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Employee Performance:
Do You Have Fizzlers or Sizzlers?

By Jay Forte

In today’s workplace, employee performance follows the the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) – 80 percent of employees fizzle, 20 percent of employees sizzle. The 80 percent of employees who fizzle are are weak and disinterested performers who do just enough not to get fired. The 20 percent of employees who sizzle are passionate and engaged performers, committed to making a difference. How can any organization be successful if only a small percentage (20 percent) are actively driving service responses and results? The better question is why does this happen?

The twenty percenters are employees who are well matched to their jobs; they are intellectually connected to their work (they have the right talents and skills) and are emotionally connected to their work (it activates their passions and interests). Intellectual and emotional – this combination creates a high-performing employee; it empowers an employee to be confident, committed and engaged; it encourages an employee to think and act like an owner. Attracting, hiring and retaining “great fit” employees is a critical responsibility of today’s managers.

Intellectual connection (right talents and skills) is required in today’s workplace. For an employee to be productive, he or she first must not only skills, but must also have the core talents and thinking required to do the particular job well. This encourages employee confidence, competence and commitment. The more this happens, the stronger the employee’s response. Employees who work in jobs that do not match their talents and skills feel incapable … and then fizzle out.

Emotional connection (passion) is actually a more important component of employee fit and performance. Research presented in the book Human Sigma by Dr. John Fleming and Jim Asplund, supports that a dissatisfied customer and a satisfied customer buy nearly the same volume (this seems contrary to rational thinking but their studies prove it to be true). A loyal customer, however, buys significantly more than a satisfied customer. The only difference between the satisfied and loyal customers is the loyal customer is emotionally connected to the brand, product or organization. This emotional connection makes all the difference. The same principle follows with employees. Satisfied and unhappy employees (80 percent of the workforce) perform at nearly the same level – average; loyal employees (20 percent of the workforce) perform at significantly greater levels. And the reason for the increased performance is the emotional connection the employees feel with their jobs and managers. Employees who work in jobs that activate their passions, values and interests become emotionally connected to their work and to their performance.

Today, it is a responsibility of management to ignite employee performance. This is done by ensuring an intellectual connection  and an emotional connection. This is the formula for customer and employee loyalty.

So, let’s see it in practice. Here are several employee performance or attitude problems that can be addressed by either reconnecting the employee intellectually  and/or reconnecting the employee emotionally. Review your employees and determine who is an eighty percenter, and then create a plan for how to move the employee to twenty percenterperformance.

Performance problems – set 1:

  • Employees constantly threaten to quit, are critical of others, blame others.

  • Employees can’t achieve their basic job description requirements, other performance expectations or continually miss deadlines.

  • Employees do as little as possible and show no real effort in any aspect of their work.

  • Employees need significantly more praise, affirmation and attention.

  • Employees need constant instruction, guidance and hand-holding.

  • If these are happening in your workplace, your employees do not feel capable or confident in their work.

Consider: Reconnect employees intellectually by assessing employee talents and realigning employees to jobs that better match their talents and skills. Use a talent assessment (there are many online) to identify natural strengths and abilities. By aligning employees to roles that use their best attributes, they feel more connected, competent and engaged. For example: Employees whose talents are more social are better matched to roles that put them in front of people (sales, service) and not in a cubicle. Employees who are more analytical are more comfortable and capable with details and procedures (accounting, engineering) than with people. Employees who have strong controlling talents (they like to be in charge) are more effective in leadership and solo performance roles. Employees who have strong supportive talents are more effective in management, team and collaborative roles.

Knowing your employee’s talents is the first step in matching the employee to the right job. Fit is critical to activate an employee’s intellectual connection.

Performance problems – set 2:

  • Employees show little or no passion in their work, workplace or team.

  • Employees are constantly unhappy, critical or negative.

  • Employees show little or no enthusiasm; they are visibly bored.

  • Employees seem detached, disconnected and are the last ones in and the first ones out each day; they do only the minimum and need constant supervision.

  • If these are happening in your workplace, your employees are not finding a personal connection to or passion in their work.

Consider: Reconnect employees emotionally by customizing their jobs around their talents, values and interests, and in things that are meaningful to the business This actively involves their passions in a way that adds value to the company. For example:

  • A customer service employee who also loves to write, may feel more emotionally connected to his job if he can also prepare the company newsletter, write about the company for trade journals or host a column on the company intranet.

  • A sales employee who is also great at organizing, may feel more emotionally connected to his job if he can organize a company event, party, meeting or product announcement (not part of his regular job).

  • A driver who also loves to teach, may create and host a program that reviews driving regulations, how to better load a truck and how to drive defensively for all new drivers.

  • A soon-to-be-retiring manager may feel more engaged when paired with younger employees to mentor, coach and guide them in their performance.

A workplace of sizzlers has employees who are connected intellectually (they have the right talents and skills) and emotionally (they are passionate) to their work. They become max-performers because they feel capable, confident and passionately connected to what they do. Focus on these two components to revive any employee to passionate-performance status; your results depend on it.

Read other articles and learn more about Jay Forte.

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