The Vicious Circle of Mediocrity

I have an idiosyncratic view of life in small to medium sized companies based on a lifetime of experience, and I think that there is a real employee culture problem out there.  What I see with a number of the owners I work with is that when it comes down to the true essentials many owners are actually afraid of their employees.
 
If asked, most of us would say that our business was focused on what our customers need. The reality, however, is often a little different as many businesses tend to spend more attention on their own issues than they do on their customers’ needs.
 

“It’s For My Family”

One of the most frequent weasel words you hear as an employer are some variant of: “it’s not for me but for my family”. Beware when you hear this…it often signals the need for a pay raise, but it can also be an indication that what is coming is not only self-serving but that it will probably cause you some pain and may in some way be unethical.
 
OVERVIEW
On June 14th 2016 The Alternative Board put together a panel of digital recruitment specialists to discuss how to find more candidates using online tools. The panel was moderated by Tristram Gillen - Customer Success Manager: Global Accounts, LinkedIn.
 

Are you hiring the "tallest pygmy"?

The "Tallest Pygmy" syndrome comprises ten basic hiring mistakes that I see companies making over and over again. In this book I will look at the 10 most common mistakes, identify where they fit into the hiring process and offer suggestions for how they can be corrected.
 
One of the areas where owners and managers consistently fail is in putting things in writing to their employees, and in an increasingly litigious employment environment, this can be both damaging and costly.
 

Employee Behaviors

I started my own company from the ashes of another corporation I was running, and brought about seven people over with me. I then grew that organization to 225 employees over the next 11 years, and probably had in the region of 400 different people working for me in the company.
 
When people resign or are terminated for poor performance, there is a temptation to replace them immediately. Your managers often come to you saying that it is essential to hire a replacement if the department is to continue to run properly. This may indeed be the case, but there are a number of good reasons to wait before pushing the button to go out and hire somebody else.
 
When somebody starts a business and needs to start hiring employees there is a temptation to bring in family members to fill the open slots. You think you know who they are and feel that you can trust them….but do they have the talent and experience to do the job you expect them to perform?
 

The Art of the Firing

One of the biggest problems that I see with small businesses is that they hire too quickly and fire too slowly.  It is important to identify the people who do not belong in your organization and then systematically go about replacing them.  In this article I will look at the practical aspects of how to fire somebody and what you need to do to protect yourself.
 
It’s bad enough that the government makes us add a ‘gratuity' on top of the salary of the people that we hire.  So many people compound the problem by adding even more 'gratuity' without receiving any additional value for it.
 
In these days of internet-based job advertisements it is simply not possible to respond in person to every candidate who replies, and this level of courtesy is not expected when people apply online.
 

Using Development as a Hiring Tool

It is increasingly important to find new ways to make your company attractive to applicants.  One very good way to do this is to stress employee development as part of the culture of your company and to make sure that it comes through in your advertising message and interview process.
 

The Token Woman

One of the more challenging people that I had working for me was my lead technician, who I will call Joe. He was prejudiced against most people, but top of the list seems to be black people and women in the workplace [although he was happy to use them as sexual objects].
 
In the minds of so many employees, a request for a "review" is imply code for a "raise"...
 

Developing an Interview Process

We hire employees for what they know and fire them (eventually) for who they are. The interview process should be designed to overturn this dynamic and allow us to find out who the real person is, but it seldom turns out that way
 
One of the questions that I regularly ask my clients is, “If your employees applied to your company today which would you not hire for their current position?”  This is a thought-provoking question, and I have found that it has yielded some interesting and rather surprising results.
 

The Hidden Paycheck

Employees focus on the paycheck they get each pay date and overlook the fact that their actual remuneration in terms of what it costs the employer is much higher. To educate them it is a good idea to produce an annual statement that details all the aspects of their compensation to drive the point home.
 
The way people behave when they leave their current job to come and work for you is a critical piece of information that can be very valuable. One of the very best open ended interviewing questions that you can ask is how much notice the applicant has to give their employer before they can start their employment with you.
 

Developing Key Accountabilities

One of the hardest things to do when hiring is to identify exactly what the position requires to be successful. When you evaluate the person you have hired in three or six months time, what will be the criteria you use to decide whether they have been successful or not? If you can identify that up front then you have a much better chance of matching the person you hire to the job you want them to do. 
 

Open-ended interviewing

One of the most common mistakes that I see people making in the interviewing process is that they talk more than they listen and end up telling the candidate about the company rather than finding out about the candidate.
 

The High I Syndrome

One of the most common mistakes that I see made in interviewing is what I call "the high I syndrome", where people hire candidates that they like rather than people who are suited to the job they are trying to fill.
 
In a bacon omelet, the pig is committed while the chicken is merely involved. Think about your company in this way and separate your employees into pigs and chickens and it will lead you to some interesting insights.
 
This is a great time to advertise for staff, and people are seeing some heavy response rates. There are any number of competing advertisements, and when advertising it is essential to post an advertisement that is so compelling that it will stand out from the crowd and attract people to answer it….make people want to apply.
 
People often say to me that they were lucky because a marginal employee left. They are congratulating themselves because the problem has gone away and they didn't have to deal with it. Not only that, but they don't have to pay unemployment. I call this ""fortuitous self-selection" and people who rely on it as a management tool are making a serious mistake.
 
Businesses spend enormous time and effort developing their marketing image so that they can differentiate themselves in the marketplace, stand out from competitors and attract potential customers. They spend almost no time or effort perfecting a marketing image directed at attracting their potential employees.
 

Using Exit Interviews to Improve Your Company

What do you do when somebody tells you they are leaving your company? Do you take it personally and spend your time and energy worrying about where they are going? Are you worried about whether they can do anything to hurt you or do you focus on learning from their decision so that you can identify problems and make improvements?
 

Employee Rehire Questionnaire

Date:
Position:
Would you rehire this person for their current job if they applied today?
 

Are You Hiring a Trophy?

The other day I was talking to one of my clients about an executive level employee who was not performing as they hoped he would when they hired him. He wasn’t fitting in, and because they expected him to know what he was doing, nobody seemed exactly sure what his job responsibilities were.
 
Many elected politicians have term limits because they tend to get stale in their position and it is important that the incumbent brings new ideas and energy to the position. Moreover, it is very difficult to defeat an incumbent, and sometimes forcing them to stand down is what is in the best interest of the electorate.
 

Scrape The Barnacles

Boat owners will know that you have to scrape the barnacles off the hull of a boat at regular intervals to improve performance. The same is true of a business, and the barnacles are under-performing employees.
 
If you aren’t prepared to pay the right amount for the employees that you need you will settle for mediocrity and one of two bad things will happen. Either the good employee that you are underpaying will leave for a better opportunity or the marginal employee will stay because they are comfortable and you don’t have the courage to fire them.
 

Employee Evaluation Bell Curve

It is important to identify the weaker performers in your organization but managers tend to grade people too highly and this can make the process difficult to implement. One good way around the problem is to force a bell curve on your managers.