Why Employees Don’t Do What You Hired Them To Do

Learn six non-effective and six effective responses.

In my experience, most employees join your company with enthusiasm and they have a desire to contribute and make a difference. They certainly don’t start working with you to cause problems and become less and less productive until they leave or you ask them to leave. So why don’t people do what you want them to do?

The problem is usually related to your management practices. Often the hiring process is an interruption of regular business operation usually seen as a burden. Because of this, managers don’t take the time required to create the best results. Halfhearted efforts to onboard may be seen as insincere. Often new employees are left to fend for themselves, to “sink or swim.” They may feel neglected and disillusioned when managers are too busy to take the time to train and mentor them. Without the proper attention, new employees may be indoctrinated and influenced by the unstated culture or “the way things are really done around here.” Usually only then do they turn into the “problem” or frustrating employees I most often hear about.

It takes a conscious and concerted effort to help your new employees get off to a good start and learn good habits. Sometimes even with proper on boarding and training, employees don’t do what you need. Not only is it important they know what to do and how to do it, they must understand the “why!” An employees beliefs about the job is a powerful influence on behavior.

A recent situation I became aware of involves a new office manager who is responsible for the customer service representatives. She recently hired two new CSR’s with great experience who were excited to join the team. The office manager complained she was too busy to train, in reality she was reluctant to let go of control. Within a month of hiring, these two new employees began having conflict. Experience was not enough to overcome the lack of training.

I began working with the office manager to help improve the situation. As we were role playing, I learned of small behavioral problem with the most experienced CSR. She refused to use a headset, which reduced the number of calls she was able to take shifting the burden to other team members. She prided herself on excellent customer service citing Yelp reviews as justification. She claimed she could not hear on the headset. However, when she used the handset, she had to take time after the call to make notes, were as, if she used the headset, she could make notes as she talked and provide great customer service to more customers. Receiving a new headset did not cause a behavior change. Only after we explained and demonstrated the benefits to our customers and the team did her behavior change.

Problems like these would be much easier solved with proper initial training. When the training is not given, managers may be shocked that employees they thought would be great,….aren’t. Managers respond in many different ways when people do not do what they want them to do or disappointing behavior emerges. The responses are usually tied to the manager’s personality and level of experience.

Here is a list of non-effective management behaviors you may recognize:

  1. Ostrich theory:

    This is about doing nothing and hoping the problem will go away. Are you really surprised when things do not change?

  2. Auto-correct:

    Employees are told what the problem is and is it up to them to fix it. What if they don’t know how?

  3. Persuading:

    Person is told about a problem and then told, “here is how I would fix it.” People will have much greater buy-in if they own the solution. Your approach may not be the best for everyone. Recognize there is more than one answer or approach to solving a problem.

  4. Group grope:

    I see this all the time. A manager is fed up with the behavior of a few people and so a meeting is called and everyone has to hear about the problem. This approach is ineffective for several reasons. First it demotivates your good employees who are doing what you asked. Second, the offenders may now feel let off the hook because the general address makes it seem this is a wider problem. This helps them justify they are not the only one with the problem and can make it harder to get change. Plus, just don’t do it!

  5. Announcing:

    Some executives announce the problem and declare how the problem will be fixed. Usually as an ultimatum. This rarely works because you have almost no buy-in. I see parents of mis-behaving children make threats and not follow-through. You just empower your kids and employees to not take you seriously and ignore you.

  6. Replacing:

    You fire the person because they did not do what you wanted. I have seen this approach very often. Managers actually think this is an effective accountability tool that sends a message to others. It is actually very poor accountability. It is usually an indictment of effete of poor management and usually sends the wrong message unless it is clearly justified.

Here are some suggestions to help people do what you hired them to do:

  1. Give them a “why”:

    In addition to knowing what and how to do things; employees need to understand why to do things. This is an important step that will make an impact on behavior. How people see the task or behavior they are asked to do impacts their behavior as in the headset example. The office manager did not initially explain the “why”. When people understand the “why”, it is easier to overcome the beliefs needed to change behavior.

  2. I.H.O.T.:

    If your employees know what, how, and why to do things and they still won’t, it is time to use “I.H.O.T.” or “I have observed that…” This is an effective coaching methodology. See article “How To Get Your People To Change Today.”

  3. Modeling:

    Set the example of the behavior you want. You may have heard the saying: “the beatings will continue until morale improves!” This sounds funny and I have seen variations of it happen often. If you want better customer service, treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers. If you want them to listen to you, listen to them. If you want them to follow-through, make sure you always follow-through. Some managers think they are exempt from the rules. This hypocrisy will destroy your credibility and your ability to affect change.

  4. Have a plan:

    Go into your behavior change initiatives with a plan. Avoid shooting from the hip. If you feel you need help with your plan, find a trusted advisor in your HR department, a senior executive, mentor, coach, etc. Review your plans with someone outside your department or organization. This will allow you to get objective feedback and improve the approach for the best results. Practice your approach. I often role-play with my clients. I pretend to be the challenging employee or have them give me the objections they hear and we practice potential responses. This is great for managers with less experience. It will give them greater confidence to address problems more effectively.

  5. Know thyself:

    Understand what help you need. Be willing to admit you don’t know how to handle some situations. Find the resources you need. Many managers get a promotion and they are so focused on proving they are right for the job, they think they have to have all the answers. It is better to admit that you don’t know everything, and then you will be more willing to learn. Understand your behavior patterns, your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This will help you be aware which ineffective behaviors above to avoid and how to approach the problem which includes understanding your behavior preferences, motivators, and de motivators and those of your employee. Each manger has different strengths and can approach the problem differently. There is no one approach to every problem.

  6. Recognition:

    Recognize good behaviors and behavior improvement. Many managers miss this for several reasons. One, they don’t need recognition so they don’t give it. This is related to the fundamental attribution error. Another reason is lack of time, or you feel people should not need to be praised for what you pay them to do. People will do more of what you incentivize them to do. Incentives do not have to be pecuniary. They can be a sincere, acknowledgment, or more public recognition based on the behavior.

Most employees are excited to make a difference when they join your company. It is up to you to determine if they stay that way by helping them succeed from the minute they join your team.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Related topics: Disengagement And The “Love What You Do Myth”; Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; One Reason A Healthy Culture Is Essential; The Power Of Accountability

The Benefits of Investing in Human Capital

Business executives are always asking training professionals to justify investing in internal and external training. These decision makers want to understand the return on investment (ROI) as they might with a new software program or a marketing campaign. Many also ask why leadership training? There is enough data available on training, including data on Rapport’s training, to justify an executive’s investment in their most valuable asset…their people.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand the current global economy. One of the greatest challenges that organizations face in their quest to thrive, is the ability to change. Thousands of companies have failed while others are thriving. The difference is those that are thriving have the ability to adapt and meet the new market realities. The quicker an organization can change, the sooner they are able to thrive. What allows companies to adapt and change is a culture of leadership.

Emeritus Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, worldwide speaker, and the author of seven bestselling business books, John P. Kotter states: “Powerful macroeconomic forces are at work here, and these forces may grow even stronger over the next few decades. As a result, more and more organizations will be pushed to reduce costs, improve the quality of products and services, locate new opportunities for growth and increase productivity…..Leadership…creates organizations…and adapts them to significantly changing circumstances.” (Leading Change, John P. Kotter, pp. 3, 25.)

In 2008, IBM came to a similar conclusion in its Global Human Capital Study: “More than ever, today’s global organizations are focusing their time and attention on maximizing the value of their workforces. As corporations, nonprofits and government entities are becoming more globally integrated, and as traditional geographic and competitive boundaries disappear, the need to identify, develop and connect talent has never been more critical.”

The study surveyed senior HR executives from 400 companies in 40 different countries. The executives identified the importance of an adaptable workforce that can rapidly respond to changes in the outside market and leadership to guide individuals through change and deliver results. These companies also cited a lack of leadership capability as one of their top workforce challenges.

Successful organizations are acutely aware of the need for leadership development and the numerous benefits of leadership training:
• “The goal of leadership is to help people find their voice, where needs in the organization and marketplace overlap with talent, passion and conscience. When people truly find their voice, they don’t need to be supervised; they manage themselves because their motivation is internal rather than external.”
~Stephen Covey

• Improved morale: People need to have the feeling they are learning, growing and developing new skills. This keeps them engaged.

• Training helps people get connected to their company. To develop and share common goals. They believe more in their company and want it to succeed. When people start moving in the same direction with a common goal, they create a culture that will propel their company to success.

• Growth is change, and it will not happen without a shift in culture that changes the way employees work, act, innovate, talk, learn and collaborate. One of the greatest challenges an organization faces is changing its business culture. Training helps organizations create this culture shift by moving people out of their comfort zones and into the leadership behaviors that drive success.

• A 2008 leadership training study by Metrika-Phoenix found that leadership training strongly influenced behaviors that improve performance at work. The survey had a higher than 72% response rate, a confidence level of 97.5% and a margin of error less than 5%. Over 92% of training participants reported improvement in the following behaviors:
-Increased understanding of how their behavior impacts other people
-Willingness to take additional risks and push themselves.
-Greater willingness to support others and work as a team.
-They hold themselves and others to higher standards of accountability
-The ability to express more passion and enthusiasm.
-Greater self-confidence and a sense of increased self potential.
-More awareness of the potential in others.
-They are developing better focus on tasks and are getting better at showing initiative.

• The only thing that increases productivity within an organization is people. People are the only asset that appreciates in value. People may be developed and their performance improved. All other assets like buildings, equipment and systems deteriorate and depreciate.

• Talent shortages require organizations to focus on developing and retaining talent.

• When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to stay with a company. Many employees feel training improves their opportunities for advancement and thath they receive the necessary tools to be more effective at work and in their personal lives. “Having employees whose work and personal lives are balanced has tangible benefits—both for the employees and the organization overall—including an increased ability to attract and retain skilled people and higher production, satisfaction, and morale.”
~Joan Gurvis

More than ever, it is imperative that organizations continue to invest in their people. The current economic challenges associated with globalization demand that organizations change their approach and develop new leadership skills. It is critical that employees are more focused, confident and effective than ever before. To be effective, successful leaders will partner with outside organizations to develop their skills and serve as role models and mentors.

The ultimate responsibility to develop leadership lies with the entire organization. Effective outside partnerships are not enough. HR departments acting alone are not enough. Potential leaders must be identified and provided with direction, opportunity and guidance in order to develop. When the entire organization understands the benefits of developing leaders and works together, the necessary cultural ingredients to adapt and thrive will exist.

IBM Global Human Capital Study (2008).
Kotter, J.P., Leading Change