But here’s the deal with people…a.k.a human beings: They’re fickle; they chase shiny objects; they fall in and out of love (and like). Sometimes they’re superstars and sometimes they’re vagabonds. And when it comes to their role in the workplace, all of this holds true. As much as we’d like to think we can make even the worst of human beings the best of performers – the most productive contributors – we’re wrong. We’re dead wrong.
There’s an interesting (read “maddening”) debate brewing over at Focus.Com right now on whether “culling” your stagnant resources makes sense in a talent management strategy. First of all, there’s all sorts of huffing and puffing around whether a resource can actually be “stagnant.” The term I use (quite fondly) is ‘deadwood.’ Yeah, that’s right. You can be one hell of an unproductive resource who has fallen prey to apathy, has lost a purpose, has lost a passion. You are no longer a going concern for the business. Maybe – and that’s a really freakin’ big ‘maybe’ – you still have a small spark waiting to be rekindled. But the pragmatic question for HR Professionals then becomes, “Is that resource worth our time, energy, and money likely to be expended in this rekindling exercise?”
The CEO of Focus, Scott Albro, really summed it all up for me when he wrote, “the consensus today is that poor performance and stagnation is a leadership problem as opposed to a talent problem. And there’s a reason for this – true leaders are outnumbered.” Amen, my brother. Do you know what true leaders do? Well, I can tell you what they don’t do. They don’t cow tow. They don’t avoid the tough decision. And they don’t tolerate mediocrity. It happens. Even the best of performers lose their ummph. Any sense of engagement or affiliation they once had starts to fade. They get stale. Some employees just hit an expiration date. It doesn’t matter how good your leadership team is, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve tried to create a lasting career experience for your employees; expiration is no more unnatural in the employment life-cycle than it is in the life life-cycle.
Stop pretending our job is to make every human being live up to their greatest potential. That’s an interesting aspiration, but it’s not our job, dammit. Take a measured approach, gather the right data, ask the right questions. But find the junk that’s gone bad and help your leaders take it off the shelf.