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Every business, despite best efforts in recruiting, hiring and motivating employees, eventually faces the problem of consistently low performers. Tasks get done but seldom on time. Absenteeism and tardiness creep up. The manager gradually shifts some of the workload to other, higher-performing workers. It’s like the slow creep of some deadly disease, with the whole department or business being silently but steadily reduced in effectiveness and morale. As the manager, you wish people like this would just disappear, but it seems they never do. They just seem to hang on and on… In some circles this is labeled “presenteeism,” and having these low performers at work may be costing you more than if you paid them to stay home! Top performers, saddled with the extra load of carrying dead weight, may simply choose to move on, taking advantage of the current job market to go somewhere not requiring them to carry low performers on their back. Customers who interact with them think twice before bringing their business back to your company. If you have low performers in your operation, and you think they will eventually go away, think again— they may have already outlasted your two predecessors and are planning a party around your eventual departure! What can you do, then, to solve this dilemma? Identify the problem in clear, measurable terms. If you’ve been meaning to set performance standards for each job in your area, now is the time. Absenteeism, tardiness, missed productivity levels and timeline delays could all become part of a set of performance standards (although you will be welladvised to set these standards in their more positive polar opposite verbiage.) Meet with your low performers, lay out the expectations and the places where performance regularly falls short and make clear what the specific expectations are for future performance. Make it clear these expectations will be tracked and frequently evaluated. Then do just that—make the consequences of failing to meet these goals clear and enforceable. Work your plan. Execution is the key. Follow your scheduled evaluations of performance with clear feedback. If expectations are not being met, give the feedback immediately. While your fondest hope may be to see these people improve their performance, it’s much more likely you are simply documenting the path to the door. Either way, timely feedback, action on promised consequences and consistent application are your key to solving the problem. Document your process. Since the odds are highly in favor of the eventual departure of your low performers, make sure you have clear documentation of the entire process, from identification through consequences. If performance, after all this effort, falls short of benchmarks, fire them! One successful manager said, “The most expensive time an employee is on my payroll is the interval between when I decide to fire them and when they go out the door.” Because firing someone, especially someone who has been with the business for a long time, is very painful, you may find yourself procrastinating. Your delay at this stage can only compound the damage. Following Jack Welch’s advice to remove the bottom 10 percent of employees each year is not an easy path, and you may differ in your approach to making your business better, but to ignore a consistently low-performing employee is to ensure your operations will never be as good as they could be. Of course, when it is time to hire a new employee, we would all like to avoid replicating the departed one! This is the opportunity to use a well-structured hiring process, information from assessments and other sources, background checks and any other valid information you can gather to try to add a top performer to your business. Studies have shown top performers, in nearly any business, will out-produce low performers by anywhere from 200-to-900 percent! Imagine the effect on your company, if you could replace one low performer with one top performer. Then, imagine you did it again and again... The good news: You can!

About the Author: Price Reese Consulting helps businesses of any size incerease employee retention and improve productivity. Our solutions include pre and post hire assessments.

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