Can Proper Employee Coaching
Turn a Problem Employee into a “Superstar”

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“If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.”

~ Pete Rose ~

Kimberly, a free-lance marketing consultant, landed an assignment to temporarily replace Jennifer, the VP of marketing at a large financial institution for six to twelve months. Jennifer was taking a leave due to complications from a high-risk pregnancy.

Because of her medical condition, she had very little time to brief Kimberly, but as she was leaving she informed Kimberly that she had just fired Jerry, a young IT guy—and the only IT guy in the department.

A couple of days later Jerry emailed Kimberly and asked if they could meet off-site for coffee. By this time, Kimberly had heard a little of the backstory on Jerry, the principle fact being that he was the son of the company’s CEO! Kimberly was a little intrigued by this political hot potato, so she agreed to meet him. Here are the facts as Jerry presented them to Kimberly:

  • Jerry’s former boss had indeed felt pressured to take him on because of his father’s status, although his father never asked for that favor.
  • Jerry’s boss did not respect his expertise in IT and did not accept any of his recommendations for moving key projects forward, even though Jerry felt he had come up with good solutions.
  • Other people in the department put him down in order to appear to agree with his boss, so he felt he had no peer support.

Jerry asked Kimberly to give him a second chance.

Kimberly admired Jerry’s initiative in telling her his story. She agreed to look at his proposal for completing the department’s major project, a revamp of the internal employee intranet. After reviewing his proposal, Kimberly felt he was on the right track so she went to her boss, Larry, and told him she wanted to rehire Jerry on a temporary basis to follow through on the intranet project. When Jerry completed that project, Kimberly and Larry would meet and reevaluate the situation. Larry agreed.

Kimberly brought Jerry back into the department with little fanfare and no explanation, other than that the team needed his help on this critical project, which was lagging way behind schedule. In the meantime, Kimberly expected Jerry to meet with her twice weekly —once for project updates, and once for employee coaching sessions to improving his communication skills and reframing his mindset that “everybody resents me because I’m the boss’s son.”

Kimberly started including Jerry in formal and informal department meetings as part of his employee coaching and having him report to the team on the progress of his project. She also paired him up with a couple of new-hires who needed some IT training. When the project was complete, they staged a big roll-out announcement, a department party to celebrate, and Kimberly made sure Jerry got a lot of kudos.

Based on Jerry’s initial success, Kimberly quickly found another project for him to work on and he continued to blossom. When the Jennifer returned from her maternity leave, she told Kimberly that she didn’t even recognize Jerry as the same person. And she decided to keep him on permanently.

Here’s the takeaway: problem employees can sometimes be saved with good coaching and a willingness to undergo an attitude adjustment.

Take a look at your team. What problem employees might have potential if you provided good guidance and employee coaching? Schedule some meetings with them this week.

Talkback: Have you given a problem employee a second chance? What were your results? Share your story here.

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Attract & Retain Your Valuable Employees

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“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

~ Anne M. Mulcahy ~

Felix is a supervisor of engineers at a nuclear power plant. His goal was to attract and retain his valuable employees. “The money invested in training new engineers is astonishing,” Felix said. “I wanted to keep my people.”

There are three supervisors over three divisions of workers. Felix noticed that one supervisor, Max, had a very large turnover in workers— nearly 100% annually. And the other supervisor, Madison, had almost no turnover.

“I was in the middle,” Felix said. “I had some turnover. More than I wanted, but a lot less than Max.”

Felix saw some of the reasons Max couldn’t keep his people. He was a workaholic and demanded the same of his employees. He was critical and demeaning.

“I wasn’t like that,” Felix said. “I thought I was a fair boss. But still… I had this attrition.”

Felix researched and found a study by John Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Minnesota called Support, Undermining, and Newcomer Socialization. “It gave me three key pieces to help me support my new hires and make them more likely to stay for the long haul,” Felix said.

1. Management Matters

The study showed that the support of management outweighed support from co-workers.  Support from co-workers did make the new hire feel better. But the praise, encouragement, and help from supervisors had greater impact.

That support—in the early days—made workers more likely to stay even months or years down the line.  It helped establish their overall view of the company and the job.

“We have a really high learning curve,” Felix said. “Sometimes, I think, we just point them in the right direction and say, ‘Good luck.’  I realized we needed to do much better than this.”

Rather than thinking you could start the engineer on the training path and leave it to others to help out, Felix realized part of the success of his job was to be more involved.

2. Build Connection into the system

“I watched how Madison interacted with her employees. She didn’t taper off the contact after the first few weeks,” Felix said. “She really had a more involved approach. She had an open door policy. She gave specific feedback—both positive and negative—but in an easy-to-take way.”

Felix realized he needed to have greater interaction with the new hires even after the first few weeks. That was not long enough for them to be nearly up to speed. Some of them felt abandoned and then got unhappy or discouraged.

“I realized my feedback and support was vital not just in the beginning, but for months into the employee’s job,” Felix said. “And even after that, I needed to be more involved.” He scheduled time for his own open door policy. He took lunch with the engineers for a more casual time to chat.  He tried to be more open with praise.

3. Attracting Valuable Employees

“I was surprised that even just supporting my current workers made a difference in new hires,” Felix said. “I overheard one new engineer talking to a friend just graduating. He was telling him to apply here. It was a great place to work.

“It kind of made my day. I realized I was doing it right. And it was attracting the kind of engineers I wanted.”

Felix realized that a happy work environment was where his engineers felt supported and encouraged. It then resulted in a word-of-mouth call for engineers who would fit well into that situation.

Overall, Felix found that his attrition dropped off and he retained his valuable employees longer. “I think the continued support and interaction of management made the difference,” Felix said. “We can’t just hire people and turn them loose. The more and longer I set up good work support, the happier my engineers became.”

Looking for ways to get your management more encouraging and supportive of your key workers?  Contact Joel

Talkback: What are some ways you have found to attract and retain key players?

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Setting Work Performance Goals
with Your Employees

Goal setting

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

~Jim Rohn~

Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees

If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.

Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:

  • What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
  • What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?

With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.

1. Include employees in the process

But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.

2. Set deadlines

Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress.  Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.

3. Make goals measurable

For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.

4. Give feedback

Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance.  When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.

5. Reward success

Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.

6. Tweak as needed

Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.

 A note on failure:

If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.

Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.

 Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.

Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below. 

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Five Ways to Reward Your Employees

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“What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise — although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!”

~ William James ~

Hey managers, do you remember way back when in the distant past (about five years ago) when the economy was steamrolling along. Those were good times weren’t they? Or were they? Business was booming, but at the same time, it seemed like employees were in a continuous cycle of moving from one job to the next. Unless you were some sort of managerial superstar, you likely found it difficult to hang onto good employees for very long.

Since that time the reverse has been true. In the interim, have you become content with the fact that your employees are going to stick around out of a lack of other options? Well it’s time to wake up. The economy is coming out of its long slumber and so should your efforts at keeping and rewarding your employees. Below are some ideas for rewarding your employees and keeping them motivated and loyal.

1. Offer flexible hours
Recognize that some employees have circumstances that would be greatly improved with a little flexibility on your part. Do you have an employee that needs to get their children off to school in the morning? Allowing that person to come in a little later to accommodate their schedule builds loyalty. Similarly, you could accommodate the schedules of those that typically face a long commute because of rush hour traffic.

2. Give public awards
Offering public awards for reaching specific goals is another way to keep your employees motivated and engaged in the workplace. Something as simple as a plaque or an acrylic award will be appreciated when accompanied with a sincere thank you. Make sure the awards are appropriate to the recipient. The more useful they are the better they will be appreciated as well.

3. Provide a meal
Recognize a well done team effort with food. Everybody loves to eat and socialize, so this could be a useful way to say thanks and reap the benefits of a team building experience. If you want to keep it simple have someone bring in a variety of sandwiches or desserts during a meeting or other event. Or go big and have a hot meal catered. If you want to get out of the office take the team out to dinner.

4. Give employee’s some time off
Show your appreciation for your employees by giving them some time off throughout the year aside from their sick and vacation days. Get creative. Give them time off to volunteer for their favorite charity. Or as a bonus, take an employee to lunch on Friday and then give them the rest of the afternoon off. Perhaps some would prefer to come in late on a Monday instead. These sorts of experiences will create loyalty and keep your employees less likely to jump ship when another opportunity comes along.

5. Buy into your employee’s continued success
Invest in the future success of your employee by helping them better their careers. Make room for advancement from within the organization. Help them grow, even if doing so may lead them to opportunities outside your company. An employee that feels stagnated in his position is going to eventually move on.

Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes on topics ranging from business communication, productivity, employee satisfaction, and corporate awards.

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How Can I Keep My Employees Motivated
in a Bad Economy?

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“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.”

~ Rupert Murdoch ~

Client Jennifer asks: My employees are spending a lot of time worrying about cutbacks in staff, salaries, benefits, even working hours. I’m afraid we’re losing our edge. How can I keep my employees motivated in a bad economy?

Coach Joel answers: This may seem challenging when you are facing negative circumstances that are beyond your control. However, it can also be an opportunity for some serious team building, a chance to take your team to the next level. Here are three steps you could take right now.

  • Clear the air
  • Start something new
  • Build on success

1. Clear the air.

Whenever a whole group starts to lose its edge, you first need to acknowledge the reality. Have an all-hands talk session and encourage people to share their concerns. Make this meeting informal, and not a part of a staff meeting or other department function. The sole purpose is to let people say what’s on their minds.

If people have lost friends and co-workers due to cutbacks and layoffs, one of two things is happening: either your employees are living in fear that the next pink slip will be theirs; or they have survivor’s guilt because they still have a job. Combine this with the fact that you as a manager are being asked to do more with less, and you have a real challenge.

Listen to what your people have to say. Acknowledge that you are all under pressure. Guide the discussion, however, and don’t let it degenerate into a gripe session.

2. Start something new.

Once everyone has had a chance to air their feelings, take on a new project. This can be as simple as cleaning out the storage room, or as complex as creating a new ad campaign. Ask for suggestions from the group about some idea or project that’s been languishing on the back burner.

Rather than assigning roles, let people do what they do best. Ask for volunteers and suggestions from the group. As one of the country’s leading modern motivational speakers, I talk to managers every day who struggle to stay in control—of their departments, their projects, and their people. The secret is to let them take back some control. When the external environment is out of control, people need to feel that they still have some power over their own lives. This is your chance to give it to them.

3. Build on success.

There’s no such thing as too much acknowledgement. Chart the team’s progress and give plenty of public and private praise. Make sure the project has a timeline and a target completion date. When it’s finished, celebrate and provide a tangible reward, even if it’s as simple as a pizza party or movie tickets. Let everyone enjoy the feeling of success, and then build on that success by repeating the process we’ve outlined here whenever it’s appropriate.

When times are tough, someone who understands team building and intrapersonal relationships may be able to give your team a jump start. A good coach can help you design a program that meets your specific needs. Contact Joel for more information.

Talkback: Is your team pulling together right now? Have you tried some motivational tactics that worked for you? Leave your comments here, or ask Joel a question for a future Q & A with Joel.