“Re-Alphabetizing” Your Team Players

Develop "C" Employees Into "A" Employees

For the past several weeks, I have heard how companies cut costs by “letting go” of their “C” employees.  These same companies plan to invest in their “B” employees to develop them into “A” employees. This has me scratching my head. Why did it take a pandemic for this initiative to take place? How much time and money has been wasted, along with frustrating and unnecessary conversations, because “C” players were allowed to remain “C” players?  How much frustration and how many unnecessary conversations took place because “B” and “A” employees were expected to work alongside these poor performers?

I realize that we were in a labor shortage and some companies simply needed people. I hope the leadership team challenged managers and supervisors to understand the pros and cons of not moving “C” players to “B” and “B” to “A”; and they are helping employees that did not meet expectations leave with dignity and respect.

Twenty- six years ago, in a progressive, learning organization, I was told to help manage someone up or out when their performance review came in slightly below average. Progressive companies didn’t tolerate below average performance then and we shouldn’t now.  This is not about being uncaring and legalistic, but quite the opposite.  It is challenging employees to work hard and rise to their potential.

In my past experience, as the manager of a poor performing employee, the employee and I met several times to review documented behaviors that didn’t align with the company’s culture. I was even threatened with a lawsuit, but we had no fear. We had documented expectations.  Where those expectations fell short, we discussed them and documented the discussion. After a few short weeks, the employee resigned.

I learned many valuable lessons, including:
1.  Misaligned behaviors have a wide-reaching detrimental hit on a company’s morale, reputation and customers.
2.  Poor performance and behaviors take up a lot of the management team’s time, as well as the observant employees around the water cooler.

How will you develop your people?

The pandemic will pass and your organization will hire again. What is your plan to retain the right new hires? How will you maximize their potential?  The guidelines below will help ensure you aren’t once again overcome with “C” level employees.

  • Make sure your on-boarding process properly sets expectations. If you haven’t reviewed this process recently, be sure to do so now.
  • Set aside time for training and role playing to help supervisors at every level feel more comfortable addressing substandard performance.
  • Schedule regular meetings with your employees to check in with them and see how they are doing both personally and professionally.
  • Work hard to be an approachable leader and seek feedback to ensure you are.
  • Set the example by having positive and developmental conversations with your employees.

I have learned that leaders who really care about their employees will have developmental conversations because they want their employees to improve, perform and be known as “A” players. Remember, their growth is a direct reflection on you!



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