Is it that time of the year when you have to fire employees? Hold on just a second.
The fact that employees are unable to meet the company’s expectations might not be their problem in the first place, but yours. As an example, there might be a time you hired a candidate or promoted an employee who failed to perform up to organisation’s expectations. Before you blame and terminate the said person, you should ask yourself: how did this happen and how can I prevent it from happening again? By doing so, there will be less chance to fall into the same hole and you can also use the opportunity to look in the mirror and reflect within.
Before going through the uneasy journey of letting employees go and the hassle of finding the right substitutes, here are some questions you need to ask:
Leaders often think they have been clear in setting performance expectations when, in fact, they have not. Telling someone what to do is not enough. The only way you can be sure an employee knows what you expect is when they clearly state in their own words what your performance expectations for them are, and clearly state how they will be measured, advised Gary Brandt, inspirational speaker and writer. Thus, make sure to check this box off before doing anything else.
The employee might know what is expected of them, but lack the skills to do the job. In that case, leaders need to provide employees with the right tools as well as soft and technical skills training to help him get the job done. If the company doesn’t have the time or budget to provide such training, make sure you do a thorough job up front to match a person’s skills and abilities to the demands of the job. Asking a person to perform a job where they lack the necessary tools is a sign of poor leadership.
When bringing people into the organisation, do you introduce them to the culture and the way things are done, or expect them to figure it out on their own? Do you tell them who they can approach if they have questions, or give them a process to follow when they are not sure what to do?
You can save a lot of time and money by giving newer employees the support they need to be successful and productive from day one, versus wasting time and energy trying to figure out ‘how things work around here, Bradt advised.
Telling an employee how they can improve is a challenge for many bosses. However, without appropriate, specific feedback on what is working and what is not, improvement is not likely to happen. For example, imagine hitting golf balls on the driving range to improve your swing but having no idea where each shot went. How would you know to adjust? Employees need specific behaviour-based feedback to be able to improve their performance, and it’s their employer’s job to provide it.
Some companies say they want teamwork, but they reward individual contributors. Some say they want to minimize internal competition, but they set up reward systems like trips and giveaways that do exactly that. If you are not getting the behaviour you want from employees, challenge your pay and reward system to make sure it is reinforcing the behaviour you say you want. The people you want to let go might only be doing what the system is rewarding them to do.
Providing training to help an employee improve is doable, but when an employee has completely “checked out”, there might be nothing left to fix. Even the best training can’t repair an unmotivated, disengaged employee, said Eric Chester, employee engagement expert and author. Thus, before cutting them loose, determine if the problem is related to motivation and find out if this is a fixable situation.
Before hiring the person that you are now ready to fire, you had an expectation in mind. Was it realistic? Did you hire someone thinking they would be a clone of yourself?
Perhaps you set the bar so high that no one could reach it, and now you’re acting out of frustration, Chester said. He suggests revisiting your initial expectations. Remind yourself that the replacement employee is not going to be you, either.
Sometimes we blame the person when we should be looking at the process, said David Goldsmith, management expert and author. He suggests taking a closer look at your hiring practices, rethinking candidates based on their talents and skills rather than their job titles, considering past accomplishments regardless of current circumstances and making improvements in selection methodologies to find the best candidates.
Goldsmith advised leaders to stay in the loop and make themselves available throughout a process or project. That’s not to say that leaders should hover over people, but they need to be present physically, virtually or technologically. And if they’re not available 24/7, they should at least be in touch at progress-point intervals when their employees can easily reach them to ask questions, seek guidance and get the support needed to keep their project on track. Without such guidance, the employee might be doomed to fail.
Imagine if David Beckham was asked to play hockey, or if Mick Jagger was asked to sing opera. They’d be in the right line of work, but they’d be out of position. Now, in a managerial position, have you ever noticed that an employee is doing a task better than the others? Then, maybe they are just lost in their tracks and need some guidance.
For example, your finance assistant who often makes mistakes in calculating numbers might actually make an exceptional receptionist. Or perhaps the guy who can’t seem to close a sale for you has an incredible talent for writing promotional web copy. Before you fire someone, ask yourself if you’ve placed that person in the role that best suits his natural strengths.
Getting the right talent is not easy, and retaining them is another challenge. Thus, before terminating that loyal worker, make sure you provide enough space for them to be in the “right” role.