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Set Employees Up to Succeed

Q. I have recently hired an employee who just isn’t delivering the results I expect? I believe that he has the skills to succeed, but he’s clearly not providing what I need now. Do you have any suggestions for how I can help my employee succeed?

A. You need to make sure that you are setting your employee up to succeed. To do this, follow these five steps:

  • Make sure that your expectations are reasonable – What makes you think that your expectations are reasonable? Do you have or have you had other similarly experienced people who were able to meet or exceed these types of goals? If so, it is probably a safe bet that your expectations are reasonable. If not, you may need to adjust your expectations. Obviously, this is a judgment call that you will have to make.

  • Ensure that the employee clearly understands your expectations – More than 50 percent of the disciplinary actions we’ve dealt with in our careers have had at least some aspect of misunderstanding between the employee and the manager. First, explain your expectations in detail. Then, ask your employee to describe to you how they will fulfill the requirements. If you and your employee are misaligned, it will be immediately clear. This will help to eliminate miscommunication.

  • Remove all organizational roadblocks – You should remove all roadblocks that are internal to the organization. These speed bumps may include policies, procedures, internal politics or a lack of critical resources (e.g., the right equipment to do the job). Correct all of these issues. One caution, you can’t be responsible for removing employee-generated roadblocks (e.g., personal problems). Trust us, this is a can of worms that you don’t want to open.

  • Train the employee and give him or her time to practice – While your employee professed experience during the interview, all organizations are unique. Different computer systems, policies, procedures and corporate culture can prevent good employees from being immediately successful. Make sure the employee is appropriately trained and has had sufficient time to practice the new skills.

  • Ensure that the employee is motivated to perform – Most employees need both rewards and consequences to perform well. An environment that is skewed heavily to either one or the other will result in dysfunction. Giving employees praise for a job well done often results in them repeating the behavior. Catch employees doing something right and tell them about it. Likewise, employees must understand that poor performance may result in discipline and/or termination. When you identify a performance problem, discuss it with your employee as soon as possible. Avoiding negative feedback may make things easier for the manager in the short-term, but it’s unfair to the employee and will result in greater problems in the long-term.

If you have checked all of these boxes and your employee is still not delivering the results that you expect, want and need, you probably do not have the right person in the job. The only possibilities left are that your employee is unwilling or unable to meet your expectations. Either way, this person is probably not right for the position.

By the way, even if the employee is delivering results, but doing it in a way that is not compatible with your culture, he or she may not be a good fit. For example, a supervisor who delivers results by belittling and berating those under him or her may not work well in your supportive environment. On the other hand, when your employee is delivering the results you expect and behaving within your cultural norms, you have hired the right person.

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