How to Win With What You’ve Got
By Vince Thompson
you’re starting to feel the pinch of the so-called “talent
shortage,” you’re not alone. Consider these facts:
40 percent of
employers worldwide are having difficulty filling positions due
to the lack of suitable talent available in their markets
According to the US
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shortage of skilled workers will
exceed 10 million by 2010
At any given time,
75 percent of American employees are looking for a new job, say
the Society of Human Resource Management
45 percent of
workers say they want to change jobs every three to five years
of these facts, smart managers realize they need to retain people on
staff in order to keep the company running. So while under better
circumstances they might move along those “less spectacular”
performers, they know that in a tight talent market, the key is to
effectively work with what you have.
Fortunately, you can take steps to help the people on your team do
better and perform to expectations. After all, hiring someone is
costly (both in time and money), and any turnover has a potentially
negative impact on the company. Following is a process that will
help you work with your current staff and gain the competitive
advantage in doing so.
One: Take a look at yourself: Look at how you’re evaluating your
team. Many managers who work under, or who have been influenced by,
command and control hierarchies live with the belief that you
should rank your employees and cut those at the bottom. Ranking may
be valuable when people do identical jobs in an identical
environment, such as in call centers or sales organizations with
territories that have no uniqueness, but the fact is that such
environments count for only a minority of the workplace population.
Most people work in organizations where teams tackle diverse
challenges with diverse solutions. Therefore, when managers rank
people, their perception of each individual is often blurred by a
lack of clear criteria or the potential to play favorites.
great performance from your team is about working with individuals.
Therefore, you need to look at each individual on staff and ask
yourself, “Is this person doing what I expect of him or her?” Then
clarify what your expectations are for someone. If that person isn’t
meeting your expectations, how are you communicating your
expectations? Often, managers communicate a lot with their best
players, but when it comes to the marginal performers, they
communicate less often and in a less meaningful way.
been said that we hire people for what they are and fire them for
who they are. That is we hire someone because he is a Harvard
graduate who worked at the top advertising agency in NYC, but we
fire him because he was a dishonest jerk who didn’t respect people.
Therefore, most of our dissatisfaction is not with what
people are but with who they are. And when we deal with the
“who” side of the equation, we often find that the dissatisfaction
stems from a general lack of communication of expectations from
the manager, not the employee. In other words, we’ve set the job
specs but we’ve failed to talk about how we expect our people to
treat each other and our customers.
Two: Take a look at them: Are the people on your team committed
or compliant? Here’s the difference: You give Person A and Person B
each a package to deliver to a key prospect. Person A takes the
package to the prospect’s office, leaves it with the receptionist,
and then heads back to work. Person B takes the package to the
prospect’s office, waits in the lobby to meet the prospect
personally, and spends time talking with the prospect to answer any
additional questions. Person A is compliant—she did what she was
told (delivered the package to the prospect’s office) and nothing
more. Person B is committed—she did what she was told, and then went
a step further to win big for the company.
again, are the people on your team committed or compliant?
someone on your team is committed and still not performing to your
expectations, then you need to talk with the person and learn where
his or her commitment is. Is it to the team? To you? To the company?
To personal success? Maybe he’s committed to the team but not to the
company. If so, you need to show him how what he’s doing impacts the
team. Understand what each employee is committed to and communicate
your expectations in relation to that individual commitment.
someone on your team is merely compliant, then you need to uncover
why. Is the mindset temporary due to some challenges at home? Is it
a lack of passion for the work? Are his or her motivations
can’t move someone toward commitment, then that’s the first person
you have to consider firing. Realize, though, that firing can be
mutually beneficial—and needs to be in a tight talent market.
The fact is that it can take several months to find a replacement.
Therefore, it’s better to tell that person, “You’re not enjoying
your job, and it’s obvious this isn’t a good fit. So let’s agree
that we’re on a path here for me to find someone to replace you and
for you to find employment elsewhere. As long as you commit to doing
your daily work during this time, I’m committed to figuring this out
with you.” Managers who take this approach find that it works out
well. The employee who isn’t a fit appreciates the honesty and the
time to find new work. The company appreciates having the coverage
it needs to meet deadlines and goals. The key is being honest,
communicating openly, and building trust to make it all work.
Three: Develop a new plan: Finally, for each employee, you need
to create a plan that will help that person move forward to the
level of performance desired. Your plan needs to include the
Communication is the pathway to trust. Therefore, you need to
find ways to communicate more frequently so your team trusts you
and wants to perform for you. To do so, hold regular
mini-meetings that emphasize face-to-face interaction. So many
workers don’t personally interact with their boss anymore. They
communicate solely by email, even though the boss is just down
the hall. Remember, as Zig Ziglar so profoundly said, “People
don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Communication equals caring.
What do you expect of your employees? Is it realistic? Does the
team member have the time or skills to meet that expectation?
What can you do to support the employee and prioritize the
What’s the reward to the employee for meeting the expectation?
For some, the reward may be the satisfaction of a job well dome,
while for others the reward may be something tangible, such as a
bonus or time off with pay. In order to motivate people, help
them see value in their work by explaining how the project
impacts the company or the industry.
How can you help your staff? Maybe it means being a mentor or
taking a piece of the workload. Maybe it’s just guiding the
group. If you have a low-performing employee, then you need to
actively coach that person to be more successful.
Maximize the Talent You Have: Realize that this process isn’t a
one-time quick-fix. You’ll need to invest the time in these steps on
a regular basis in order to see results. When you do, not only will
you gain a much deeper understanding of your team, but you will also
find some surprises. Some of your lost “causes” will take on new
value, and for those who don’t, you’ll experience a lot less stress
as you move them along, knowing that you gave it your all. In a
market this tight you can be assured your competitors are facing the
same issues; getting this right can give you a real competitive
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