This article originally appeared in the 2017 summer issue of OGR’s Independent magazine. This is part 2.
As a business owner or manager, there are times when you’re faced with employee performance issues. Last week we explored questions to consider when an employee is an under achiever. Today we’ll explore how to approach mentorship and termination after those questions have been thoroughly answered.
The Road to Mentorship
Mentoring can be a very informal process. Unfortunately, the “just follow Bill and do whatever he tells you to do” mentality tends to be unsuccessful. Mentoring, especially in terms of correcting behavior, must allow for the measurement of improvement. That doesn’t mean it has to be a complex spreadsheet. Both parties have to understand what the criteria are for improvement and the measurement by which the employee is being compared. It may be clear an area for improvement is providing GPLs to families during the arrangement conference as well as discussing payments for those arrangements. Set a deadline for evaluating the employee’s performance (e.g. Currently, the employee is rated a 5 on a 1 to 10 scale, and it is expected that the employee will improve to a 7 in six months.). The employee should continue to be mentored through this process (some refer to this as an Employee Development Plan or Performance Improvement Plan) for as long as necessary assuming the employee continues to make forward progress. If the employee fails to make progress as expected or falls behind, then a predetermined consequence is needed. Typically, language within these plans will state “Failure to meet or exceed these expectations or any display of gross misconduct will result in further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”
In addition, you may want to stipulate that if there is no significant improvement to indicate that the expectations and goals will be met within the timeline indicated, employment may be terminated prior to the agreed timeline. Furthermore, add language to indicate that failure to maintain performance expectations after the completion of the program may result in additional disciplinary action and possible termination.
When Termination is the Best Option
Should mentoring fail or not be an option, then it is likely that the funeral service owner or manager will ultimately decide to terminate the underperforming employee. There is only so long a business can carry the weight of such an employee even if they are well-liked by their co-workers. Such an employee becomes a burden to the other employees and causes poor employee morale. Clearly, termination is a costly and time-consuming option. Funeral home owners and managers must do their best to plan as much as they can for this type of event. Look closely at staff to determine how you can cover the shortfall in the staff scheduling until finding a replacement.
Licensed staff is the most difficult to replace in today’s competitive market. It can take weeks to find the “right fit”. It is important to assure the remaining staff that management will be moving with speed to replace the position. Assure them that as a team you will make it through the next few weeks.
Termination is never pleasant for the employer or the employee. Keep the conversation brief and to the point. There is no detailed explanation needed. Make sure to follow the state requirement in your area for the final paycheck as well as any and all accrued benefits that must be paid. You are not required to provide a reference for the terminated employee. If the employee asks for one simply inform them that you will only provide information required by law. Make sure they leave the property quietly as there is no reason the other employees or any families on site should be disturbed.
Final Thoughts: Mentor or Terminate?
The answer is not always clear. Either direction will take considerable effort from the funeral owner or managers. Termination is likely to be more costly up front due to the cost associated with identifying, hiring, and training a new employee. On the other hand, mentoring may or may not be successful and result in simply a delay in locating a replacement. As employees are the single most expensive asset a funeral business has, it is cost effective to at least consider mentoring rather than terminating. It may appear a little daunting but with a little guidance, some of those underperformers can turn into your shining stars!
By Stephanie Ramsey, The Foresight Companies, LLC
Stephanie Ramsey is the HR Specialist for The Foresight
Companies, LLC, an OGR supply partner.