What to do About Workplace Washout?

By CHERY SABOL

The office underachiever has been getting attention lately from entrepreneurs wary of hiring duds and from federal government employees who say nothing is done to deal with poor performers in their ranks.

Most everyone has encountered an underachiever and maybe even marveled at his or her ability to be unavailable in a crunch, to look busy without producing anything, to roll up the old sleeves and then disappear when there is work to be done. These are the bounced checks of the work force; when they were hired, they appeared to have value but eventually reveal themselves to be unredeemable.

The poor performer, though, presents a bigger problem than not just pulling his or her weight, according to Emily Jarvis, an online producer at GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER. “Poor performers can bring down an organization, cripple employee morale and thwart innovation,” Jarvis wrote in a May 12 blog titled, “Know When To Fold ‘Em, Know When To Walk Away.

2014-06-19_0904Jarvis quoted Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, who advises employers to take action before the organization suffers. “Knowing you have a problem is the first step. As a supervisor, you really need to talk with your employee about the fact that their performance is unacceptable… Oftentimes supervisors assume their employees know they are not performing well, but more likely the employee has probably been rated highly in thepast.”

He encourages employers to set up a performance plan so the employee knows exactly what it is expected. Failure to meet the standards in the performance metrics brings about a no-surprises resolution. It’s time for the employee to move on.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

Evaluate applicants as A, B, and C grade prospects. Photo by AlanCleaver.

Jim Alampi is skeptical of putting much effort into a workplace washout. According to his bio, Alampi has spent 30 years helping companies hire and retain top talent. In a piece he wrote for Entrepreneur online magazine, he says that supervisors shouldn’t waste time trying to salvage a hopeless employee. “When they bring on a dud, far too many executives spend inordinate amounts of time trying to salvage these ‘C’ players. Unfortunately, there is very little ROI in doing that.” Instead, employers should make a clean, quick break with the employee, according to Alampi.

Better to screen out the water-treaders before they are hired, Alampi said. His method for doing that is unorthodox by common human-resource standards. First, he urges employers to hire based upon the candidate’s match with the organizations core values, chemistry and culture. Skills and experience come second because they can be fostered, unlike intrinsic values.

Next, Alampi urges employers to “topgrade,” by evaluating applicants as A, B, and C grade prospects. The only candidates that should be considered for a job are the A candidates, according to Alampi.

Finally, he believes, successful supervisors spend adequate time selecting, developing and retraining their staffs. That makes sense if the goal is to become familiar with employees’ strengths, to shore up their shortcomings, and monitor their performance. That way, it doesn’t take an astronomer to notice that a former superstar has flamed out and caused a cosmic crash in morale in your organization

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Chery Sabol is an employment consultant at the Missoula Job Service, an organization that offers programs and services to assist employers and job seekers alike. Those looking for employment can view job openings on our website, as well as our Facebook Page  and Pinterest Boards. Employment consultants provide résumé reviews, conduct practice interviews, and offer skills testing.

The Job Service also provides a self-service area where job seekers have access to phones, a fax machine, a copier, and computers. Our qualified staff also offers business consulting services, including employee recruitment and retention assistance. Additionally, we provide financial support for businesses looking to train both new and current employees.

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