The hidden costs of mediocre employees
By Elsbeth McSorley
Groundbreaking companies cannot be built on the efforts of mediocre employees. It is absolutely shocking the number of large firms that languish while they put off eliminating underperforming employees. Even worse, those employees who just tread water, who stay out of trouble, meet their quotas, complete their assignments but never use their imagination – never go above and beyond, employees who are not inspired can clog up a company and hold it back for years, decades even – and they frequently go unnoticed.
Bad employees are a problem but they are usually easy to get rid of. Uninspired employees are a much bigger problem. Uninspired employees are stagnant, and their stagnation breeds a kind of safety-minded mediocrity that can rot a company from the inside out. We challenge you to take a good hard look at your staff and consider the many ways it can hurt your business when your people are just treading water, and ways to either turn them on or get them out.
The costs that come with letting medium performers stay comfortable come in both solid financial terms and in less easily quantifiable terms. They include:
Draining management time and energy – Employees who cannot or will not think for themselves need extra guidance from your management staff, if not directly from you.
Training time and expense – When one staff member does her or his job incorrectly, often times others will follow suit, especially if the person has any seniority. This leads to a critical mass of poor practices that can cause you to have to hold massive team training sessions. These sessions take away from production time, they cost money, and there’s no guarantee that what your staff learns will be adhered to.
Increased errors, and lower customer satisfaction – Unmotivated employees have lower customer satisfaction rates. This causes your customers to seek service elsewhere. Damage of this kind is generally irreparable.
Missed opportunities – Positions that are filled with low-quality workers prevent you from hiring a better performer.
Lower team morale – Employees who are unhappy with their work can spread their attitude amongst your entire team, lowering their energy, bleeding productivity, and increasing all kinds of losses.
Bad public relations – When members of the public encounter an uninspired representative of your organization, they will also be uninspired by your organization. This is bad advertising, and you have every right to stop it.
Higher disciplinary costs – The longer an inferior hire stays on, the more a company will have to spend disciplining this person’s poor behavior.
How to get rid of mediocre employees
As unpleasant as it may be, there is a wrong way to terminate an individual’s employment, and there is a right way. The right way involves training your management people on how to:
- Setup and convey well-defined expectations of your employees that clarify your company’s rules and performance standards.
- Spot early warning signs of unsatisfactory performance.
- Clearly express to employees who are not performing up to the standard so that there can be no surprises when a dismissal eventually occurs.
- Document all of the information about their performance, including all discussions, reprimands, and demerits.
- Make sure the final communication is handled in a way that is sensitive, and not cruel or mean spirited.
It is human nature that managers should struggle to cope effectively with low and mediocre-performing employees. But by finding a way to overcome these difficulties, and by filling those positions with new and high performing professionals, your organization will remain vibrant and competitive.
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