Everyone under the sun is crazy about hiring top employees. Well, I'm the same.

But let's be real: Even if you try your best to hire only A players, you can't get it right 100 percent of the time -- which means there will be some folks in your team who don't perform up to standard.

So how do you deal with them? Just get rid of them? Well, if you believe in top-grading like I do, you might be tempted to do that.

Before you pull a classic Trump and spit out those words "you're fired", take a step back and do this instead: Nudge them in the right direction, and help them improve.

Why? One word: leverage.

Getting your bottom five percent of employees to row faster in the right direction will create exponential results. On the other hand, getting your top five percent of employees -- which will be a much smaller bunch than the bottom five percent -- to do the same will only create incremental results.

Here's how master marketer Seth Godin puts it in a November blog post:

"If you care about health and a culture of performance, it's tempting to push Olympic athletes to go just a tenth of a second faster. It's far more effective, though, if you can get 3,000,000 kids to each spend five more minutes a day walking instead of sitting."

Brilliant. So, how can you improve the performance of your bottom five percent of employees? Here are a few tactics of mine:

1. Rope in your best employees.

Yes, a competitive company culture is great, but you also want to create the sort of environment that encourages your employees to help each other and work together collaboratively.  

With my company, I always get my best performers to share how they manage to achieve their awesome results. We do it in morning meetings every single day.

It's easy enough to try this with your team. At the start of each meeting, ask your best employees to share their tips and best practices with the entire team. You'd be amazed at how rapidly some of your staff will improve after given a few tested-and-proven pointers.

2. Make experience-based training part of your company culture.

Look, not all forms of training were made equal. The key to effectively scaling performance? Experience-based training, not boring textbook-based training.

At my company, we re-purpose our employees' call logs and use them as training material. Every time an employee speaks to a customer, we automatically capture the call. These recordings are uploaded into our CRM, for use as training videos. When our employees want to work on their sales skills, they can easily log into a centralized dashboard and watch the videos.

You can try this with your company, too. If video is too daunting, just interview your top employees about how they achieved a certain result, and get them to write down a step-by-step process. Then, distribute the material among your whole team (especially the under-performers!).

3. Have an early alarm system via your CRM.

I always love saying "inspect what you expect," but how do you actually do it? You can't rely on one manager or even a team to monitor your employees -- you need an automated system that will nip poor performance in the bud.  

Here's an example: Our CRM stores call record entries by all employees, and if someone does  something out of the norm, say not following up with a prospect within a day, then the system flags that immediately. Think of it this way: the earlier you identify poor performance, the sooner you can fix it.

Now, technology is great, but don't let that become an excuse to not improve your processes. Start by drawing out an organizational chart, defining each job role's key metrics, and getting your employees to submit weekly reports detailing whether they've achieved these metrics.

When I first started building my team, I thought nothing about firing under-performers. After all, employees either "had it" or they didn't, right? Now that I've been an entrepreneur and a leader for over a decade, my perspective has changed a bit. I've learned that in every team, there are always diamonds in the rough who can contribute -- if given the right knowledge and tools.

Published on: Feb 16, 2018
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