“How do we reduce the number of the employees that are holding our business back?”

“You have to hire the right people, and beyond that, you have to put the right people in the right positions.” – Ferris Mitchell, Tekton Engineering, Small Business Celebration Podcast #0002

The Dead Wood

About a month ago, I had the privilege to listen to Chip Conley, formerly of Airbnb Global Hospitality, speak to a small group of 40 small business leaders about building the right employee culture when one of the attendees asked, “How do I get rid of all the dead wood from my company?”

This question peaked many of our interests because, all though we would never admit this question in public, this is a question many of us are thinking: “How do we reduce the number of the employees that are holding our business back?”

Conley’s answer, I thought, was interesting: “As a leader, the onus for hiring this dead wood in first place is on me. I was the one who made the mistake of hiring the wrong people in the first place, so the dead wood is my fault.”

While on the surface this seems like he wasn’t answering the question, but the reality is that what we, as business owners, must think ahead in hiring strategy on the kinds of employees we want to fill those roles that need to be filled – in addition to the skill set that employee must have to complete the role. Then, we need to find the right employee who will find the work that they do in our business fulfilling enough beyond the safety of their compensation package. (For more information on this, you may download my free ebook on this subject on this website.)

But this still gets back to the original question: “How do I get rid of all the dead wood from my company?”

A Possible Solution

The first step in solving this problem is to identify the employees that aren’t performing as well as you would like and see if they job they are in is one that gives them personal satisfaction. If there is another position in your business that would give them better satisfaction, perhaps doing a job-shift may be in order.

If a position transfer is not an option, the second step is to ask them if they see their position as one that only serves their basic needs (money / benefits) or if there is an added reason for them being involved with your business. If they are only there to fill their basic needs, consider finding out what they would be willing to do to gain more recognition that would be in line with the goals and culture of your business. If this is still not the case, a polite conversation about them finding a more fulfilling position at another company may be in order.

If the employee has their basic needs met, perform the bare minimum of recognition to placate their position, but tend to perform no further, then what they may need is a transformational reason to excel within your business – a reason to excel that moves beyond the compensation package and beyond recognition culture of your business.

An effective course of action is to take that employee out to see the “real-world” results their efforts contribute to. Often, many employees see the beginning and the middle of the product, or service, process and they never know what kind of an impact their contribution makes on the end customer. If you can get your employee to see the important impact they have on your customer, and keep reminding them of their impact, you may find their performance improve.

Michael Roberts
Small Business Celebration

Recommended Reading: “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow”, Chip Conley, 2017

Bakersfield, California, small business, training, learning, coaching.

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