Why is it so important to listen to your employees before acting?

We have had several telephone conversations over recent months which have begun with "I want to get rid of X person", or "my Manager wants me to get rid of X person". This is not unusual in our line of work as this is how many of our telephone conversations start, but what has been unusual is the outcome of the dismissal conversations and process following our advice.

One particular conversation started this way because the Manager had been instructed by the business owner to dismiss an employee who had only been there for a few months. The Manager had rung to talk through the reasons for her dismissal and the approach to take. The dismissal meeting was then conducted and adjourned and the Manager called back to discuss what had happened. What had become apparent in the meeting was that no proper training had been provided in how to use the Company systems and the procedures that needed to be followed. The Manager was uncomfortable with dismissing in these circumstances, which in our view was quite right. The decision was taken to extend the probationary period and and to provide the proper support and training. The reasons for the decision were explained to the business owner who understood.

What was really pleasing from our point of view was that the manager listened to what the employee had to say in the meeting, and acted reasonably when he was made aware of the facts. Good people are becoming harder to find so it is important that we do not throw new starters out like we were throwing out the trash, particularly when their lack of performance is actually the Company's fault.

Your legal obligations

There is a legal obligation on companies to properly train their employees to do their jobs, whether new or existing employees. If that training is not provided then it is unfair and unreasonable to terminate that individual's employment because of it. We recommend that probationary periods are used effectively, both to provide the proper training and to manage and monitor performance in those first few months. It is in everyone's interests to get new starters up to full performance quickly to reduce the negative impact on productivity.

We are delighted to report that the employee in the case study above stayed with the Company and was confirmed in her role at the end of the extended probationary period. As the employee also suffered from anxiety and depression, a potentially high risk dismissal was avoided and the situation resolved satisfactorily. Apart from getting the right outcome in this particular situation, listening to what employees have to say in formal situations such as probationary meetings, disciplinary or dismissal meetings also shows that the process is working. It shows that the outcome of the meeting has not been pre-planned and that the employee's view has been taken into consideration before a decision is made.

It's amazing what listening to your employees before acting (and providing the proper training) can accomplish!

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