About Workforce Echoes

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Engaged Are Your Employees?

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a manager is dealing with an under performing employee. Often it seems like the easiest thing to do is ignore the situation and have someone else pick up the slack. After all, you’re busy and don’t have the time or patience to deal with these annoying problems. It’s the old problem solving choices of fight or flight. Ignore the problem until you completely lose your patience, then deal with it ineffectively. The bad news is that this problem avoidance tactic is building a culture of low performance and mediocrity in your organization.
Most businesses have their superstar employees. Those are the people who will pick up that slack and do whatever it takes to get the job done right. They are the people who help you reward the low performer for his or her lack of motivation. The low performer can spend time chatting with friends or searching the web knowing that there will be little or no repercussions. The superstar picked up the slack and at the end of the day the tasks were completed and the boss is happy. How long will it take before other’s notice that it’s okay to not work really hard? How long will it take before that superstar employee gets tired of picking up the slack and unexpectedly quits? The easy way out of ignoring the problem is actually not an easy way out at all.
If you have one of these under performing employees, first decide whether they aren’t doing the job because they CAN’T or because they WON’T. Under the category of “can’t” you may have problems such as unclear expectations, insufficient resources, or a lack of knowledge or skill in completing the job at hand. Under the category of “won’t” you may have problems such as being inadvertently rewarded for low performance, or different priorities, or a lack of agreement on how things should be done. As a manager you have to understand why they aren’t meeting expectations before you can resolve the problem. Determining whether you are dealing with “can’t” or “won’t” is a good first step.

Wouldn’t it be great if all employees just came to work excited and motivated to reach important goals? One of the basic building blocks to reaching that highly motivated workforce is to deal with performance problems early. There are only a handful of employees who are naturally motivated no matter the environment. There is another handful that are naturally unmotivated no matter the environment. The vast majority is in the middle and can go either way depending on the culture that you, as the manager, build. What is considered normal and acceptable behavior in your department or business today? What culture are you building?