The bad apples are blowing it. They’ve turned “employee” into a bad word.
Strong words? You bet. But after a recent morning spent with a group of small-business executives it was apparent to me that even those who want to do well by their workers are having trouble creating the workplaces they’d like.
Why? Because bad-apple employees shatter their trust, dominate their attention, and make them so wary of lawsuits that they’re almost paralyzed.
One of the casualties appears to be using open-book management — a practice in which the company’s financial details are shared so that employees understand the business, how they fit in and, theoretically, how they share in the rewards when things go well. Opening the books is scary if you don’t trust your employees to care about the business as much as you do.
It also appears that many CEOs are so busy running their operations that they’ve lost touch with their hiring processes. They bemoan not finding good workers, but that’s partly because their hiring systems aren’t finding the qualified and able people out there.
Many entrepreneurs such as those I met with have put their financial security and energy on the line to create jobs. They know they can’t grow and prosper alone. One of them told of trying to work with an area job-assistance agency to hire unemployed and low-income workers and not even getting return phone calls from the agency.
Payroll often is the biggest cost of doing business, and owners have every right, and even duty, to get their money’s worth. Unfortunately, problem workers drain resources and make it tough for owners to reward good employees. The result: “us versus them” instead of “us.”
What’s needed is improved hiring processes to get good folk in the door, careful performance evaluations, and courageous firing of workers who don’t cut it. And, no, it isn’t easy.