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How to get the most out of your staff without hiring or firing

Let’s, for a moment, imagine a scenario. You’re a business owner or manager, with a team of people under you. That team, which has been handpicked to fulfill the needs of your business, is underperforming. As a manager, you have goals to meet. Short of hiring new blood, or getting rid of those you feel are holding your team back, what do you do?

In 2016, hiring and firing to get better results is considered particularly old school. Look, for example, at the attitudes to the ‘rank-and-yank’ system, popularised by former GE CEO Jack Welch. Once championed and widely practised by the corporate world, ‘rank-and-yank’ has fallen by the wayside in recent years, as corporations move to an approach that develops and nurtures existing employees.

The old guard might find this approach a little saccharine, but the reality is that hiring and firing staff is an expensive task to undertake. Reduced productivity, lost knowledge, training costs, recruitment costs, interviewing costs, reduced morale – all of these cost money, and most of them are unavoidable during the hiring process.

Instead, consider looking at developing and nurturing your existing team in order to get the results you need. Here are a few ways to you can do that, that’ll cost you a lot less than hiring and firing:

Acknowledge what your staff does right

Call it anecdata, but one of the biggest complaints I hear about work from my peers is that good work goes unrecognised, but any kind of misstep is immediately addressed.

The Staff Engagement: Ideas for Action report by recruitment agency Hays, released earlier this year, looks at the importance of employees feeling valued in the workplace. Of the 800 jobseekers surveyed by Hays, 95% stated that feeling valued in the workplace is very important to them. 87% said they would go above and beyond for an organisation that made them feel valued. Ultimately, engaged employees work harder. In fact, US-based consultancy group, Temkin Group, found that highly engaged employees are 2.5 times more likely to do overtime.

Want your team to work harder? Start openly acknowledging what they do for you. Recognise high performers. Say thank you.

Give regular feedback

Last year, Millennials overtook Gen X to become the largest generation in the workforce. That means it’s pretty likely that the team you’re managing is made, at least partly, of members of the Millennial generation.

Millennials – those born between the early 80s and 2000 – are a different breed to the generations before them. For this younger cohort, regular feedback from their manager or employer is something they consider to be crucial to success at work. The annual performance review is no longer enough.

Now, we could spend some time trying to understand why this is the case (the prevailing theory being that this generation came of age in a world of ‘instant gratification’) but, ultimately, your time is better spent knowing how to manage it.

Regular feedback should be tied in with clear objectives. The SMART model, pioneered in the early 80s, is still a great way to set objectives with your team members. Ensuring your employees have objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely means you’ll be able to monitor progress, and give the regular feedback they crave.

Encourage team bonding

The phrase ‘team building’ tends to conjure up horrifying images of forced company days and activities that involve building things out of popsicle sticks. However, team building in 2016 doesn’t need to be quite so awkward, and can be extremely beneficial.

In a survey conducted by Deskmag, the results indicated that teamwork can make us more productive. Of those surveyed, 71% said they were more creative, 62% reported their standard of work improved, 90% felt more confident, and 70% said they felt healthier when working in a team.

Spend some time strengthening the bonds between your team members to boost productivity. You can do that with something as simple as a weekly team coffee date, participation in a team online game, or creating other shared experiences.

Lead by example

The old adage ‘do as I say, not as I do’ is not, unfortunately, going to drive your employees to perform at their very best. For most people, watching their superiors slack off is a surefire way to become completely disengaged.

It’s important to hold yourself to the same standards to which you hold your staff. You are their leader, and they’ll be looking to for cues on how to behave appropriately. Take pride in your own work and conduct, and your team will (hopefully) follow.

At the end of the day, investing time into developing and building up your people is going to be far more beneficial than just chop-changing staff when you’re not seeing the results you want. Highly engaged, loyal employees will do far more for your business than a revolving door of new employees ever will.

It’s 2016. Forget ‘hire and fire. Forget ‘rank and yank’. A good talent management strategy doesn’t need a cute three-word slogan. It needs dedicated managers, a commitment to growth and development, and respect for the employees that make your business possible.

About the Author

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 2.51.53 pmChris Power is head of workforce management at Ento.com. Chris helps some of Australia’s largest companies (including Telstra, World Vision and Bakers Delight) to streamline their staff rostering without any frustrating spreadsheets.


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Chris Power

Chris Power

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