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How to Eradicate Low Performance

by | Employee Engagement


How do you get people to do what they’re supposed to do—not sometimes, not sorta, but consistently and for real?

This month I met an executive who said something that shocked me. He said that only 40 percent of their people are achieving their goals. FORTY percent!!! Yikes.

Imagine what it does to the bottom line to let 60 percent of people off the hook from doing what they are expected to do.

Those who ARE getting it and delivering the goods are naturally ticked. They’re having to hold down the fort in a massive way to keep the doors open to take care of the jobs for all those who are clocking time but not meeting objectives.

No wonder 91 percent of employees have thought about changing jobs, and 65 percent have actively looked in the last year! They’re tired of management not holding people accountable.

I KNOW you want your people to be accountable, but most managers and executives just plain have no idea how to proceed.

Here’s why it goes wrong…

First, there is no clear definition of the three critical drivers for each position. That CEO told me with great pride that they measure people on almost 100 different things and get reports on each one every day!

All that effort, and you only get 40 percent meeting goals? Clearly, THAT isn’t workin’.

Second, those drivers and the scoring to those drivers aren’t made visible. What good is a management report? Heck, put together teams who get points for hitting those drivers and have them know every week how they’re doing. Make an obnoxiously wild celebration for the teams that get the highest points. THAT’S visibility.

Visibility is what counts, so make all progress visible. REALLY visible. Big charts so all can see the winning teams and individual teams can see how the individuals on their teams are doing so they can bring along those folks who aren’t getting it.

BUT: Don’t do stack rating. Everybody should not be allowed to see everyone’s results. This is NOT about guilt, shame, and humiliation. This is about celebrating people.

The third reason it all goes wrong: no fun prizes for the teams! Cash is NOT king. A day off, an iPod, a pizza party—those are gifts that get people excited. We don’t visualize cash; we visualize what the cash gets us. So skip the middleman and give actual things, not money.

Another error is one I call the error of extreme magnitude. This is what happens when the boss thinks celebrations should be limited to the finish line. In fact, you need ritualized celebrations for meeting minimums, targets, and optimals. Celebrate it all! Daily huddles, weekly contests, and quarterly celebrations are mandatory. If you think you can’t afford them or the time, you’re right, and you’ll continue to be right. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t celebrate progress often, you won’t have progress, and cash will be strapped.

On the flip-side, if people don’t meet your minimums, make sure that they know that one of four unpleasant things will be happening soon—a formal warning, a decrease in base pay, probation, or invitation to “free up their future.”

Of course, minimums should truly be your floor of minimum expectations. Anybody not meeting those must clearly not be paying attention or caring. Targets are what you want them to hit. Still, if a minimum isn’t hit, let them know that they must have an extensive report to you immediately on any week they miss a minimum. Have them explain the massive corrective action plan, so it doesn’t happen again…and they must meet that plan.

A lack of backbone is at the core of lack of progress. IF you don’t deal with those who don’t meet minimums, the hit happens to your good people who end up carrying a larger load. Your good people will leave, and you’ll be left with a bunch of low performers.

When they bring the fun, hoopla, and celebration, we’ve had clients for whom every employee hit every goal in every location with no exceptions. Yep, that happens. You may not believe it if it’s not happening for you, but it’s happening.

But here’s a caution. Unless you start with excellent education on service, sales, and a spirit of “how can we?” all the celebrations in the world will only get you minimum results. Most important, that education can’t be “me-centered” but must be based on a spirit of being of profound service.

If your people don’t understand that life gives to the givers and takes from the takers and that the world has a perfect accounting system, this whole process will be a futile attempt at best. But help them recognize that simple fact and the world is yours.

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