I got a really cool birthday card this year from a coworker who knows me all too well. It has sushi on it! I love sushi! I’m usually not a big card person. When I got this one though, I thought it was the best card ever but I knew that if I do what I usually do, it would sit in a drawer or box for years until the paper thins out and becomes discolored. Then I’d throw it out during spring cleaning or the next time I move.
When another coworker offered to have it framed in a shadow box for me, I was ever so grateful as I’ve been trying to figure out something neat to do with this awesome card to turn it into something even better.
Why don’t we do this with people? Studies and surveys show that most organizations are comprised of a majority population of good performers. What this means is that given a performance rating scale of exceeds, meets or does not meet expectations, most people will fall in the meets expectations category.
But, why? Is it because organizations still think a bell curve model is the way to go? Or, is it because leaders and Human Resources (HR) have made it acceptable to simply do the minimum? When did exceeding expectations turn into a one-way street where an employee does all the work to go above and beyond without any guidance or support from the employer?
What’s worse? Leaders and HR often spend most of their time and energy on the smallest population, the under performers who are not meeting expectations at all. They are constantly coaching, writing up, talking to, encouraging, giving second chances to and monitoring these employees. This needs to stop.
Maybe it’s the optimist in me that believes we can turn the majority population into exceptional employees who consistently exceed expectations. Regardless, we need to take a closer look at both the meets and exceeds categories and spend more time there.
Let’s start with our best employees. If they are truly going above and beyond the call of duty to make their leaders and organizations successful, why aren’t we giving back to them by helping them get even better and grow their careers? Everyone has something to learn and room to grow. Leaders, talk to your top performers, find out what they want out of their careers and help them achieve bigger and better things.
Then, spend some time on that middle group. I’m willing to bet that in the midst of those “meets expectations” people, there are plenty of gems and whole lot of potential. They usually just need some motivation and a leader who believes in them. If you want to be the best leader or HR professional you can be and if you want your organization to be able to sustain its success for years or decades to come, then find your hidden gems and your high potential employees. Turn high potential into high performing.
If we shift where we spend the majority of our time, we’ll find that we actually gain a lot of our time back because it takes much less time to help people who are willing and able to grow than it does trying to breakdown a brick wall for people who are still unable and unwilling to do the work on the other side. Let’s spend less time going no where with people who either don’t care or can’t do the job. Don’t just do yourself a favor but do them a favor by letting them move on so they can find a better fit elsewhere.
I stand firm that no matter how great our technology gets, organizations are nothing without people. The only way to sustain success for the long run is to take something great and turn it into something even better. So, spend more time working with your best employees to help them get even better.