February 15, 2006 Vol. 6 No. 2

Why Can’t They Act Like An Owner????
by Barbara Metzger

I hear this question from small business owners all the time when they are frustrated with the attitudes of their employees. They want employees to think, to be aware of the big picture and to take care of problems. Is this too much to ask?

The answer depends on a large number of things that can fall back on the owner. Is this an entry level position paying low wages and needing minimum skills? Is this a detailed, follow the rules/structure job? The people that are best at these positions may have real difficulty with the big picture concept but can be very good with taking care of details. Doesn’t that fit what is needed?

What if you did have a company of independent thinking employees that quickly think on their feet and adjust the procedure for every situation? This may be great for micro companies. As the structure and the positions become more defined, it may be like herding cats resulting in inconsistency for the clients.

So what is a solution? Isn’t there ANY hope?

This is where the weight falls on the small business owner. First, they get to have a clear idea of their vision and their customer service attitude. Clearly defined expectations that are consistently and constantly conveyed to employees by the owner.

Several observations are interesting here. One customer service consultant has observed over the years that the companies willing to spend money on customer service training generally already have a focus on it and strife to improve it. Austin small companies that have automated answering machines may be efficient but rarely spend money on customer service. This is not a judgment, this is an observation.

But it does bring us to the concept that the attitude rolls down hill in an organization. How are the employees being treated? How are the customers being talked about by the upper level ownership and management? Like a family, actions speak louder than words.

Southwest Airlines has shown up for years as a good place to work. It is the only airlines after 911 that didn’t lay off employees. Employees volunteered to all cut their hours by 20% so 20% of the workers wouldn’t have to be cut. The general attitudes of the employees are very evident in the quick smiles and funny wit of the flight attendants.

This doesn’t happen by luck. It happens starting at the top. It happens because they generally hire employees with similar attitudes. It happens because of clarity and focus. It happens with a lot of hard work. It also creates a more fulfilling workplace.

Customer service is only one element of having employees think like owners. Reality is small businesses need lots of employees that don’t reinvent the system all the time. However, they do need employees that are hired and managed with clear expectations and fell valued when they excel at their jobs.

This isn’t easy. It takes lots of skill, a ton of work and may be a leading reason why everyone doesn’t want to be the owner.
To learn more about selecting the most accurate and reliable assessments, please be sure to write us at Barbara@maxproductivity.com and please include your name, company, and best time to contact you.

Managing Poor Performance by Dr. Ira Wolfe

Managing poor work performance is really about two things:

  1. Managing static poor performance by having a clear and fair framework within which everyone can work. This involves clear and fair rules on such things as unacceptable behavior, safety, and timekeeping, as well as having agreed-upon standards of work for all employees.
  2. Managing dynamic poor performance by actively ensuring that all rules and standards are kept and taking action to close any gap between required and actual performance.

It is imperative that you address unacceptable performance as soon as it becomes apparent-before the situation deteriorates or the opportunity to address the issue disappears. If you put it off, the only options you will have are a range of blunt tools such as discipline, job transfer, or termination. Resorting to these measures is likely to be extremely costly to both the enterprise and the individual in question.

The Managing Poor Performance SkillBuilder booklet provides general guidance on how to handle unacceptable performance in a positive and constructive manner (wherever possible, without having to resort to formal discipline). It also provides specific guidance on what steps might need to be taken when the performance shortfall has become significantly more serious and more formal (and typically written) measures have to be taken.

The first step at managing poor performance is "Analyze."

If you can't identify it, you can't correct it, and if you can't correct it, you can't improve it.

The purpose of taking corrective action is to get the individual back on track and to help them improve, not to make them feel bad or penalize them. Taking corrective action is an integral part of the ongoing performance management process, and it should be done with the genuine hope and intention that the individual will quickly improve and even become "high performing" again. There are four kinds of performance problems, as described below:

  1. "Can't" problems generally have to do with a lack of aptitude (the capacity to learn and/or do the job). They are best avoided by carefully selecting the right people for the right job. Motivational techniques and training will rarely result in improvement if the problem is aptitude.
  2. "Won't" problems generally have to do with lack of motivation and can be overcome by listening to the employee and then leading them safely forward through persuasion and incentive.
  3. "Don't know" problems generally arise from lack of information (or sometimes plain ignorance). In such cases, simple communication might be all that is needed.
  4. "Don't know how" problems are generally associated with a lack of training.

Unlike communication, training takes more time and there must be opportunities to work collaboratively.

This simple four-item list helps us focus on what is wrong with performance so that we don't put out mixed messages or create confusion in terms of what is expected of individual employees.

To learn more about selecting the most accurate and reliable assessments, please be sure to write us at Barbara@maxproductivity.com and please include your name, company, and best time to contact you.

Perfect Labor Storm Alerts #620 to #624

Fact #620: In the year 2000, Mexico and Germany had roughly equivalent workforce populations, about 51 million each. By the year 2030, Mexico will have a working age population (ages 20-64) that is twice the size of Germany's, 80.5 million versus 43.1 million respectively. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #621: In the current 15 European Union (EU) nations, the number of people aged 20-59 years will reduce from 208 million in 2000 to 151.2 million in 2050. Meanwhile during the same period, the amount of people over the age of 60 will climb from 82.1 million to 125.1 million. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #622: Japan will have to increase its immigration rate 11-fold to make up for its low fertility rate. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #623: In India, on the other hand, the number of working-age people will increase by 335 by 2030 - almost as much as the total working population of the EU and the United States combined in 2000. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #624: Southeast Asia will see its workforce grow by 58 percent within the next 30 years. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

The featured article and labor storm facts are written by Ira S. Wolfe, founder of Success Performance Solutions, and is distributed here by MaxImize with permission.