Sunday, October 17, 2010

Managing the Average Employee

"Hire the best. Pay them fairly. Communicate frequently. Provide challenges and rewards. Believe in them. Get out of their way and they'll knock your socks off." ~Mary Ann Allison

So much has been written about rewarding great employees and rehabilitating poor employees. However, the vast majority of the workforce does not fall into either of these categories. Most fall somewhere in the middle. I call them “c-employees.”

C-employees make up more than 80 percent of the average entrepreneur’s workforce. This group is responsible for the majority of output, yet they are all but ignored by most managers. Because they are doing ok, performing at an adequate level and not causing any problems, it is easy to overlook c-employees. But this is a dangerous path. C-employees must be managed – and managed well – in order for the organization to flourish.

A firm we were helping had a policy of rewarding great employees with cash incentives and a tough policy against staff that was performing poorly. C-employees were completely ignored, producing results that you would expect: morale had suffered dramatically. It never occurred to management that these c-employees would feel left out. They thought that since this group was not upset or complaining, everything must be okay.

It is natural for managers to want to work with their better employees since they typically share a similar work ethic, but they have to resist the temptation to devote all their time and attention to top performers. This is not to say that it is not worthwhile or productive to spend time with your better employees. Managers just must make sure that all employees are receiving a minimum level of attention. You simply can not neglect a staff member without paying a price.

Teamwork is not possible unless each worker feels like they are an important part of the team. It is every manager’s job to ensure that each member of their staff feels good about what they are doing, and that they are valued and appreciated.

To ensure my staff felt like an important part of the team, I always made it a point to greet them whenever I saw them and engage them in conversation about something they valued. Whether this topic was their family or a personal hobby, the point was spending quality time with each member of my staff and connecting on a personal level. I tried to go out of my way as often as I could so that every employee – top performer or otherwise – knew that I thought they were important.

Now go out and make sure that all your employees feel appreciated regardless of their performance level. Of course, you want to see them improve, but you can not expect your staff to up their efforts unless they know their current contributions are recognized and valued.

You can do this.

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