There’s been a lot of hoo-ha this week over the leaked Government report proposing that – shock horror! – people should be fairly sacked for being no good at their job.
The main bone of contention though seems to be the ‘compensated no-fault dismissal’ – the suggestion that employers should be able to dismiss incapable employees swiftly and without giving them an explanation.
So is this really such a dreadful idea, or is it, like so many Government initiatives, a good idea poorly executed?
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that if someone is paying you to do something for them, you should do it well. And if you don’t, whoever is paying you should absolutely stop paying you to do it and find someone who can actually do it properly. Not exactly a radical suggestion – more simple common sense, I’d say.
So why is it that there have been so many chins hitting the floor at the recent Beecroft report proposal that employers should be able to do just that? The suggestion is that employees who are ‘coasting’ – i.e. doing the bare minimum they can get away with but not actually going above the bar in any way – should be at risk of fair dismissal. Which is – well, exactly what the situation is at the moment actually.
No employer is expected to continue employing someone who is not only not doing what they are paid to do, but who could potentially be a liability, doing the business more harm than good. If someone isn’t meeting the requirements of their job, then an employer can follow a capability procedure.
As long as they give the employee every opportunity to improve – including training and support where appropriate – then a series of warnings with periods of monitoring and review in between should lead to one of two outcomes. Either the employee shapes up, or is shipped out – carrying on being rubbish is not an option.
So what if someone is not really pants enough to merit a capability procedure, but not good enough for the employer to be happy with them – i.e. coasting? If someone is meeting the minimum requirements of the job but still giving cause for concern, the answer is simple – the requirements are too low.
Raise the bar so that employees have to do more to meet expectations; set more challenging targets and objectives, have more stringent behavioural requirements. That way, even if someone is doing as little as they can get away with, they are still doing a lot!
So I don’t have a problem with this proposal in principle; in fact it’s a no-brainer. My problem is with the suggestion that you can just kick a slacker to the kerb without telling them why. This is ridiculous, and quite frankly mean, like divorcing your spouse without giving any reason.
Although anyone who is told that they are underperforming should not be remotely surprised – if expectations have been well managed, clear objectives etc. set, then people should know whether or not they are meeting those. And most slackers know exactly what they are doing!
Besides, if someone really doesn’t know what the problem is, how can they find a solution? They’ll just go on to be rubbish somewhere else. So the solution to this issue of employees not pulling their weight really isn’t rocket science, it’s just a matter of proper performance management.
Contrary to popular belief, no-one is bulletproof and it isn’t impossible to sack anyone (unless of course they are great at their job, well-behaved, doing valuable work and basically the dream employee.) Getting rid of a coaster may realistically take up to 6 months, but I’ve known people remain at an organisation for years on end without actually making any contribution, simply because managers were unwilling or unable to bite the bullet and deal with the problem.
The Beecroft proposals are an over-thought solution to a problem that could already be addressed easily enough by competent managers. Not only does it not give managers an incentive to do their own job properly, it also gives unscrupulous employers another opportunity to get rid of perfectly good employees for some other (unsubstantial) reason.
Surely a better solution to the issue of unproductive employees would be to make sure that employers are fully aware of the correct procedures to follow so that they are capable of managing staff, and their performance, to ensure that slacking is no longer a possibility and is addressed appropriately if the need arises. Or is that too much like hard work?!
Tara Daynes is an HR consultant and runs her own HR services and training company, Tara Daynes.
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