed as a long-term job prospect.

Thirdly, the perceived lack of career opportunities, coupled with other challenges such as low levels of stimulation; a tough sales-based environment, and hierarchical management structures1, all make the call centre a unique and complex environment where staff has a short lifespan.

Talent acquisition

As an entrepreneur, anticipating and proactively addressing talent issues requires a focused acquisition strategy. Finding ways to better predict performance alongside traditional methods of assessing candidates has become a top priority. And it is not only about whether new hires have the skill-set to perform in the role but also do they fit into your company culture.

Traditional assessments such as psychometric testing can deliver some insights about potential employees, but the reality is that these tests only accurately measure between 16 to 20% of key performance predictors.

Related: How To Keep Your Sales Staff Focused On The Future

In addition, the skills required in a modern multi-channel call centre are varied as staff need to engage via various mediums such as social media and email, not just over the phone.

Companies therefore need the ability to match core competencies/skills with the job role, while also ascertaining both written and verbal skill sets.

As such, it has become increasingly complex to assess which candidates will be a good fit for the call centre environment when relying on traditional assessments alone.

Understand your talent to manage staff turnover

Once hired, the ability to understand your employees and track their talent lifecycle can help to identify early warning signs of discontent and consideration of leaving, which is highly beneficial to your business.

There are technologies today which allow you to do just this. By understanding your employees better you can intervene to hopefully address their concerns and secure their continued service, or plan for the attrition to ensure a smoother transition by finding a replacement before they leave.

It is important to limit the financial impact that empty seats in a call centre can have on your bottom line as it limits the risk of sales targets not being met, and helps ensure that customer engagement and satisfaction goals are not compromised.

Related: How To Know If You’re Focusing On The Wrong Types Of Staff Skill Enhancement

Boost performance

By better understanding call centre employees, your managers will develop more robust strategies to boost both workforce performance and job satisfaction, which is of particular importance to Millennials.

By understanding employees better, career planning and progression can also become more focused by aligning skills or helping to identify weak areas that require improvement. This personal development will help employees feel like they are growing and advancing.

Today entrepreneurs have access to technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) that are being used to support a stronger talent acquisition and staff development business model.

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Managing Staff

These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

You don’t have to drive to the local cinemaplex to see “It,” to see monsters in action. Just check your workplace.

Andre Lavoie

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Things that go bump in the night, monsters hiding under the bed and terrifying clowns called “It”: These are the things nightmares are made of. But for some employees, the scariest part of their day isn’t a movie; it’s dealing with bad managers.

While no one sets out to be a bad manager, this scenario happens and all too often. In fact, one in two employees surveyed by Gallup in 2015 said they had left jobs to get away from a bad manager.

Since managers are the main sources for employee motivation, productivity, happiness and retention, one who’s a “nightmare”  can wreak more damage than just unhappy employees. Even with today’s technology and resources, managers continue to make major mistakes – and that can hurt the bottom line at the same time it costs companies quality employees.

The solution? Be aware of the habits that could make your managers a nightmare, and don’t get tangled in that web to begin with.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Here are four examples of managers who haunt employees long after the workday has ended – and how to avoid becoming one:

1The poor “people” person

A manager who doesn’t interact well with people sounds like an oxymoron, but these individuals exist. When someone who doesn’t work well with others is in charge of a team, the entire company dynamic becomes derailed.

One of the biggest things that suffers is free-flowing communication. OfficeVibe’s August State of Employee Engagement report found that 31 percent of employees polled wished their manager communicated with them more frequently.

Unfortunately, however, a manager categorized as a “poor people person” may actually be uncomfortable communicating and dealing with critical employee situations.

For some managers, this type of bad management style will be easy to avoid. However, others will have to overcome their natural tendencies to stray away from social situations. This means that leaders have to assess personality types and understand which people skills that certain managers lack may need improving.

The best place to get information is from your current team members. Because they may feel they’re being put into an awkward situation, you might offer an anonymous survey. Ask how frequently your employees would like to speak with management and in what format, and whether they feel management is opening up and communicating with them on the level they need.

2The self-involved manager

Quality managers have a knack for motivating their entire team toward one end goal – the company’s mission. While this is accomplished by setting and pursuing personal and company goals, good team leaders know how to invoke passion from employees and help them succeed on every front.

The self-involved manager, on the other hand, has no awareness of anyone’s goals but his or her own. This is why the incidence of managers taking credit for their team’s hard work and not empowering employees happens all too frequently.

Self-involved managers may seem successful due to their ability to hit goals and make the numbers move, but that’s all they’re interested in.

For managers who want to improve, a good place to focus on is the greater good of the company. In this regard, managers need to know exactly where employees stand with their individual goals, the nature of their personal missions and where they picture the company moving to.

Ignoring this kind of detail about employees may make managers seem self-involved, and employees will quickly lose trust in their leadership.

Sit down for weekly meetings or create an online chat room where managers and employees can come together. Make this a safe place for all to share their personal goals or discuss where they hope to see the company in a few years. Offer advice, step-by-step guides or continuing education courses to help employees reach their greatest potential.

Related: To Have An Innovative Company, Let Your Employees Take The Reins

3The overly involved manager

This type of manager often wears a mask of popularity and is frequently involved in a small company or startup. “Overly involved” doesn’t simply refer to the micromanager who has to be in on every project, opinion and decision. Overly involved managers take things a step further and try to meddle in every aspect of their employees’ lives.

While it is important to care about team members as more than just employees, there is a fine line between being a caring manager and becoming a close friend. Going beyond that point can make employees uncomfortable and even make it difficult to manage them.

Employees, meanwhile, may appear to like this type of manager, but his or her inability to successfully lead and manage will eventually cause the team to feel stagnant.

Rather than focusing on getting employees to like them, managers should look at what boosts those employees’ productivity, motivation and passion. Knowing what makes them tick inside and outside of work will help bosses lead their teams to victory. Remember to keep things professional in order to maintain employees’ respect for management and the company.

4The indecisive manager

These managers are infamous for being hard to please. From their perspective, they’re simply putting the company’s best foot forward and perfecting employees’ projects and tasks. But being unpredictable makes for a scary workplace situation. Employees are left feeling uneasy, apt to second-guess themselves and overly critical of co-workers.

Related: What Are Your Employees Doing When You’re Not Looking?

Once indecisive managers become known for their lack of predictability, morale and creativity get thrown out the window. Employees need to feel safe in their working environment, especially with the person who is reviewing and assessing their final products.

So, loosen the reins a bit and have employees take control of their projects. When necessary, post guidelines in a shared drive, like Google Docs, to offer direction when employees need it, and don’t forget to always be available for questions.

It’s okay to make small changes to these guidelines, but don’t jump in and change them too frequently. Let team members know they can always expect a supportive and guiding hand from management when needed.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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