Staffing Issues: Are You Killing Them With Kindness?
I seem to be have been talking to lots of firms about staffing issues lately, hence the topic of this week’s article. Most small firms are keen to foster a friendly or family culture if they can. Anyone who has worked in a large corporate environment may be extra keen to create a business that doesn’t get caught up in the politics that can go hand in hand with a bigger company. But when does this desire become uncommercial and a problem? My own experience is that you need to provide tough love on occasions. In my business in Sydney we had an adviser who wasn’t quite cutting the mustard. As part of an MBA course, I had completed a subject that was all about designing remuneration systems to encourage the right behaviors. So, I set about (with great enthusiasm, I might add) designing a multi-pronged measurement system that focused not just on business written (which was one metric) but on some softer behaviors, such as:
- Handing work over to support staff that was correct.
- Turning around work in line with our internal service standards.
- Getting good peer reviews from other team members.
Hitting all of these areas would see the adviser earn substantially more than he currently did, which was one of his issues with us. As pleased as punch, I went home and explained to my wife the ingenious and motivational package I had created for this guy. She listened intently and then gave me her feedback: “You’re paying him a bonus just to do his job? You’re mad!” And that was that. But she was right.
Do You Have To Be Cruel To Be Kind?
In our attempts to be kind to the people that work for us, I am not convinced we do them, or ourselves, any favours. I now know what I should have done with my adviser in Sydney; moved him on. By putting up with less than adequate performance (and let’s be honest, my performance criteria was to obtain nothing more than adequate performance), we end up working for the people that we employed to work for us. We bend and flex all over the shop, so they’ll be happy at work. Or we end up spending so much time managing them that we can’t perform our own critical role as part of the team.
If you’ve got someone in a role who can’t do the job as you require them to do it (and you’ve tried some remedial action or extra training already), let them go…and make sure you hire someone who has the skills and attitude you need.
If you’ve got a team, and some of that team are not up to speed or spread toxic vibes within the business, cut them out straight away. I was involved with a firm up north where we turned over all but two of their nine member team in 12 months. The culture in the place had become toxic in a kind, but misguided, attempt to accommodate people.
You won’t believe how good it feels to finally bite the bullet and make that decision. In all likelihood, your gut has been telling you to do it for months anyway.
By Brett Davidson