“If you’ve got 16 employees, at least two are turkeys”
So said Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric. I was reminded of Welch’s attitude towards people while reading the blog from Tom Peters, the co-author of “In Search of Excellence”, and it got me thinking:
Is there a ratio of turkeys in every organization?
Welch did many interesting things in his tenure as CEO, was very bright, and developed some of the best managers around, he also had a downside. He invested heavily in management training, and part of the result was a company that was very profitable with high growth and growing stock price. He began his tenure in the early 1980s by laying off thousands of GE employees, for which he was dubbed “Neutron Jack” after the neutron bomb – the buildings were left standing but the people were gone. In the end, GE grew and added employees to make this happen.
He had his downsides, such as his 10% rule. Each year, those managers whose performance was ranked in the bottom 10 percent were counseled out of the company. In his view, the bar is always being raised.
People are funny -we’ve all seen people who perform poorly in one organization, or under one manager, who go on someplace else and shine. Employees are not disposable. If someone isn’t working out, maybe the company is the problem. After the time, effort and money spent on recruiting and training an employee, isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to see that this person becomes a great performer? Is it reasonable to assume that somewhere out there is a person who will outperform the person in front of you, and that you can recruit that person?
All this comes back to the hiring process. I’ve done enough job hunting to see how badly so many places make it to even apply for an open position. My favorite are the two line, blind ads that ask people to fax in a resume. Right. We’re so concerned about our privacy and scams out there, what’s to say that your little ad doesn’t look like a scam? Be proud – you have a good practice, you need good people. Good people will be discerning as to where they apply – they’ll pass up wasting time on the unknown, or they need to be cautious as to where they apply.
I’ll spend more time on interviewing and recruiting later this spring, but let me say this: get to know the person you’re planning to hire. Character, personality and brains are worth much more than someone who has already done the job before.
Back to the turkey ratio: I do believe in evaluations, but I believe in evaluations that work to help people grow and improve. They don’t have to aspire to higher positions, but learning more and developing skills is something of value to you as an employer.
As for the turkeys: when you find them, just set them free. And be respectful when you do.