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Fighting With Employees? You’re Promoting The Wrong People!

Wondering why employees and management are constantly at loggerheads in your organisation? It may be because you’re promoting the wrong people.

GG van Rooyen

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The Dilbert Principal

If you’ve ever been utterly convinced that your boss was an idiot, the Dilbert Principle might go some way towards explaining your predicament. Penned by Adam Scott, creator of the Dilbert cartoons, the principle states: In many cases the least competent, least smart people are promoted simply because they’re the ones you don’t want doing actual work.

You want them ordering the doughnuts and yelling at people for not doing their assignments. Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers — your smart people — aren’t in management.

Related: 4 Smart Ways To Find Creative Employees For Your Start-up

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The Peter Principal

A second school of thought posits that managers don’t start out useless, but become that way as mushrooming job requirements gradually overwhelm their meagre job skills.

The Peter Principle states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively. In other words, managers rise to the level of their incompetence.

The ugly truth

As you’ve probably surmised, these principles are satirical in nature, but, as is so often the case with satire, they point towards a real problem. The problem is this: Good workers don’t necessarily make good managers.

Consider the ubiquitous example of the superstar sportsman. In very few instances is the best player on a team also the captain of the team. Why? Because being the best player doesn’t mean you’re necessarily the best leader. Yet, when it comes to business, there is a tendency to promote the best ‘player’.

“The day you become a manager, your job changes totally. When you’re an employee, your performance is defined by your own work. The day you become a manager, your performance is defined by the work that others are doing. And it is not about what you need, but about what they need,” says Dr Axel Zein, CEO of WSCAD Electronic in Germany.

Related: The Key To Hiring The Best Employees

Zein delivered a TED Talk on the issue of management in 2013, during which he made the following gloomy declaration:

“The day you become a manager, you’re bound to fail.”

Why? Because we aren’t educated to be managers — we’re educated to be workers. It ’s unlikely that anything you were taught at university while studying accounting or engineering prepared you to be a manager.

Founders and CEOs need to be aware of the fact that great workers don’t always make great managers. And sometimes, they need to be willing to make the tough choices: To promote someone who was fourth in line because he or she would be best at managing at a higher level, or to search outside the company for the right leader.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

Managing Staff

Employees Underperforming? How To Respond To These 3 Excuses

Sometimes, an employee just needs an extra jolt. Other times, you will need to pull the plug.

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Companies are increasing their focus on employee retention. In fact, PayScale’s 2018 Compensation Best Practices report found that 59 percent of respondents considered employee retention a “major concern” for their companies and organisations. This isn’t surprising given that a revolving staff door can make it almost impossible to preserve recent organisational knowledge and keep up with projects and responsibilities.

So, yes, keeping retention top of mind is smart, but sometimes a staff change is unavoidable. When you’re calling the shots, firing people will almost certainly make you uncomfortable. Whether you are running a small start-up or a Fortune 500, you can’t hide behind other people and say the decision was out of your hands.

Then, the bigger your company gets, the harder it will be to respond in order to change quickly and effectively. While employees can grow into their roles, you shouldn’t let your sense of loyalty to your current employees prevent you from making good business decisions.

It’s just logical that some of your original staff members are going to be unable to keep up with the pace and to cease to bring enough value to the company. In those cases, you should maintain a realistic attitude as to when it is time to part ways. And, when those tough conversations need to happen, your sense of loyalty to your employees can be your worst enemy.

A retention reality check

checking-in

In your personal life, “loyalty” generally means believing in an individual and defending him or her when that person comes under attack. When you become part of a team, however, the definition of loyalty changes.

As a leader, you need to think about your loyalty to all of your employees instead of just one person. When a team member cannot keep up or shows signs of burnout, he or she will likely require co-workers to pick up the slack. When you hold certain people to a lower standard, other employees become resentful, and the poor performer starts to drag the company down.

Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct

For example, a B2B company we worked with had a marketing employee who had been with the team from the beginning. The company had done well, and its board was pushing for accelerated growth – which required more effective marketing. The employee was a jack-of-all-trades but couldn’t keep up with increased demand. After the difficult decision was made to replace this employee with a more qualified individual, the company quickly hit stretch goals that had previously been elusive.

Often, a leader may be blind to necessary personnel changes, whether willfully or unconsciously. In either case – if this leader is you – the sooner you recognise the problem and take steps to address it, the better off your company will be.

Warning signs that signal a personnel change

It will not always be obvious, but here are three common excuses from employees that might indicate it is time for you to consider a personnel change:

1. “I don’t have enough time” 

Work stress is prevalent across all industries, and a study from Paychex found that roughly 70 percent of those surveyed reported stress levels of at least 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Certainly, being pressed for time doesn’t help stress, either.

One of your primary roles as a leader is to clearly define your employees’ jobs and responsibilities. If team members struggle to keep up with their workloads, they are probably stretching themselves thin trying to help others, or putting off work to avoid accountability.

When you talk to an employee who claims to be short on time, determine what his or her current projects are and then contain them. Give this employee specific responsibilities that don’t require relying on co-workers, and see how he or she meets these new expectations and goals. If the employee continues to underperform, look for a replacement, although it is not a bad idea to put out feelers for that replacement before you even have the above discussion.

Related: Richard Branson on How to Train Your Employees

2. “I cannot control this”

The ability to find a solution to a work problem is an indicator of someone who “owns” the situation. This is a characteristic you need to see in employees. When I worked at Dell, we had a substantial drop in traffic and couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we discovered that our laptop batteries were catching fire. Unfortunately, you can’t advertise or email your way out of a drop in traffic due to a problem like that; but you can turn to your partners in crisis communication and social media.

If you give employees all the tools necessary to solve problems and they still can’t succeed, it’s time to reevaluate their fit in the company. By letting them go, you ultimately keep them from stagnating. If you struggle with this concept, look toward Startups.co CEO Wil Schroter, who has said he views his company as a school for employees. When employees get to the point that they would learn better elsewhere, it is time for them to move on.

When you let go one of these employees, make sure that the high performers you do have feel appreciated. Talk to their co-workers to ensure that in the interim, everyone’s roles and responsibilities are firmly established. Also, involve the rest of your employees in the subsequent hiring process so they have some control over who is named as the replacement.

3. “It wasn’t me” 

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, worldwide employee engagement sits at a lowly 15 percent. Employees with low engagement often have a decreased sense of responsibility for their work, which wreaks havoc on productivity and accountability.

The most toxic situation is when employees attempt to deflect their own poor performance onto surrounding team members. These individuals rarely admit fault but instead cast broad accusations in an attempt to throw co-workers under the bus. As a last-ditch effort, such employees will even question the data that illuminates their underperformance.

Tough love is the solution here. Like an unfaithful partner who’d rather talk about other people who cheat instead of his own indiscretions, the underperforming employee will try to direct the conversation away from his or her performance. But don’t let that happen: Stay the course and let this employee go.

Related: 7 Signs You Have A Positioning Problem [And Why Familiarity Kills Businesses]

Then, during your subsequent hiring process, be mindful of the departed employee’s character flaw. Ask questions about challenges each candidate faced at previous jobs. Be wary when interviewees shift blame to others or speak poorly about their previous employers.

Most importantly, be realistic about your employees and do your best to fill any gaps with the strongest candidates you can find. And accept the truth: You will never be entirely comfortable about firing people.

If you are, you might not have the empathy required to make a great leader. However, it is part of your job to ensure that your seats are filled with top talent, so be loyal to your whole team and know when to let under-performers go.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

An Excellence Approach To Nurture Star Performers

Talent management is the commitment to continuously nurture and align individual attitude and performance, job requirements and organisational culture through excellent performance management.

Adri Dörnbrack

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1. An excellent view of Talent Management

Any sports team needs to measure the vital statistics and performance of each member. “Metrics” like cadence, heart rate, output ratios etc. are important, for the whole to eventually be greater than the sum of its parts.

Similarly, leaders need to measure (without micro managing) employee performance to get a better understanding of what makes the individual stand out. Leaders need to understand how to adapt environments so that everyone can be exceptional.

Not creating a culture of unhealthy competition, but one where every individual’s contribution is understood and valued, and individual work experience is adjusted to accommodate uniqueness, will keep individuals performing at their peak, while enjoying what they do and understanding the purpose of their work.

2. Nurturing star performers

Employees should be given the best possible opportunity to serve in a work context that is optimal for their skillset and temperament. Talent management is based on the organisation’s commitment to surround all employees with people, practices and processes that will grow them to their full potential.

From a deep understanding of the talent pool a business can distinguish between top, great, good and poor performers. Having a suitable and fair measurement tool in place is critical in this regard. This allows management to clearly understand why people are in different performance categories, and provides insights on what pro-active actions can be taken to develop people into their full capacity.

People are highly influenced by work-related relational contexts and environments. Poor performers can become top performers when there are leadership changes or job changes that simply fit better, but also vice versa. Top performers can become poor performers due to illness or other job related changes. There have also been cases where top industry performers join a different organisation and then struggle to perform due to the individual not aligning with the new organisational culture.

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

Excellent talent management considers all of these factors:

  • Understand who the star performers are, and why they are viewed as top performers. (Know and acknowledge what they contribute in terms of both job deliverables and attitude).
  • Understand the relationship between the top performer and their leader.
  • Understand the culture of the department and why this fit works for this individual.
  • Then, for the future of work: Consider adapting working conditions or terms of employment in order to keep the star performers (Eg. Flexible working hours, virtual offices, or shorter terms of employment to ensure growth opportunities.)

The biggest contributing factor to ensure excellent talent management is to continuously understand and communicate what is expected from an individual, to have measures in place to know if the individual achieves this, to know what value this adds to the business – and then making sure that they are compensated accordingly.

3. What star performers desire from corporate culture

People don’t want to work merely for personal gain. They want to connect and contribute to a business that shares their values and contributes towards the development of a healthy world and better society.

Spiritual intelligence is becoming increasingly important. This trumps mere personal self-actualisation, and entails feeling connected to a business that has a bigger shared purpose than just making a profit.

People want to connect with businesses that have integrity, moral leaders, and feel part of a network that are responsible stewards, who will value their total personal contribution and help them grow as star top performers within a star team.

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Managing Staff

Are Our Workplaces Gen Z And Gen Alpha Proof?

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to generation proof their workplaces before Gen Z and Gen Alpha enter the workforce, only to retreat into their technology bubbles. The question is, how do companies get the balance right?

Ilona Fookes

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Preparing for a new generation to enter the workplace is a lot like baby proofing your house. You spend a lot of time and money making sure this vulnerable creature, with very specific needs, has everything they need to play, grow and thrive in their new environment, without too many run ins with sharp objects that will inevitably lead to tears. But who are you future proofing for and how?

The challenge in 2018, is that your house has only just become Millennial proof. And yes, while it’s great that you’re so On Fleek with all the latest open office concepts, flexible working spaces, new internal communication channels and social media influencers that these hashtaggers thrive on, that aint gonna fly with the more independent multi-multitasking Gen Z, who will favour private enclaves and online collaborations with global teams and communities of influence. And what of Gen Alpha, the Google Glass generation who will view technology as a physical appendage and glass screens as their genuine, not virtual, reality?

The good news is that Gen Z, or iGen as they are commonly known for being weaned off milk with iPads, will pave the way for the even more self-sufficient, independent Gen Alpha. So, if you get the foundations right you can start building a generation-proof business that will stand you in good stead for the next 50 years, give or take.

The challenge with generation proofing is that we often spend all our time focusing on the hard, tangible stuff – the tech and spatial environment – and not enough on the soft issues that will actually help retain and motivate employees to not only stay and play but thrive and grow. And when we consider that Gen Z is heavily driven by career growth and is likely to have 17 jobs and 5 careers in a lifetime, we should be focusing a lot more on getting the work/culture balance right. In fact, engaging and retaining Gen Z will be a balancing act like no other, where two seemingly opposite needs play out in the workplace. Get it right and you win the prize – a loyal, integrated workforce that is connected on more levels than one.

Related: 3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers

Balancing career growth with the need for retention

Every generation is born into an era that shapes, motivates and influences their decisions.  Gen Z’s world view may be largely shaped by technology, but they are also the product of economic uncertainty, having been born into a recession. So, it’s not surprising that they value financial security, job promotion and learning. As expert online collaborators who are also capable of working independently, companies would do well to embrace online learning as a powerful tool for mentorship, training and growth, especially one that promotes career promotion and professional advancement. 

Balancing technology with the need for focus

Eight seconds – that’s how long the average attention span of a Gen Z employee will be. Gen Alpha will be even less. Immersed in technology from an early age, these serious multi-multi-taskers will work tirelessly across different technologies and will process information at the speed of light. The downside is that it’s going to be a challenge to keep their focus, even more so than Millennials. More than ever, companies will need to create multipurpose private spaces or pods, where these workers can retreat to in order to focus on the task at hand. These spaces should also support their need for blended face-to-face/online groups.

Balancing independence with the need for shared culture and meaning

Yes, this generation will be fiercely independent and shun micromanagement and a desk bound culture, but it will also crave meaningful work, regular interaction with management and opportunities to make a valuable contribution to society. Companies that only focus on creating opportunities for remote working and online collaborations, will miss the mark.

To retain this group, you need to focus on creating a shared corporate culture and opportunities for regular engagement. In this way internal communication will become a key driver in bridging the gap between a non-desk and desk-bound workforce and finding new ways to engage and inspire an increasingly disparate workforce.

Employee apps will become the most important channel in workplace communication bringing information, social connection and engagement together in a way that resonates with these digital natives. 

Related: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

Balancing privacy with the need for engagement

Internal communication will become a balancing act unto itself. How companies communicate with employees will become as important as how often and how much. Internal communication will need to move beyond intranet, SharePoint and ESN like Workplace and Yammer to embrace wearables, robotics, and virtual reality, all of which will not only reflect but drive the digital native.

As the vital link between company and employees, internal communication will need to engage employees through validated channels using curated content that not only drives the message but embeds the company’s shared values and brand ethos. And did we mention the maximum reading time should not exceed 10 minutes per day? Tough ask right? 

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to proof their workplaces to embrace Gen Z and the AI generations to follow. The mistake would be to focus only on the tangibles and neglect the soft issues that really drive retention and shape corporate culture. Making sure internal communications teams are properly trained, equipped and mandated to handle the enormous challenge, will be key to cracking the generational code and claiming your share of its human capital.

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