MURRAY — Last year, the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce offered a short series of workshops designed specifically for managers and owners of small businesses.
It went so well that the Chamber decided to bring it back for a second year. Friday began that second year as FNB Bank is sponsoring the four workshops the Chamber will host this year, and it began with a rather sensitive topic: “Hiring and Firing and Everything In Between.”
“We tried to pick topics for this year based on feedback from last year’s series, and this was one of those that the audience had been asking about,” said Chamber Director of Membership Development Hailey Harrison. “What we’re looking to do with this is present topics that our small business owners and managers say they face and would like to learn ideas on how to handle those better, and this is definitely one they face quite a bit.”
Three Murray-area human resources officials served as panelists for Friday morning’s first installment of the ’19 series at the Engineering and Physics Building on the Murray State University campus. Courtney Hixon is the associate director of employment at Murray State, while Don Fraher is the human resources director at Murray’s Pella manufacturing plant and Cathy Morris is the human resources director for the City of Murray.
One idea seemed to always find its way into Friday’s discussion — the need for managers to be consistent.
“Nobody likes policies, but, and I use sports analogies for everything, I look at policies as kind of a playbook, and a sports team is not going to succeed if its players don’t understand the plays, right? The same is true for employees in your business,” Morris said. “No matter how small you are, if there are more than one of you, in order for it to work well, there has to be a playbook.
“I’ve looked at the same policy book the past 11 years and I look at it every single time, because if you handle something with one employee one week, then do something different with another employee two or three weeks later, trust me, they’re going to talk.”
Fraher said negative comments on evaluations, when they are necessary, also should not be a surprise. He talked about how pay levels at Pella are determined on performance.
“If I’m going to rate you as a Level 4 (out of 5), I have to justify that not only to you but also management as well. If you’re at the high end, we have to explain that, but the same is true for someone we see that needs to improve. We give you 60 days to change, and we say, ‘Here are exactly the things you need to do.’
“We base this on key initiatives, performance with key projects. Did you deliver when you said you were going to do it? Now, you could do a great job but be a terrible person to be around or you could be a great person and get nothing done, so it’s a balancing act both ways.”
Hixon said it is also important to not wait to address an issue.
“You really should be addressing those as they come up. The evaluation really should be a summary so you can say whatever the behavior is,” she said, also recalling something she once heard from a manager who was trying to deal with a problematic employee. “They said, ‘Well, I’m going to try to motivate them by giving them a really good review.’ That is the opposite thing to do if you have an employee that is struggling. That’s sending the wrong message to that employee. They’re not going to know what to do, what to improve on, and you’re really setting that employee up for failure, and you’re setting yourself up for failure as well.
“Really, the most important thing to do is be honest and just communicating, not avoiding it. Avoidance seems like the easiest thing to do at the time, but in the long run, it’s not going to be.”