However slick and thorough your recruitment process is, and however much you try to sieve out the bad apples at interview stage, there will always be one or two people who slip through the net and don’t quite live up to expectations.
Firstly, you need to make it clear what the standards are. A lot of businesses are caught short because they think it’s clear when it’s not. When someone comes on board, you need to have a strong process so that they know what they need to deliver and what is expected of them. I call these “minimum expected standards”. Then, when it goes wrong, you can say: ‘Hang on, this is what we both signed up for – you knew this is the minimum we would expect from you’.
When the standards laid out for them at the start are not being met, just talk to them about it. Try and get to the crux of what the problem is: it could be a bad client, a problem at home, that they’re not feeling motivated. It might be a confidence thing; they’ve been knocked back a few times and they actually need you to comfort them a bit and help build them back up. But transparency is the key.
Having a pretty big ego is a common issue in sales. They can sometimes have a bit of an attitude. Now, I have no problem with confidence, but they have to be professional. Sometimes you need to bring them back down to earth, to where their responsibilities are. Remind them that their purpose is to deliver a service or solution to their clients, and that’s where their focus needs to be.
How long you give someone to turn things around all depends on the type of person they are. There’s a guy I’ve employed, and the results just aren’t coming. But his work ethic, commitment and drive are second to none. He stays late, he puts in the time, he works hard. With someone like that, I’d give them all the time in the world, because I know it will eventually happen for him.
With someone who is not putting in the time and who isn’t really trying though, I’ll pull them up on it once or twice; but if they haven’t taken it on board, it shows they’re not prepared to change, or they’re not listening.
Letting staff go depends on the type of business you’re in. Big corporations will have huge HR processes in place, but with small start-ups, it might be done over a coffee. We’ve got about 12 staff, and we’ve had to let two or three go. The best way is to be honest, and ask if they think it is really the right job for them. It’s essentially a relationship breaking down, and if it’s a performance thing, you’ll both have seen the writing on the wall.
By Lee McQueen, director, Raw Talent Academy