Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Executive search consultant recommends the sack 

I was attracted to the headline in the Recruit section of The Straits Times today which reads “Axe the slackers”.

In the article that followed, executive search consultant Andre Cheong of PSD Group wrote:

A survey of 1,000 to 1,200 employees over a period of two and a half years found that 71 per cent are “not engaged” in their work and 17 per cent of these slackers are “actively disengaged”. To put it bluntly, this means they are trying to sabotage your company and drive customers away. If you are a manager, fire them.
Usually, the actively disengaged within a company are beyond help and the only recourse for the company is, indeed, to fire them. The question is what to do to avoid employees becoming actively disengaged in the first place. Cheong suggests the following:

Fire your weakest employees and replace them with great ones. In every group, people arrange themselves according to their personal comfort levels. The achievers move immediately to the front of the line, the mediocre ones find the middle, and the laggards find the tail. The way to get your group to perform at a higher level is to regularly replace your weakest links with stronger ones.
As an executive search consultant, I am sure that Cheong is familiar with the concept of job matching, that is, selecting the right person for a job by matching the job requirements with the person’s skill and aptitude. That he fails to mention it in his article is a glaring omission.

Weak performers are often suffering merely from poor job match. Improving their performance may sometimes involve nothing more than finding a more suitable job for them, one that matches their talent and personality. A company which continually fires its weakest employees, on the other hand, is likely to be a company of demoralised — and disengaged — employees.

As management guru Peter Drucker once wrote in an article about “How to make people decisions”:

If I put a person into a job and he or she does not perform, I have made a mistake. I have no business blaming that person... Some of the worst staffing failures I have seen involved brilliant Europeans hired by U.S. companies [who] were hailed as geniuses when they came in. A year later they were both out, totally defeated... Although both men subsequently became highly successful CEOs of major European corporations, both executives were failures in companies that did not know and understand them.
An executive search consultant, of all people, must know and understand that.


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