I need some mentor-like advice on a hiring/firing decision. Here's the scenario: I have a single employee who's been with me for about a month now. He's been in the business for about six years. His attributes are as follows: reliable, a steady worker, personable, honest, His challenges are: mediocre math and problem solving, slow, negative, no great initiative. I tend to think you need to hire and retain the best if you want your business to prosper, but perhaps I'm expecting too much? Any help would be appreciated.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
A month isn’t long enough to fairly evaluate performance. I would give the guy more of a chance. It's hard enough to find people with the good attributes you describe. If the behaviors that bother you continue, then have a sit down with him and give him a chance to improve.
The object is to make the most of each team players' unique perspective and potential and make them feel believed in. Use passion and empower them. Successful job training includes excellent job description (which should be written). Also define team goals. Give this person a well structured work environment - highly organized with strong training and share business plans and goals and explain individual expectations. Having high expectations is fine, and can often lead to exceptional results.
It is one thing if the person is dishonest, a thief, unsafe or otherwise unreliable, you cannot afford to keep those types around. You are saying this is not the case, so cutting your losses this early in the game is not, in my opinion, appropriate. In fact, the attributes that you describe that need adjustment are, while still challenging, the easiest ones to deal with.
It is good that you consider this person's shortcomings challenges, as that is exactly what they are, for you and for him. Furthermore, it is your responsibility to ensure that this person performs to your expectations, not his. This starts by communicating to him exactly what your expectations are.
Contributor D has given you great advice that I think you should seriously consider. Maintaining employees is a tremendous responsibility and requires great effort. Consider some of the people you have worked for and which ones made you a better employee, and which ones did not.
My experience, in smaller shop environments, is that seldom do those qualities change. But you can go against your gut feeling, and risk spending a great deal of time for no gain. I agree that you should hire and retain the best. It doesn't sound like this guy has those attributes you need. Unlike larger companies, one bad (or mediocre) employee can make a huge impact on the bottom line. On the other hand, good cabinetmakers are very hard to find, and you have to know whether you can find better. Sometimes, the replacement can be worse!
If an employee can help me do that he or she is a keeper, if not, they find fulfillment somewhere else. A month is plenty of time. Bad math is not a recent development in this person it is a permanent condition. If I have to stand behind an employee and add or subtract for him or tell him to “cut this board there", he is not solving problems for me, he's making them. Remember the three reasons why you hire people:
1. They extend my reach enabling me to do what I couldn't do before
2. They multiply my effectiveness, allowing me to do those unique things that only I as owner/manager can do.
3. And, perhaps most importantly, they divide my work. An employee has to make my life easier not harder, more productive not less so, and earn me more than they cost me.
With that said, I'm a firm believer in the requirement for employees to produce at their salary level. Unless there is some significant response, I'll probably let him go. I don't have a large enough cash reserve to let him improve slowly.
Each one of us who are successful in the industry can think of at least one person form our past who helped shape us in a positive way. None of us were born knowing what we know. We as managers have a responsibility to the industry, as well as ourselves, to develop good people. If we are not willing to do that, then the future of industry is doomed!
You should have a GPM (gross per man) formula as a guide. I'd say it takes sixty-ninety days for a new employee to learn that shop’s system, depending on the system and the employee. Building a box with doors isn't rocket science, so the learning period is more about learning your system.
Also keep in mind that you can teach people methods, styles and systems, but you usually can’t teach them to think. All this is the main reason many shops implement good flow systems. A good system means less thinking and less chance of human error. It also denotes the speed of the flow, not the speed of the man. So, you may consider your system as well as his/her ability to flow at a reasonable pace. Also, consider that this advice comes from a man who works alone, only hiring temps for installs etc. because I haven't figured out how to keep good people, or even find them.
Now, how does this type of attitude get started? It begins with supervisors and managers who are unwilling to allow employees the latitude to think for themselves. In other words they are told, "Do what I tell you and nothing else." I suspect that the individual in question has worked for six years under similar circumstances.
The "Do what I tell you," syndrome doesn’t promote problem solving skills, or motivation, and it contributes to slow production and no real need to do well with math, because someone is always working his problems for him, and then he does what he is told to do. We get out of an employee what we put in.
These traits are easily changed by enabling an employee to begin to succeed. The more he succeeds the more confident and motivated he will become. That leads to being more positive about his job and his work. And as far as the math, he will realize his weakness and ask questions, and even do some study on his own to become more proficient
There is one thing I haven't said here. Obviously nothing in this world is a guarantee. There are those who come along who can't be helped and it doesn't take much to figure that out. I've had a couple of those. But, more often I've ended up with some very fine, loyal competent employees. And I'm glad I had every one of them. In fact, a handful eventually left to take better jobs as foreman, and managers, in cabinet making, and other areas of industry.