Leaders often ask me for advice about what to do with their ‘problem employees’.
They know they spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to motivate and upskill these people. It is natural to focus on them, after all they have the greatest room for improvement. But is this the best use of your time?
To help leaders think about the problem differently, we start by asking them to classify their people in one of four categories. Based on their mindset (how intrinsically self-motivated they are) and skillset (how well they can do the job) they will fall into one of the following four groups:
- HIGH FLYERS
These employees are highly skilled and motivated. They are your top people and add incredible value to your business in terms of their productivity, work quality and positive impact on their colleagues and their customers.
These people have a high level of skill and can clearly do the job. However, they lack the internal motivation and do just enough to get by. They show little initiative or pride in their job.
These people are highly motivated and want to do a great job, but they are inexperienced and lack the right skillset. They tend to be new to the company, possibly even graduates who don’t have the skills yet to take on higher level tasks and projects.
These are your traditional ‘problem employees’. They feel trapped in their job and wish they didn’t have to be at work – and it shows! They lack the skillset and the mindset to do great work and trying to change this tends to be a laborious and frustrating task for the manager.
So which group should you focus your energy and time on?
We find that most often, Leaders pick the Prisoner group. They see this group as the one with the biggest problems with the most room for improvement. Perhaps they even enjoy fixing problems and pride themselves on their ability in this area. But is this going to deliver the best outcome for your business? We don’t believe it does.
To illustrate why, let’s assume there is an even distribution of 25% of employees in each group. Given the fixed time and resources you have at your disposal, you can choose to either:
A. Focus on fixing the mindset AND skillset of Prisoners. Let’s assume you are successful, and that you achieve the best-case scenario which is moving all 25% of these employees to your High Flyers group.
B. Focus on Graduates and Coasters. The alternative is that you spend the exact same amount of time and effort, but instead focus on improving the skillset of the Graduates AND the mindset of the Coasters. In this best-case scenario, you could move a massive 50% of employees to your High Flyers group.
Focusing your time and energy on Graduates and Coasters will bring the greatest rewards for your business and the best levels of value and satisfaction for you.
Two actions you can take to improve your business today are:
- Decide what quadrant each of your Direct Reports sits in
- Think about who you currently spend most time with? Consider if this is the best use of your time and if you need to change this?