October 1, 2021

Building a Strong Executive Team: Making Hard Personnel Decisions

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This is part seven of our Building a Strong Executive Team series. To start at the beginning, click here.

The unfortunate reality of having employees is that not all of them are going to be the right fit for your business. As an executive, you’ll likely have to make some tough personnel decisions over the course of your career, but it can be tough to know whether someone needs coaching or you should just let them go. Just remember to work with your HR team to document both successes and mistakes effectively. It’s more difficult to let people go in some states than in others, and you’ll need documentation to protect the business. To make things easier, we’ve put together this short guide on making hard personnel decisions.

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When to fire an employee

Over the course of your career as a leader, you’re likely going to have to let someone go that isn’t providing what your company needs. Whether they’re not meeting expectations or are sowing discord among your other employees, they’re doing more harm than good for your organization. Here are some signs that you need to fire your employee:

  • They’re constantly late or absent without notice
  • They don’t complete work correctly or on time, even with coaching
  • They’re being disrespectful or causing cultural problems within your organization
  • They continue to ignore company policy

Notice that most of these signs aren’t a single instance. Obviously, big issues are going to be cause to let someone go, but the smaller instances can easily slip under the radar. There have to be consequences for actions, and letting bad employees continue to be employees is only going to put a bad taste in the mouths of your good workers.

And don’t make idle threats. If you tell an employee you’ll have to let them go unless you see improvement and then they don’t improve, you have to follow through.

When an employee needs coaching

Not all offenses are unsalvageable, though. Sometimes employees are unsure of what you expect from them, and they may need a gentle nudge in the right direction. This is especially true for workers who are clearly trying. Employees who want to succeed in a role may not always take the best or correct approach, but with career coaching, they can get there.

Maybe an explanation wasn’t clear enough or they tried to innovate, but it didn’t quite go as planned. Unless they cause the company a major loss, aren’t these mistakes forgivable? Before letting an employee go, consider if coaching would solve the problem first. If it can, you’re not only saving yourself the time of training someone new, but you might also earn a lot of loyalty by investing in that employee.

Listen to: Career Advice for Young Professionals

Which employees should you promote?

Luckily, the good employees you have should far outweigh the bad ones. However, this can make it difficult to determine which employees you should promote when the time comes.

First, consider which of your employees actually want to be promoted. Through performance reviews, you should have some idea of what your workers’ career goals are. Don’t push someone into a management position that clearly has no interest in managing people.

Despite being deserving of a promotion, not every employee will be right for every role.

Next, consider what the open role requires and who among your staff best fits those qualities. Despite being deserving of a promotion, not every good employee will be right for every role. Some promotions will require leadership and managerial skills, while others may call for stronger analytics and decision-making.

Finally, look at employees who continually take on more responsibility or look for other ways to contribute to the business. Whether it’s taking on lead roles in projects or simply finding and filling gaps in the team’s work, these employees are showing initiative and proving they have what it takes to make it at the next level.

Growing leadership for executive roles

Some employees may eventually want to move to the executive level, and you can help them prepare for that. Executives leave jobs and retire, but their roles don’t become any less important. By having a pipeline of leadership-ready employees already on your team, you can fill open positions quickly with employees who are likely to succeed.

Even employees who show great potential will likely need leadership training before they’re ready for an executive role. It’s a good idea to build leadership modules into your learning management system (LMS) and provide that training to employees you want to invest in.

If the right candidates are available, inside hires usually perform better and are less expensive than their external counterparts. External hires are about 61 percent more likely to be let go from their jobs than internal hires, and they cost about 18 percent more. Internal hires already have connections in place and an understanding of the inner workings of the business. It won’t take them as long to get up to speed in their new role, and they’ll know who to ask when they need help.

Also read: Building a Strong Executive Team: Succession Planning & Tackling the Bus Problem

Hard personnel decisions are critical for your business

Difficult personnel decisions may not be fun, but they are critical for a business to succeed. Organizations who refuse to fire people may find that their good employees are leaving for places they’ll be more appreciated, and they’re left with workers who aren’t meeting their needs. But organizations that fire people too often will lose out on workers with great potential who just needed a little coaching.

Personnel decisions can be easier with the right performance management system to give you detailed looks into how each of your employees is faring. To find the right software for your business, use our Product Selection Tool. It takes as little as five minutes to get a free, customized list of software recommendations.