Don’t treat everyone the same

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I know the title of this post must seem like blasphemy to some. In our politically correct, everyone gets a participation trophy world in which we live everyone expects to be treated alike. Some of our newly elected members of Congress are insisting that America become a socialist state in which everyone shares and shares alike regardless of their contribution. Unfortunately, that mindset has failed in every place it’s ever been tried. In fact, the only place that economic model works is in the university classroom where it continues to be taught by professors who have tenure and haven’t worked outside their ivory towers in decades. My readers live in the real world, and it is to this world that I write.

In every company there are some people who rise above everyone else in their work ethic, their sense of knowing what to do, their attitudes, and their ability to execute.  Even if you have an above average team in your company, there will be a few shining stars who helps raise that average even higher.  These people are critical to the long-term success of your business, and it will be a mistake to treat them the same as everyone else.  There are so many things a business owner cannot control, but one thing he or she can control is the development of the people in the company, and these star employees need to be developed.  Providing them with the right resources will only make them even more valuable to your business.

These are the people you want to invest a significant portion of your time in through coaching and training.  A company I worked for would pay the tuition for any employee to go to college as long as the course even remotely benefited the company.  They defined that benefit very loosely, and they paid all my tuition while I earned my undergrad degree.  A small business might not be able to do that, but most could offer at least some financial assistance to their star employees who might want to further their education.  Owners would want to seek nearby seminars that would help their best employees learn new skills.  Top employees should also be cross trained so they can learn the various jobs that exist in the company.

Top performers should be rewarded differently than other employees.  They should receive higher pay raises and larger bonuses.  Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, in their book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, explains that “When the wrong people get rewarded, the whole organization loses.  Problems don’t get fixed, nonperformers get ahead, and the good performers start looking for jobs at places where their contributions will be recognized.”  You are under no obligation to pay everyone the same or to give all your employees the same bonus.  It’s your money.  The only people who will get upset if they are not treated “equally” are the lower-performing team members.

Speaking of lower-performing team members, they need to be treated differently as well.  Every year Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame would fire the lowest performing 25% of her real estate salespeople.  While that may be extreme, their lack of success does need to addressed quickly by the owner.  It may be that they are were not hired for a position best suited to their gifts, or they could need additional training, but the cause of their poor performance needs to be corrected or they do need to be replaced.  In today’s business economy no small business can afford to have a group of people who are not producing.  They are not only a drain on your bottom line; they are also a drain on your top performers.

Treating all your team members the same is not an issue of fairness and only your less productive employees insist on everyone being treated “fairly.”  In fact, it is unfair to your top performers to treat them the same as you treat others on your team.  Even worse, it is very de-motivating to do so and will soon cause them to either leave you for another employer or begin to function as the lower performers.  Either way, you lose.  Invest in your top performing employees and your business will reap the rewards for years to come.

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