Direct job performance isn't the only--or best--measure of an employee's value. By Linda Case
When you start out in business, you tend to measure employees strictly by results. Let's say they're in sales and have a goal of $750,000 for the year. It's easy to see whether or not they're on track if the only measure is progress toward that goal. But people can be great in one area, marginal in another, poor in a third.
What should you do about someone who's selling well but is not well-liked in the company and occasionally steps over the ethical boundaries you've set? What about the production manager who has a great personality, excellent values, and is a team player, but doesn't bring jobs in on time and on budget? When should you put an employee with some job-related problems into an intensive training program and when should you fire someone, even though he may be a results-oriented contributor?
Results vs. attitude
You need a readout that lets you know where employees stand in terms of their future in your company. Most of us try to focus on results, and we intuitively recognize that someone is "with the program" or not.
The one thing about your company that's distinct, that can't be copied, is its culture. You can define that as the values people share, which inevitably go back to the owner's own values. The ability to recognize and manage a culture is what makes companies superstars in their own right.
But company culture is fragile. We often describe an employee's adherence to the company culture and values as his or her attitude. One sour employee -- one bad attitude -- can wreck that culture.
Fortunately, there is a way to logically think through the choices you face when evaluating an employee who is outstanding in some ways but not in others. I wish I could say I'd invented this system, but I didn't. The originator of it, to the best of my knowledge, is Jack Welch, the legendary builder of GE as we know it today.
Welch distinguishes between four types of employees. He looks at two different factors in his employees. The first is actual results in their job and the second is their attitude toward the job, or their buy-in to the company's culture. Combining a simple score of "high" or "low" in each of these gives four possible measurements:
1. Results: High. Attitude: High. Congratulations, you have a superstar. You want to keep this person forever.
2. Results: Poor. Attitude: High. Tough decision. Either you commit to a serious training program or they languish. It's up to you to turn the results around.
3. Results: High. Attitude: Poor. You have a "toxic" employee on board. You might give it a try, but changing poor attitude and values is close to impossible. Plus, this kind of employee is the proverbial "bad apple" who could turn other employees rotten. Most experts agree that you need to "free up their future" by moving them out the door. Send them to your competitor.
4. Results: Poor. Attitude: Poor. There's no choice here. This employee must go and usually we have little difficulty getting rid of them. Turn them over quickly and try to fill their spot with a superstar.
Run through your organizational chart. How would you rate your current staff on the results they achieve and the attitude they have? I hope they're all superstars. In case they're not, now you know what to do. --Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.remodelersadvantage.com.