• I can’t believe we spent a huge amount on customer-service training, and our staff still doesn’t consistently give great service. What a waste!
  • We sent out a memo explaining the summer dress code. I thought it was clear, but the intern showed up dressed for a night at the club. In addition to having bad fashion sense, she seems to have problems with reading comprehension.
  • He does the minimum, and that’s it. Why he doesn’t take more pride in his work and our business, I’ll never know. It’s extremely difficult to have him on my team. The guy’s a real energy drain.

Sound familiar? At any given moment, there are legions of employees busy “working” but not doing the work their managers expect them to do or, worse yet, doing their work in ways that hurt morale, productivity and the bottom line. They are as frustrated by their performance as you are. You must come to terms with the three core reasons some members of your team aren’t performing to your standards, as we explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Reason One: If you expect people to do something that’s unrealistic, don’t be surprised when they fail. For example, if the receptionist is supposed to greet guests, answer the phone, order office supplies, clean the kitchen and maintain your client database on a daily basis, is there any wonder he or she can’t get it done?

The Fix: Take a hard look at what you ask your team members to do. If some of them are not meeting your expectations, be sure that those expectations are realistic and reasonable. Truth be told, assigning tasks to people who, for whatever reason, can’t complete them to your standard, means you’ve brought the situation upon yourself. Quit beating yourself up: change the person you task with those responsibilities, or change the tasks.

Reason Two: They don’t know how. All too often people are thrown into a job with little or no training. They learn on the job, bring what they knew from their past job or teach themselves if you are lucky. In other words, they wing it— and most of the time it shows. If you are holding people accountable for performing tasks for which they’ve had no training, you’re going to frustrate the employees and hurt morale. It’s as simple as that.

The Fix: Train people on systems, processes and desired behaviors, and do it often. Good organizations teach forward as well as learn from their mistakes. Spend some time thinking about what needs to be completed in a certain way. For example, if everyone is supposed to answer the phone in a specific way, then you’d better tell them. Provide a script if necessary—show them how to do it with a smile and do it yourself when you answer the phone.

Reason Three: They don’t want to. On rare occasions you may encounter someone who is capable, trained and operating in a learning environment but who still fails to meet expectations despite repeated coaching and counseling.

The Fix: Document, document, document, and keep that rotten apple away from the others in the barrel. There are times when people are simply not a good fit for a job, and you need either to move them somewhere else in the organization or out of the organization altogether. Be kind, firm and quick to act. The better your documentation, the easier the process will proceed.

Nobody ever said managing people was easy. It requires time, thoughtful planning, hard work and moral courage; in short, it requires leadership. That said the payoffs can be huge for the employee, the organization and for you.

Source: Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.