blog article on how to get your employees back on track if they are unhappy

“Steve’s technically very good, but he’s so negative at the moment, he’s dragging everyone else down around him.”

“Linh’s our ‘go-to’ person.  We want to give her a development opportunity that will help her to better manage her career.”

Comments like these are a common start to a phone call from a worried HR Manager asking me to help. In the early days, I delivered the service but didn’t know what to call it.  These days, I call it Career Compass, for self-evident reasons.

We all know that engaged employees lead to increased productivity, retention, customer loyalty and profitability. So what can you do to focus the right employee on re-connecting and the wrong employee on stepping off the bus?

In the 2009 Global Benchmarking Study by Right Management, employees assessed themselves as follows:

  • Stars – likely to outperform and stay: 34%
  • Free Agents – likely to outperform but leave as soon as the opportunity arises: 7%
  • Benchwarmers – likely to underperform and leave: 9%
  • Disengaged – likely to underperform and leave: 50%

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help your staff decide whether it’s stay or go time.  It’s my favourite work. Generally for the first time in their working life, my client does some career navel-gazing.  Over the years, I can remember some outstanding moments. 

The wrong people off the bus… Peter just didn’t want to work closely with people on a day-to-day basis.

Peter had been an external consultant to a government department.  He was so good that they brought him in as an employee.  It turned out badly and neither party was happy!  Peter completed our simple but telling analysis and realised that there was zero connection between what was important to him in a career and in a workplace and his current situation.  I’ve never seen anything like it – he resigned the very next day.

The right people in the right seats…Catrina had been with the firm for 6 years and was wondering if it was just time to move on.

Another Executive I worked with, Catrina, had lost her mojo.  Her boss was talking about significant changes in her role, and she took it as a criticism of her work and was struggling with motivation.  At the end of our program, Catrina realised that she did want to stay at the firm and decided to take a more active role in her career.  She designed some changes to her job to present to her boss, she did a Gap Analysis to identify future development opportunities and she was as keen as mustard to get started.

What’s in it for the Organisation?

Typically, Free Agents and Stars feel valued by the support they receive from their organisation.  They respond with energy and re-confirm their engagement with your organisation. 

Benchwarmers and the Disengaged understand the negative effect of the disconnect between their career priorities and your organisation.

Consider the words of Good to Great author, Jim Collins: “Companies that make the change from good to great…don’t “motivate” people—their people are self-motivated.”

I find that our Career Compass program helps an organisation to deliver on its long term engagement strategy, with a clear focus on self-motivation. It keeps the right people on the bus and allows the wrong people to understand that they may need to get off the bus, with dignity.

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