In my opinion attracting talented people to the organisation is a key component of any senior manager’s job. But let’s assume you have no problem attracting talented people to your company because you’ve got a great reputation in your market, your organisation has a strong brand, you have robust recruitment processes or you have a consultative partnership with an excellent recruitment firm who consistently delivers.
So what’s next?
Getting the induction right
Attracting and hiring great people is the beginning of what may be a relationship that lasts a few weeks or many years. Depending on whether they’ve been hired for a short term project or a long term career, the induction can be tailored to suit. However there must be some form of induction regardless of whether you hire a temp for a holiday cover or you are hiring as succession planning for your role.
What’s the point in attracting the best people only to throw them in the deep end without any effort to engage them with the people, processes and behaviours that make up the ‘culture’ of your organisation. The induction regardless of how informal or otherwise is vital to set the tone for the employment relationship. It is the time to reinforce expectations that were shared during the recruitment process in terms of the role and how it fits in to the organisational structure, the individual outputs required and any behavioural expectations.
For permanent roles the first three to six months is usually the probationary period, so reviews should be embedded within the overall induction program. The probationary period is the time whereby both the new employee and you the manager can determine whether you both made the right call in working together. If not, both parties should recognise it honestly and cut the cord. We’ve all made mistakes, so deal with them quickly.
After the honeymoon
Keeping staff engaged after the novelty of being new and having early successes can be challenging. Once the honeymoon period is over, when newer staff join the company and the gloss wears off a bit, the employee may realise what they’ve yet to learn and may experience a few failures. Alternatively they may also realise that like most jobs, the role has its negatives and motivation can wane.
I’ve learned from personal experience how costly this can be if not managed well. Recently I lost a high performing Consultant who joined Optimum as a Graduate and was with us for three years. He proved to be a natural when it came to recruitment and consulting. He was a hard worker, displayed maturity beyond his years, delivered exceptional customer service and delivered results consistently. From day one we assigned him to work closely with our most talented and highest billing manager and he learned very quickly.
As a management group we ensured he received early feedback and promoted his qualities to clients and to the business internally. So what happened?
Following a change of reporting line for him to a new manager to the company, I stopped communicating with him. I’d miscalculated how engaged he was with his role and the company and to my surprise, he left. Now there were other personal considerations at play on his part, however I cannot honestly look in the mirror and say I did everything in my power to ensure we retained a strong performer with still untapped potential. The lesson I for me was to never take for granted the importance of keeping feedback flowing regardless of how long someone has been with the company or how good they are. Regular, ongoing feedback, both positive and constructive is essential for maintaining engagement after the honeymoon period of the early years is over.
Promote or not to
My surprise with this persons’ resignation was further compounded by the fact I’d recently promoted him into a leadership role and I was keen to work with him in developing his skills in this area. But alas, in hindsight I was too late, his decision had already been made.
Promoting people internally is a fantastic way to build capability, maintain a culture of high performance and (I believe) is an obligation, to some extent, for employers to continually up-skill their staff. In most organisations the people who are promoted are those who’ve excelled technically but is this the best option? Maybe or maybe not, that is up to you. But some things must be considered carefully before promoting someone.
The most obvious is the reason for the promotion. Is it based on organisational requirements or are you appeasing an employee in order to retain them? If it is the latter, you are flirting with danger.
However if you have decided to fill a position, you generally have the option to promote from within or hire externally.
Promote – A promotion is an elevation to a new role, so to some degree you are starting the employment relationship again. Be clear on the job description and expected outputs, otherwise you may be setting them up for failure.
Don’t Promote – If you don’t… think about how you can keep your best staff engaged to their role and committed to the company whilst they are missing out on a promotion or seeing others promoted instead of them or being hired externally.
This can be done by communicating your reasons and having an honest discussion. Let them know what the role would look like if they were promoted and how different it would be and why you’ve decided it is not ideal for them. Talk about other development opportunities such as further developing their technical expertise to become the leading expert not just in your company but in the market. Having this type of real conversation is rarely comfortable for either party but it is in the best interests of both.
Performance management is not something you do when you are looking to fire someone. Performance management starts the minute a new staff member walks in the door on day one. It is the process of communication that outlines expectations, reviews outputs and realigns focus and holds people accountable. And that’s what staff expect.
The differences in approach will be determined by whether you are managing high performance or low performance staff. High performance staff in most cases require little managing because they do it themselves. They understand what is required of their role and take pride in their own performance. Usually they also appreciate the correlation between their role and the output of their team/department/division/organisation. High performing staff may just need some re-focussing from time to time to keep them focussed on the key issues. That’s not to say you shouldn’t spend time with your high performers. In fact, my opinion is you spend more time on your high performers because they provide the most value to the organisation and deserve your time to help develop them further.
Invariably, however lower performing staff can absorb all your time if you let them. If they are not delivering the reasons may be mostly technical or behavioural. If technical performance is the key issue, training might help resolve it. The behavioural issues on the other hand are much trickier to deal with… but they must be dealt with. Otherwise poor behaviours can spread quickly and start to infiltrate high performers leading to big problems.
Time to move on
There is nothing wrong with having staff turnover. However if it comes as a surprise and you have no control over it, the impact on the business can be huge. Many of you may disagree with me on this, but I believe as a manager it is a good idea to stop regularly and ask yourself:
Do I have any flight risks… that is, staff who are high performers who may be tempted by another job opportunity elsewhere? If yes, what will I do about it?
Do I have any perennial under-performers who are consistently letting the team down? If yes, am I appropriately addressing the technical and/or behavioural issues of my poor or moderate performers?
You will lose high performers from time to time. Some great people will stay with you for years, others will learn what they can and move on to other opportunities. If the organisation is a better place for having them work here and the employee is a better person and more highly skilled than when they joined, then that is a win-win. Just try to minimise the surprises.
In an era of cost reduction and squeezed margins, to be a high performing organisation you need to attract, engage, retain and develop high performing employees. Just hiring them is not enough. What steps does your organisation take after a new employee starts and could you be doing it better?
Ben Walsh – General Manager – Recruitment