Human Resources: Employee Recognition, Training and Discipline

A. Employee Orientation
Starting a new job is exciting. It's also nerve-racking, especially if the new employee is coming to your company after being with his former employer for many years. Gone are the days of familiarity and comfort. All of a sudden this new employee has entered uncharted waters and is praying that he's steered his ship to his next great destination – this new company! New employees are leaving comfort for the unexpected. By providing a great first day and an initial orientation program, new employees will be made to feel welcome and a part of the team.
If it's a large company, the employee might attend a full-day program of orientation with other new hires from the past month or so. Smaller companies may opt for having a team of two to five staff members and supervisors who will show the new employee around for the first few days to get him acclimated. The manager of the department is the key person in making the "new guy" feel a part of the team. Regardless of the type and size of the orientation, a few things other co-workers and management can do to make that new employee feel at home include:

- Begin with the most important information – for basic job survival.

- Share some history about the company and the team that he or she will be working with, as well as some of the current projects.

- Talk about the company's mission, and how each team goes about accomplishing their part of the whole.

- Introduce, but remember that the new employee probably won't remember everybody right away. By explaining each team member's role, and what they do for the company, the new employee will make a more memorable connection. Space out introductions if you can.

- Emphasize getting to know people just as much as the policies and procedures of the company.

- Assign a buddy or co-worker who has been with the company a while and is willing to work with, and be there for, the new employee during the transition.50

B. Training
Ideally when an employer hires a new staff member, that person comes to the new job with a particular skill set and doesn't need much training. That said, there may be a need for internal training on the company's systems, and on how the company handles certain situations or executes particular initiatives. Some training topics may include communications, computer skills, customer service, diversity, ethics, human relations, quality initiatives, safety, and sexual harassment.51 By offering training at the beginning of employment, as well as ongoing training, an employer can close the gap between desired and actual performance, help employees to problem-solve and use the same common vocabulary across all departments, and learn from each other. More about training and developmental activities will be discussed in Chapter 7.

C. Motivating and Recognizing Staff Members
What makes people tick? What motivates them to want to do a really great job with the task at hand? Successful managers actually get to know employees as individuals first, and then determine which individuals have the best skill set for certain tasks that will help reach the team's common goal. Getting to know a person's beliefs, motivators, special concerns, ambitions, and life goals is the first step to learning what really motivates a person.

People crave recognition. But recognition doesn't have to be bells and whistles and tooting a horn in front of a large crowd. By acknowledging a person's interests, spouse and children's names, hobbies, schools and specific personality traits, a manager is taking an interest in his employee – just by showing that interest is a motivator. It says to the employee, "Wow, my manager actually cares about me, not just the job he wants me to do." Having the feeling of being part of the organization is a huge driver in worker production. Great salaries and benefits are terrific too, but people want to be more than just a cog in the machine. They want to feel like their manager is listening to their ideas and suggestions, and that they're a part of the whole big picture.

Positive reinforcement is always a great motivator. Many managers are always correcting or adjusting their employees' work to their satisfaction, instead of appreciating the employees' ability to do things his/her way and still get the job done well. Criticism just reinforces bad behavior, while positive reinforcement and recognition of the things done well only breeds more positive outcomes. A tangible acknowledgment of a job well done sometimes makes more of an impression, like a thank you card, something to hang on the wall, or keeping a success file or journal. Here are a few more tips for effective praising:51

- Don't overdo it.

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- Be sincere.

- Be specific about the reason for your praise.

- Ask your associates for advice

- Publicize praise.

Public praise among peers is a great motivator, as well, and offers the opportunity to showcase an employee's talents. It actually works in two ways: It recognizes the employee for a job well done, and also motivates other employees in the company to strive to be at this level and receive the same recognition. Company-wide programs allow employees at all levels within the organization to participate.

Employee of the Month: An associate every month is recognized by supervisors and peers and then receives special awards and perks like cash, a day off without pay, merchandise, wall plaques, or sometimes even a special parking space for the month.

Team Recognition: This is similar to the employee of the month program, but instead of an individual receiving the award (which can sometimes have drawbacks like resentment, overexposure, and lack of team spirit), Team Recognition encourages teamwork and provides the same types of recognition awards and perks as other programs.

Peer Recognition: Peers can nominate other peers to be recognized for outstanding service or work. This program allows employees to recognize the work of their peers that might not have been recognized by managers.

D. Performance Assessments and Reviews
The dreaded review. Everyone wants a raise but no one wants to hear about the "things in need of improvement." When done well, a performance assessment and review process actually plays upon some of the similar ways of motivating an employee by using positive reinforcement. There are various types of performance assessments, like The Trait System (checking off boxes from excellent all the way down to unsatisfactory), results-based evaluations, collaborative evaluations, self-evaluations, and the 360-degree assessment.52

Results-based reviews can be used in any situation or position where results are measurable. Supervisors who do the review focus on the attainment of specific results for specific tasks or for team goals. It also helps in providing feedback and review for areas like management development, reaching personal goals, and making collaborative efforts, which aren't as tangible as reaching a sales goal. People doing the evaluating don't have to rely on subjective judgment of a person's skills; the review process is a bit more black and white. The manager and employee set goals from the beginning, so that the employee understands the expected results. During the review, the employee will learn (if he doesn't already know) if he achieved those goals.

Collaborative evaluations are designed for jobs more along the lines of research and development, or the arts. They are used in team settings where team members can join supervisors to determine the standards that are expected, and then decide on the criteria used to judge and evaluate the work. Team member and supervisor then complete the review or evaluation together. A variation of the collaborative review is a self-evaluation, where the employee literally reviews his own performance, in writing, prior to meeting with his supervisor. Both employee and supervisor complete the same review form, but separately. Then they discuss together the similarities and differences as to how they each perceive the employee's performance. Then both evaluations are filed in the employee's file.

Lastly, the 360-degree assessment is when managers are evaluated by their bosses, peers, and subordinates -- and sometimes even outside vendors and customers. While there are advantages to this type of review, including having the manager truly see how she is perceived by all others that she works with, there are downfalls, as well. Some people aren't always positive and feel they have to be critical in their assessment. Conflicting opinions also can arise, and there isn't one clear-cut person who can decide who is right or wrong. To make these work, the appraisal must be anonymous and confidential.54

E. Taking Disciplinary Action
If you're going to take disciplinary action with an employee, make sure you write it down and keep copious notes of all discussions and actions taken in the process. In this day and age, if it's not written down, there's a good chance "it didn't happen." Keep good records. A written action is taken much more seriously than a verbal one. Always make sure that you have acknowledgment of the disciplinary action from the employee, as well. While you can't force someone to sign a document, you can get a witness to acknowledge that you asked the employee to sign and he refused. From a legal standpoint, it's advantageous to have employees sign all of these warnings when they're written. A typical disciplinary scenario may go something like this:

- An informal warning is given about a particular problem and the warning is usually casual at the employee's desk. The supervisor warns that the behavior should not be repeated.

- A formal disciplinary interview occurs in the supervisor's office and the employee is warned that future violations will not be tolerated.

- A written warning is given, sometimes as part of the formal interview, and placed in the employee's file.

- Probation is when the supervisor gives the employee a specified period of time to get back on track.

- Suspension occurs without pay for a specified period of time.

Termination says, "That's it, there are no more strikes, you're out."55 Terminations and firing will be discussed in Chapter 8.