Retaining Tips

We Fire Too Rarely & Too Late

            If you're like most managers, you fire or layoff people too rarely and sometimes too late. The result - you hurt the employee and your association. Every year more than 3 million Americans are fired or laid off by employers ill-equipped to do it humanely and legally to stay out of court!

            Managers have great pride in their association. They work diligently at shaping their association’s public image. Many spend thousands of dollars in Public Relations efforts and yet take a public image smashing in the way they handle their personnel issues. The White Sox are a great example of  “what not to do” in the way they handled the release of future Hall of Famer, Carlton Fisk. Today’s successful managers are discovering that team spirit in their staff is often the single most important factor in gaining an edge over their competitors. When we botch a termination, it may not make national headlines, but it is no less important to the individuals involved.

            Getting a new staff member off to a fully informed, properly oriented start helps minimize the need for terminations. Successful associations provide an employee handbook detailing their policies, procedures, and benefits. Some associations cite general policies and rules of conduct in their handbook. Others defined benchmarks and critical outputs that are essential at the end of 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. These are exceptional tools in describing what is expected for success.

            In spite of our best recruiting, selection, placement, orientation, training, coaching, and communication of expectations, we still have an occasional staff member who just is not meeting expectations. At this point, we need a remedial approach that is fair, firm, consistent, and defensible in court. Be prepared to act promptly and decisively, concentrating on actions, behaviors and result areas that are not up to par. Avoid spending much effort on attitude improvement. Correcting the behavior and results mysteriously and almost automatically moves the attitude in the desired direction. Use a four step performance improvement approach consisting of Verbal Warning - Written Warning - Disciplinary Suspension and when necessary, Termination. There is no legal requirement for those steps unless they are part of your employee handbook. These steps are aimed at helping the staff person achieve success. They need to include a description of what the staff member did, how it needs to be corrected and the time table. Thorough documentation is absolutely necessary in all steps. 

            When the termination step is necessary, you need to clearly and candidly review the reasons and process with the staff person. You may want to have another manger present as a witness. Consider offering outplacement or other agency placement services to staff terminated for poor performance (not ones terminated for lying, stealing or violence). The fact that the poor performer isn’t a good fit with this job and/or your association doesn’t mean they’re not a great find for another employer. The availability of this service has proven to go a long way to preventing court appearances for wrongful discharge.

 Using these basic guidelines, terminating a staff person can be accomplished effectively and humanely even though most of us will never find it a pleasant task.

©Training Systems, Inc. 2000


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