Monday, January 12, 2009

During a recent conversation with a former colleague about the staggering decline in customer service, as well as employee & customer satisfaction many businesses are experiencing, we found ourselves using feel words. Yes, two mature, objective, career- oriented, type-A business folks using feel words.

We were most amazed by the palpable loss of pride and passion for one’s work. Particularly in these tough times and in spite of this clearly being in an employers market. We exchanged ideas about my prior post (“You can’t fire me!”) and agreed that ignorance is not really bliss.

Ignorance is what propels, otherwise cognitively-aware adults, to overspending money, resources and time. Ignorance has entire populations ‘nurturing’ their bodies with what, in places like Europe, would be banned foods and a host of Genetically Modified Organisms whose consequences nobody seems to know and we remain oblivious to. Ignorance, more times than not, is at the root of wars. And ignorance is the currency poorly performing employees are banking on to keep sucking the life and profitability out of your business.

I cannot tell you what to eat, what to think, how to spend your money, resources, and time. But I can remind you the importance of two key areas for the health of your business:

1. Knowledge of at least the basics of HR Law in your state
2. Knowledge of how your good employees feel about changes and your company’s mission, vision, and long-term direction

In fact, you will notice as you browse through the blog that these are recurring themes for us. And for good reason. We’ve seen businesses hurt their bottom line due to lack of basic prevention, knowledge and simple good use of empathy. We’ll dissect these issues and share some ideas on how to shed some light on them in upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, read, learn, and if you have no time to do either, be sure to contact an HR specialist to hold your hand through the ins and outs of the HR world.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You Can't Fire Me!

One of the great things about working with a new client is learning the background of their employees and discovering some of the reasons behind the culture.

Recently, I was conducting a job analysis for a client in order to put together a strategic plan for utilizing her team members more productively when during an interview one employee told me that he could never be fired. He said that he knew the laws of the state (this was Florida) and that it would take something more than poor performance for him to be fired. Well, I assured him that I was not there to fire him or cause him to be fired. He insisted on trying to convince me that although he was not a top performer, there was no way he was losing his job.

I try to keep the employee interviews that I do confidential so I asked the client who her top performers were and who were some of the team members she thought needed improvement. As I suspected, the employee who assured me he could not be fired turned out to be not only one of the poor performers, but was at the bottom of the list and was a problem employee.

The client showed me a file with a history of documented performance issues for the man who could not be fired. The client was hesitant to fire this employee because of the threats he had made stating that he has attorney friends and that the law is on his side. I volunteered to review the employee's file and made the recommendation that he be terminated immediately.

What from the outside appears to be an open and shut case to most of us is a fearful and confusing one for the employer. It is sad that a small business owner cannot concentrate on planning and producing to create a profitable business to provide for their families, provide income and security for employees, and contribute to the local economy because some knuckle-headed employee is determined to take a free ride at the company's expense. Most employment laws are needed to protect both the employee and employer, but there are some, (most often mis-understood), laws that scare the daylight out of employers and are commonly used by employees, armed with only a touch of the correct interpretation of the law, to threaten the very person who gave them a job with "I will do as I please and you can't fire me!"
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