You've gone through the hard process of hiring. Countless interviews, hours of pouring over resumes, and you've finally found the one! Most managers at this point are chomping at the bit to make the offer. However, it's a huge mistake to skip one last step- reference calls.
Why? Well, there are countless horror stories out there on the internet of managers who discovered that their dream employee was actually a convicted embezzler or quit their last job in a flourish of sabotage. However, on a less dramatic scale, talking to references gives you valuable insight into how employees actually behave in the workplace. So far, all you have to go off of is the word of your potential new superstar. We all want to think the best of ourselves though. Talking to a former manager can give you a sense of what it's really like to work with this employee.
I'd also advise avoiding an emailed questionnaire. You get a lot more context from a phone call than you do an email. The reference's tone of voice and inflection can give you insight that you may have not gathered otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and probe deeper into the comments they made.
My favorite questions to ask references include:
We've all been there. You like your employee. They're a great person, they've got a family to support, but their performance just isn't what it needs to be. As a manager, you need to give them feedback. Like many of us, you may be tempted to try and deliver your feedback in the nicest way possible. However, this actually may do more harm than good!
When managers sugarcoat their feedback, what often happens is that the specifics get lost in the attempt to make your criticism as nice as possible. Employees may leave the conversation confused as to what they need to do or worse- they have no idea they just received a critique! So how do you deliver feedback without losing the message in the niceness? Here's my advice:
1. Be clear and to the point
Make sure you're making the point in crystal-clear language. This may seem harsh, so I like to start with a compliment, then move into the critique. For example, "Ann, I really appreciate your positivity and the energy you bring to our team. However, your sales have been below 20% this past month. What's going on?"
2. Lay out expectations and consequences
Often, managers leave the conversation open-ended without clearly laying out what they need to see going forwards. This puts employees at a huge disadvantage, as they can't reach your goals if they don't know what they are! Say something like "I need to see your sales above 20% by May 1st. Otherwise, we'll need to terminate your employment. Given that, what can I do to support you so we can get your sales back up?"
3. Follow up via email
After the conversation, document what was said in clear terms via email. I like using bullet points for this. State what issue was addressed, what the expectation is (including a deadline), and what you can offer to help them overcome this issue. By sending this email, you make sure that the employee doesn't forget anything that was said during the meeting, especially if emotions were high.
Change is hard. But what may be even harder is managing that change. Managers face a slew of complaints, concerns, and more when changes are implemented. However, it doesn't need to be a nightmare. Here's my secret to addressing the top complaints you'll hear when change is coming and how to avoid headaches down the road.
1. But that's the way we've always done it!
Lord, this complaint is one of my biggest pet peeves. Change is a good thing- otherwise women wouldn't have the right to vote, alcohol would still be illegal, and your cell phone wouldn't exist! While I certainly don't advocate change simply for change's own sake, it's important to grow and develop to avoid becoming obsolete. When met with this objection, I like to make sure that I'm being completely transparent about why the change is taking place. Many employees may not normally be given the reason for change- they're just told that change is happening, end of story. By explaining the reasoning, you allow them to become invested in the change and see the benefits, especially ways that the change will benefit them as employees. Now, some employees will dig their heels in just for the sake of being contrary. However, for most reasonable employees, if the change is soundly based in logic, simply explaining why can be enough to dispel this objection.
2. We don't have time for that
Often, implementing change involves a workload that's higher than normal. However, any good project manager will have a plan in place to address this. Determine what projects or tasks may need to be pushed back to accommodate this. Get feedback from your team members so that you can make them feel valued and get a realistic understanding of how the change will affect their workload. Consider bringing in a temp during the transitional period. Then, communicate this all to your team upfront.
3. We tried that before and it didn't work
For long-time employees, this can be a common and reasonable concern. If they've seen time wasted on an initiative in the past, why why it be any different this time? This is why its important that prior to implement change you look at the history of the organization and get feedback from employees. If its been a failed attempt in the past, why did it fail? What are you going to do that's different? Then, communicate this to your staff up front.
Seeing a theme here? The best way to avoid objection and push back is clear and early communicate. By gathering feedback from your staff, they feel invested in the success of the project. Addressing their objections up front allows you to both get their buy in and address any roadblocks that you may have not anticipated.
Now, go forth and make that change happen!