Hiring Wisdom: 4 Things You Can Do to Help Avoid Mediocre Performers

Illustration by istockphoto.com
Illustration by istockphoto.com

Because I have worked closely with all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries, I have been able to pinpoint a widespread stumbling block that keeps too many organizations from being their best. It is the practice of tolerating mediocre performers.

Let’s face it, it’s not the dishonest or disrespectful or undependable people who keep us from excelling. Most of us are smart enough to cut our losses and fire those losers fast.

No, most often the cause of less than peak performance is the mediocre players who keep us from having exceptional, winning teams that outperform the competition.

The main reasons mediocrity is allowed to flourish are because:

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  • Most of us are just too nice. We don’t want to be responsible for hurting anyone’s feelings or putting them in dire financial straights. We avoid short-term pain and end up tolerating long-term misery
  • “I just don’t have time right now to hire and train a new employee.” (This is another way of saying your team doesn’t have any bench strength. In other words, the convenience of mediocrity trumps the inconvenience of change.
  • “We will have to pay unemployment.” (No one stops to think about the long-term cost of substandard performance versus the limited-time payment of benefits. One way or another, you’re going to pay and the right decision is in favor of the overall quality of your organization.)

Four ways to help avoid mediocrity

There are some simple solutions to these problems, but, like most things worth doing, they aren’t necessarily easy:

  1. Recruit and interview religiously: Make sure you are looking for new hires even when you don’t need anyone at the moment.
  2. Then, when you are not in desperation hiring mode, you can raise the bar: When you don’t have to hire the first minimally qualified person who shows up, kick your hiring standards up a notch and don’t settle for less.
  3. Hold everyone accountable, including yourself: Spell out what it takes to be a successful member of your organization and make sure everyone knows exactly what’s expected.
  4. Become an employer-of-choice: Is yours a fun place to work? Do you have family-friendly policies? Do all the players on your team enjoy working together? When you can answer “yes” to these questions, you’ll be able to attract top-notch talent at every level.

This was originally published in the August 2011 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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2 Comments on “Hiring Wisdom: 4 Things You Can Do to Help Avoid Mediocre Performers

  1. To hire high performers and avoid low performers, use the factors that predict performance. Use assessments and use them well. This beats all other approaches time and again. I know you are well aware of it, but surprisingly many people are not.

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