Managers in many organizations find managing the performance of their subordinates a challenge. “Performance management” remains one of the most debated, criticized, and controversial topics in management. In many cases, managers are making serious errors by misdiagnosing the problem and, as a result, and not solving it.
One simple way of improving diagnosis — and identifying better solutions — is to focus on the employee’s attitude (motivation?) and knowledge of the job. It’s based on two simple questions:
- Does the employee know how to do the job?
- Does the employee want to do the job well?
And interesting bonus to this simple approach is that it clearly points out the inaccurate logic of many situations where management incorrectly blames the employee for management errors.
So, what happens when, clearly, performance is not meeting expectations?
1. Employee has the knowledge and the desire.
If an employee possesses both a positive attitude and has demonstrated the knowledge to achieve the job expectations, the employee’s failure to perform is guaranteed to be something outside their control. Peak performance does not occur without adequate resources, including time.
It could also be a factor of an organizational culture that inhibits the performance of the best individuals. Organizational culture has the power to make the performance of average individuals superior — and destroy the performance of the best. One of management’s major failures is to blame an employee in this situation – which doesn’t solve the problem and often leads to losing a good employee. Top performers do not stay with companies that consistently offer unrealistic expectations, poor resources, and an ineffective culture.
2. Employee has the knowledge, but is lacking the desire.
If it’s clear the employee knows how to do the job but it’s the attitude that is in the way — then this is clearly the “motivational” problem that managers too often try to place on other root causes. Telling an employee who isn’t given the proper resources to do a job to “try harder” won’t work — and it probably won’t work for an employee with a “motivation” problem.
But it does require adjusting the rewards (i.e., lack of recognition, praise, or feedback), or the consequences. One of the biggest mistakes managers make in this situation is the “it will get better” argument for not acting right away. This is a case where action should be taken decisively – and immediately.
3. Employee does NOT have the knowledge, but has the desire.
If an employee possesses a positive attitude toward the job, but doesn’t have the knowledge, it represents a management/organizational failure — unless for some reason you’ve hired an employee knowing that they don’t know how to do parts or all of the job. Training is critical here and it’s important to note that this means effective training, enough training, and time for the employee to practice, practice, practice. Superstars are not created with inadequate, poorly delivered, or rushed training.
4. Employee has neither the knowledge nor the desire.
It continually fascinates me how many times I’ve listened to stories of employees’ performance that is clearly significantly below expectations — and the employee is described as clearly not having the skills to do the job and clearly demonstrates an attitude that doesn’t fit the job or the organization. But even more fascinating is the frequency with which this problem is blamed on the employee.
This is not an employee problem — it’s an organizational/management problem. The problem is with the organization’s selection system. Why was this employee hired in the first place? Why was this employee placed in this particular position? Maybe (rarely?) a transfer is a solution. More likely, it’s time for the employee to be terminated. “Let’s send the employee to training!” Extremely unlikely to be an effective solution.
It’s important to repeat: The problem here is almost guaranteed to be with the selection process. It’s time to re-think the hiring process, review everything happening in HR and with hiring managers, and develop a hiring and interview process that is focused on hiring the best performers.
Peak Performance – A Challenge
Managing for peak performance is never going to be easy. And the simple approach here will not apply to the complexity of many situations. At the same time, too many managers ignore the basics of this analysis with inaction and ineffectiveness as a result. These are first steps that will work for many situations.
About the author
Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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