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Employees need to have a clear understanding of work rules and internal procedures. This begins with having a well-written handbook that outlines the company’s expectations. A manager should explain performance expectations during the new hire process.

After hire, a manager should hold regular performance evaluations throughout the year to help guide the ongoing development, providing feedback to help maintain or improve the productivity of the employee. When the employee has a successful track record, performance evaluations may be moved to an annual basis.

Managers should continue to hold one-on-one meetings with each employee – even high performers - throughout the year. These meetings may help discover unknown factors affecting morale and productivity, such as ineffective equipment, a lack of training, unclear standards, behavior problems of coworkers when the boss isn’t around, or other things that could lead to misinterpretations or unclear expectations.

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When trying to change problem behaviors, the idea is to use the least severe action necessary to correct the problem. This provides an opportunity for the employee to try to improve, which reinforces consistency and fairness. If the less severe steps fail, then move on to the next level.

The most common discipline progression is as follows:

  1. Oral warning (make sure you include documentation in the employee’s file that you gave an oral warning, and include what was said)
  2. Written warning
  3. Suspension without pay
  4. Termination

More serious offenses may warrant moving immediately to suspension or immediate termination. Just be sure you are consistent among employees with how you treat each behavior. For example, tardiness should always follow the same discipline progression. If you treat two employees differently, there may be grounds for a discrimination claim.

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In the event of a lawsuit, you must show proof that counters an employee’s claim of injustice.  Otherwise, the claim will prevail. The best defense you have in the hot seat is thorough documentation.

When you are in the midst of a course or progressive discipline, create a paper trail that outlines the facts, clarifies your reasoning, and restates expectations. Keep copies of all warnings (written AND oral), findings from investigations, and performance evaluations in the employee’s file. Don’t leave any room for later interpretation in the courtroom!

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How employees are treated on the first day of work (and in the first month) has a significant impact on whether or not they stick around.

  • Have a list of effective “first day” on-boarding practices for managers to follow. These should include:
    • Having an introductory performance discussion to set expectations,
    • Assigning a mentor, and
    • Showing the new employee the “lay of the land.“
  • Be sure to train the employee adequately for procedures that are specific to your organization.
  • Make sure that the employee knows he or she can safely ask questions on an ongoing basis.

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High achievers typically seek a career that maximizes their sense of involvement, satisfaction, effectiveness, motivation, and accomplishment. Such a career requires the active engagement of you, the boss. So where do you begin?

  • Start by ensuring your employees are using their personal strengths and have a sense of accountability for their projects.
  • Align their personal goals with the company’s mission.
  • Be sure your star performers have adequate challenges that are not only personally interesting and worthwhile, but also require a satisfying use of mental agility.
  • Set clear expectations and provide ongoing feedback and coaching, always focusing on the positive.

At the end of the day, your fully engaged employees will be more loyal, and two and a half times more likely to be top performers (according to a Watson Wyatt research report).

For more information, please see our related articles or contact us.

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