SIX WAYS WE’VE KEPT OUR BEST EMPLOYEES
By Jeffrey Palermo
We’ve all seen it happen — employees who bail out before a project is due, leaving co-workers working late to get a project done; who agree to tasks and deadlines, but don’t deliver on their promises; or who take credit for the work performed by coworkers. These employees may initially seem agreeable because they say what they think others want to hear, but their actions speak otherwise. For lack of a better term, at my company we call them “jerks,” and they’re not allowed. Employees who put their own goals and needs before those of their co-workers, team and clients are not only frustrating to work with, but their flagrant disregard for others can cause friction in the workplace, pull projects off course, and negatively impact customer service.
While the obvious difficult behaviors, such as bad language, yelling or aggressiveness in some workers can be apparent to everyone, the self-absorbed workers may be more difficult to spot initially, but are equally damaging to an organization. Recognizing the negative impact the wrong person can have on a work environment – blatantly or more covertly – we’ve instituted a “no jerks allowed” policy.
While technical or industry-specific credentials are a must, it’s just as important – if not more so – to find employees who have the Emotional Intelligence required to succeed. People can always be trained on technology, but it’s much harder to overhaul someone’s personality. Here are best practices in recruitment, training and team building that not only help identify and weed out jerks, but also help to build a collaborative, team-oriented environment focused on high standards and customer service:
- Will the real candidate please step forward? Let’s face it, everyone is on his/her best behavior during a job interview, so how can you figure out who is a jerk? Ask the job candidate very specific and detailed information on past job experiences, including challenges they faced and how they were overcome. Some of the telltale signs of the wrong employees are those who pin the problem on others, and always use “they” when talking about problems, but use “I” when talking about solutions and achievements.
- The job interview is never over. The difficulty involved in arranging a meeting, and how much excessive hand holding and special attention a candidate requires during the offer stage can clue an organization into how difficult a person might be. There are times when it just may make good business sense to rescind an offer if the person just isn’t the right fit.
- Focus on core values on the employee’s first day of work. Core values define the heart of a company and clearly set forth expected behavior. Some key values for creating a cohesive, collaborative environment include maintaining trustworthy relationships; serving others first; pursuing excellence in work and client engagements; leadership in driving positive business outcomes; authentic behavior that is candid, respectful and clear; and continually striving for outstanding results.
- “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” This quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu sums up the importance of self-awareness. It’s critical for employees to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and understand how that impacts their interactions with others. Many companies rely on strength assessment profiles, such as DISC, to help employees gain self -awareness.
- If all else fails, throw a party. Nothing can really replace relationship building. Host regular celebrations and networking events, all company staff meetings, brown bag lunch trainings and other opportunities for employees to interact and get to know each other better.
- Keep the feedback flowing. Provide opportunities for employees to get ongoing feedback from many sources, such as 360 interviews where all levels of staff, customers and partners can provide insight. Assign each employee a manager who is singularly focused on employee development and performance and offer internal opportunities for colleagues to recognize their co-workers who are doing outstanding work.
Regardless of the industry a business is in or nature of the work required, the most valuable aspect of an employee is his or her character. Creating an exceptional work environment of authentic, collaborative employees requires ongoing work and commitment. The first step is establishing a “no jerks allowed” policy that can be shared throughout the interview process, and inspired through ongoing training and team building. The benefits of creating a cohesive team committed to high standards are numerous. Not only will it help attract and retain top talent, but it will also enable a company to deliver exceptional work, and put the firm and its clients on a fast track for growth.
Jeffrey Palermo, MBA graduate of the Jack Welch Management Institute, is CEO of Austin-based Clear Measure, a custom software engineering firm. A recognized expert in his field, presenter and author, Palermo has built two leading software engineering firms.