Are your employees satisfied? If so, are you getting the kind of performance from them that your company needs to succeed?  Conventional thinking suggests that a happy workforce will be more productive.  However, Robert Sher, a Forbes contributor, doesn’t agree and explains why in “Why You Need Dissatisifed Employees.”

In reading the piece you find out that Sher is not advancing the opinion that you should make life unpleasant or uncomfortable for the under performing people who work for you.  He’s also not talking about employees who are dissatisfied with their job, the company or their boss or supervisor.

In Sher’s experience working with companies, employees who are dissatisfied with their ‘own performance, their team’s performance and their company’s performance’ are the ones you want. The less satisfied that employees are with the status quo, the more they strive to become more satisfied. These people are hungry for success, and it’s your job to see that they succeed.

Sher doesn’t feel the answer to improving employee performance should focus on parties, lots of recognition for a “job well done” and training. He suggests that there are several elements that go into creating a highly productive working environment. Among them are:

  • Be clear on how you measure performance.  Give each employee one to three key objectives that will measure their success.
  • Clearly define success and failure: Your team needs to know exactly where it’s headed and what it should avoid. He uses the example, “if our year-end gross margin lands below 32%, we have failed and that if it is above 41% we have succeeded.” Plant your flag at the top of the hill, Sher advises.
  • Make low performers feel uncomfortable:  Put low performers under the gun. They should seek out help to improve; and your company should provide it.  If they have what it takes, they’ll improve; if they don’t improve, dismiss them, Sher says.

To me, Sher is right in that you owe it to employees to set clear performance objectives and clarify what the company needs to achieve. Just because you manage a mid-sized company vs. a larger one, you should not be excluded from providing employees with career development and a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Hiring the right people is also very important and one of the key pain points that leaders of small and medium businesses face today.   One of your key criteria should be finding people who are willing to wear several hats and go the extra mile to satisfy your customers.  Anything less than that should be considered under performance as that is the only way a smaller sized business will succeed.

What I don’t agree with is creating a negative work environment.  A little inspiration and a “can-do” attitude will go a long way in a smaller business.   A suggestion would be to have an under performer assume a new role and live in someone else’s shoes for a few days in order to glean some eye-opening insights on what it takes to ensure customers are satisfied and that business objectives are met.

Read the rest of Sher’s recommendations.

Do you agree with Sher’s view about how to motivate your employees to greater performance?