Getting Tough on Non-Performance
I don’t know what it is with the wholesale to retail sector when it comes to non performing employees. All too often I hear, “they’re not performing but they do a good enough job and the clients like them”, or “they’re not performing but they’ve got some great IP and we don’t want to lose that”.
What? Go back to the first three words. They’re not performing, full stop. Think of the effect not only on your bottom line but also the effect on other employees who either use this non-performance as an excuse to do the same, or suffer indirectly from this person’s lack of performance impacting on their position. It’s my experience that non-performers will often drag down those around them as well as draw you away from having a “performance culture”.
Not to mention how your clients feel about this person. If they’re not performing the chances are they aren’t going in with a plan, are missing opportunities and/or just popping in for a chat to see if the client “needs anything today”. Chances are your clients might like them, but think they’re a bit of a lightweight. In time this will lead to disrespect of your brand as they will perceive you are OK with 'averageness'.
In order to get tough on non-performance you must provide a performance framework based on the following components:
- Targets – You must have budgetary requirements in place, or at very least behavioural expectations by which performance can be measured. Targets could be gross revenue, year on year sales growth, new lines introduced, number of calls per day, strength of reporting, per account or key account sales growth, or even revenue and margin targets. If you are not measuring performance clearly then it’s very difficult to mount a performance management process against an under-performing employee. You must make it clear what performance looks like before you can encourage compliance and follow up with regular coaching conversations to assess if the person is going to make it or not!
- Reviews – Review your team at least twice a year with a formal review process. This is based on their “perceived performance” – in other words, have them tell you how they are going so you understand their sense of reality. Have them mark themselves against criteria for instance. Your staff member should provide you with their plans for growth, areas of self-development that you can assist with and their expectations of opportunities in the market which the business will benefit from. So together you are creating a plan which they are accountable to – it is desirable that the plan is something you create together. In other words have them tell you what they can achieve and how they are going to do it, with your refinement and support.
- Clients – Get out by yourself and talk to clients. Show your face in the market and ask some hard questions. Not only will you see what’s happening out there but you can also gain valuable feedback about your people. It’s great if your people are liked but that’s kind of a bare minimum really! Look instead to gauge them for level of respect and the value they add.
- Expectations – Be very very clear about your expectations of staff. In your conversations with them, make comments that start with “I expect that you will, or my expectations of you are…” and then have them repeat the expectations back to you at the end of the meeting or conversation. Follow this up with a polite and friendly email outlining your discussion and the outcomes you agreed on.
- Timely and measurable – “So we’re agreed then that you will perform at least 8 in-store training sessions per week starting from Monday. We’ll meet again on the 30th because I’m keen to see how you go with the sessions. And of course you’ll have your sales report to me by 5pm every Friday please”. Your requirements in this type of conversation are clear and concise. If your employee fails to meet your expectations then you have the basis for a performance management discussion.
- Offer coaching and support – But be clear about the expectations you expect or you could just be throwing good money after bad. Training and coaching only work if there is follow-up and agreed improvements post-delivery.
- Be ruthless – I’ve often said that it’s good for a culture to see a non-performer firmly and loudly removed from the business. In doing so you are sending a clear message that non-performance will not be tolerated and that you’re prepared to take the hard line for the sake of the business and brand.
So – create the plan, understand your performance guidelines and get tough on people who are diminishing your profit and the perception of your brand in the market. Believe me, anyone is replaceable.