What disturbs me is that in many cases top performers have been let go and slugs have somehow managed to avoid cutbacks.
This leads me to believe that organizations need to take a systematic approach if they wish to develop a high-performance work culture. That systematic approach should use what I call the 4 “ates.” Evaluate, Educate, Eradicate, and Inoculate.
EVALUATE your people
Take a good hard look at the organization … from top to bottom! That process should take place when times are good.
Look at your organization when things are going well. It allows you to systematically evaluate every one of your people when you are not under pressure to cut costs or when you need to rush because your profit picture is in jeopardy.
Examine your leadership team. Do they have the skills needed to lead the way you want them to? Do they have a value system consistent with that of the organization? You can give people the skills they need but you can’t change their value system.
EDUCATE your people
Education comes in two ways: skills to be able to execute on the job so they can do what you need them to do and education about what you expect from them.
The skills part is the easy part. When dealing with leaders in the organization it is usually basic skills such as listening, how to praise people, providing feedback, etc.
Educating leaders about what you expect is a bit more difficult because often the organization itself is not exactly clear about what they want. If that is the case, the organization needs to THINK ABOUT IT, and then put it in writing so supervisors/managers can communicate the message down through the organization.
It is rare that someone can’t acquire the skills to do what you need to do.
Unfortunately, you often have people who have a value system that is inconsistent with the value system of the organization. The only option is to remove them from their role if they are in a position of leadership…or remove them from the organization if you do not have a place for them.
Does this happen often?
Most people have value systems that are, to a large extent, consistent with fair treatment of people, getting results, etc. However, there are those RARE cases where you have a bad apple that for some reason has been allowed to remain in the organization even though they have values inconsistent with what the organization wants.
Get rid of them. They will poison your entire effort to build a team that is cohesive.
Top performers will not tolerate working for someone like this and will leave the organization. As long as you allow them to remain, it undermines your credibility. You either appear to be incompetent by not recognizing it — or worse yet — you send the message that you are willing to tolerate it.
Good people will not tolerate that; not in the long run. And they will leave.
This undercuts your ability to develop a high performance culture over the long term, which is your ultimate goal.
After you have addressed the issues of the slugs that existed on your team, you now have to ensure that you do not regress and re-acquire them.
To do this you have to take several steps. Anyone can get to the point of having a “slug proof garden.” The hardest part is keeping the slugs from returning.
You must immediately bolster your hiring process. The addition of psychometric testing instruments to scientifically assess personality and value systems before you hire someone is absolutely essential.
The interview process by itself will NOT do this. Interviews play a part but psychometric testing instruments will add a layer of assessment that will improve the quality of your hires.
Another key point in inoculation is ongoing, clear, communication of expectations. Tell people what you want from them — both from a values system perspective as well as job performance — and hold them accountable if they do not meet your expectations. It is pretty simple.
Unfortunately, organizations either do not communicate their expectations well or fail to hold people accountable when they do not meet the expectations. This will destroy any attempt at developing a high-performance culture.
Once your people know what to expect, let them do their job. Nothing kills off the will of a solid performer who is micromanaged.
Trust your people. They will make mistakes. When they do correct them. Let them grow from the experience.
This will make them better, which further drives your goal of becoming a high-performance organization. Before you know it you will have people who aren’t afraid to try new things that take the organization to the next level. They will be fired up about making a difference and reinforce what you want from them.
Lastly, reward them. Do this with positive feedback as well as monetarily.
If you tell people when they aren’t meeting your expectations it is absolutely essential that you tell them when they are or it will suck the desire to perform out of them like oxygen being sucked up out of a burning building!
Praise is free, use it.
All this nonsense about “over praising” is exactly that — nonsense. In 25 years in human resources, I never saw an organization that overpraised its people!
Rewarding people monetarily is key as well. Solid performers will always be in demand by your competitors. They will seek them out and steal them from you if you are not paying your solid performers well.
I advocate paying higher than a “competitive wage.” Competitive is for AVERAGE performing people. By this point you have purged your organization of slugs, educated them, have them all fired up and engaged and doing what you want them to do.
Now don’t be a cheap skate. Pay them and pay them well or your competitors will. If that happens it’s like playing monopoly. Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. You have just lost out on a golden opportunity.
If you have properly inoculated your organization, slugs will not creep back into your garden and destroy the fruits of your labor. But let’s not leave anything to chance. You have put in too much time and energy to see it slip away. That is why you need to evaluate your people on a regular schedule to ensure you have not hired any slugs or see people slipping into poor levels of performance.
Slug proofing your team is not difficult. We only make it difficult by trying all these fancy programs instead of performing the basics well. If you follow the formula of the “4 ates” Educate, Evaluate, Eradicate, Inoculate, you will find yourself developing and sustaining a high performance work culture.
About the Author
Jeff Kortes is known as the “No Nonsense Guy.” He is the President of Human Asset Management, and author of “No Nonsense Retention … Painless Strategies to Retain Your Best People. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. His approach to training is no-nonsense, and practical. Jeff is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention, recruiting and leadership. For more information, visit