In completing the assignment, I developed an outline I called the “Nine-Layer Onion.” These days, students in the Performance Management class I teach at University of Nevada Reno Extended Studies have told me they find the questions and answers generated by the Nine-Layer Onion to be useful.
When faced with an employee performance problem which impedes your store profitability, peel away the layers one-by-one until you find the cause and have taken effective corrective action. At each layer, shape the employee’s behavior with well-formed questions to yourself:
- Situational problem. Does this appear to be a short-term problem? If so, put your energies into addressing other issues while keeping an eye on the employee.
- Expectations. How well have you communicated to the employee specifically what you expect? Busy retailers too often assume that new employees are aware of the difficulties caused by flawed behavior.
- Trust. Does the employee trust what you’re saying? A store’s mission, vision, and values statements come across as meaningless if the owner/operator fails to exemplify them.
- Resources. Does the employee have sufficient time to learn the skills and to carry out the behaviors you’re requiring?
- Incentive/disincentive ratio. Are the incentives for doing what you ask sufficient to overcome the disincentives? A disincentive might be social rejection by coworkers for raising the bar. Or it might be time away from family.
- Self-management skills. For instance, is the employee a perfectionist who spends too much time on a task? If self-management is the issue, teach project management skills.
- Technical skills. Yes, this should be obvious at first, but it often lies buried.
- Interpersonal skills. Do you find yourself calling it a problem of “attitude”? Because attitude is difficult to discuss with an employee, it often works best to leave it alone and address the earlier layers first. If you do get to this point, describe to the employee a set of behaviors as examples of what you want rather than talking in terms of attitudes.
- Disability. If all else hasn’t corrected the problem, does the employee have a disability as defined in the American with Disabilities Act? Before probing here, ask yourself if you’re sure you know your legal obligations to accommodate disabilities.
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Manage Staff Performance with Respect