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If you can’t change the people, change the people

Without a doubt this has to be one of my favourite sayings. I am not sure when or where I first heard it; however, it has stuck with me for many years and I believe it to be the foundation of good leadership, management and human resource practices. For HR Pros, it really cuts to the heart of what we do initially from a talent management perspective. Talent Management is all about onboarding, training, development, workplace cultural integration and building your bench strength.

Time for changeIn many ways, talent management is about trying to change the people. It focuses on changing the people that your talent acquisition folks have brought into your organization. In this case, change refers to how you culturally integrate and onboard new hires. It is imperative that this “change” is managed properly because if you want to retain the talent you have hired, your HR folks and leaders need to effectively onboard your new people and expose them to your workplace norms, values and culture so as to ensure an effective transition into the new workplace. Effective talent management groups, along with great leaders, are very adept at helping new folks navigate this process and integrate into their workplace which results in those great 1st year retention metrics we are all striving for! The best HR Pros and managers are great at leveraging their new hires knowledge, skills, abilities and differences to help them “fit in” all the while allowing them to maintain their own individual identities and unique differences – leveraging diversity.

The challenge for HR Pros, managers and leaders comes down the road when your new hires, who may not be so new anymore, are not performing or are struggling with adapting to the organizational values for which you stand. For reasons of clarity and brevity I am going to assume the following things have taken place up to this point (i.e. when the “struggles” have started.)

1) If the reasons for the employee’s struggles are performance based, a detailed performance improvement plan has been put in place, regular communication has taken place, and clear performance objectives have been established and are being measured.

2) If the reasons’ for the struggles are more related to conduct – i.e., not accepting core values, demonstrating core competencies, etc., then the manager and employee have been meeting regularly and their coaching sessions have been focused on modelling the appropriate behaviours.

Big assumptions I know, but work with me on this one folks! So assuming those things have happened and there has been an appropriate amount of time over which these conversations and coaching sessions have taken place, it may be time to consider changing the people. What I am getting at here is that the organization has taken all the right steps up to this point during the employee life cycle. They have effectively onboarded and oriented the employee, they have outlined clear performance goals and objectives (with measures) and provided coaching and support of these goals; including the modeling of organizational values. The thing is, sometimes it just doesn’t work out! If, organizationally speaking, you can look back and put hand on heart and state that you have done all the right things and made the right attempts to “change the people,” than you have to make the decision to change the people.

The worse thing that companies (managers) do is to continue to employ someone after it is obvious that they are not going to change – either their performance or their attitude. The best thing you can do for them, the company and your current employees is to let them go – in essence, change the people.  As I said before, if you have done all the right things and made the attempts to change them, and it simply isn’t working out, than you have to change the people.

Truth be told, I have seen this scenario play out countless times and typically, when you change the people, if the reasons were performance based, the person being let go is often relieved. They probably hated everyday of their job coming in to work to do something they just couldn’t do or didn’t want to do. If you are changing the people because of conduct (attitude) reasons, your current staff will thank you. They will appreciate that you have removed a cancerous co-worker from their midst and they can now focus on their own productivity! It demonstrates, organizationally, that you committed to your core values and to performance. Your good folks will see this and respect the decisions that have been made.

So, as managers, leaders and HR Pros, I firmly believe that we owe it to our employees and our organizations to manage our people according to this mantra. We need to give serious consideration to adopting this saying as a way of running our HR departments, operations groups and businesses as a whole. Remember, at the end of the day, if you can’t change the people, than you need to change the people – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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