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Counseling a tenured staff member?

This question comes with some embarassment. I inherited a cash receipts staff member who lacks keying skills. She uses ONE finger to do any work with numbers. While we are moving to a lockbox system, I will still need a staff person dedicated to applying payments in a non-integrated system. I have spent several months counseling her with offers to pay for classes, suggestions for daily practice, and discussion about improving to reach the level required for this position. No luck. My Human Resources dept hasn't been helpful with how to formally document and terminate and this person is sharing a lot of personal information throughout the company which creates a grey area for 'protected class.' We meet weekly to discuss her progress and while she agrees with me that I expect her to improve her skills to match the position requirements, she always responds that she is a "good" worker because she cares and she is afraid that if she goes faster she will make mistakes. It is the grey line between performance and protected class that has me most worried. All of my verbal notices are documented. I just can't get HR to help me with a formal written notice. I have spoken to her about being careful about the type of personal information she shares with everyone, although that is completely her area to control and decide. Do tests exist for keying speed? Is there an industry standard for keying speed in cash receipts (she has stated that she thinks I am setting the bar too high - more than ONE finger)? Does anyone know of any classes I can enroll her in to show that we are invested in helping her succeed before we have to let her go?

Answers

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Employment matters are very tricky and dangerous.

-Do you have a job description that specifically states that typing is a required skill, with a set standard expected, for this job?
-Are you applying the same standard to other employees that have the same documented requirement?
-Have all conversations discussing this deficit been documented, i.e. Performance reviews?
-Is it an opinion or fact that if you can’t type there is no way you can be successful?

In my experience, getting rid of an employee that is not performing takes one full year, after you fix potential deficits in your process.

Personally, I am a two finger typist and it has never impacted my work abilities. That will be the argument you will need to deal with.

Good luck.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Consulting CFO and Business Operations A..
Company: Growth Accelerator
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor, Growth Accelerator) |

Anon;

You've brought back memories of my youth and the endearing 10key. I learned the 5-finger approach....but I wasn't ever the fastest or most accurate. To Regis's point, speed and accuracy are the combined goal (with accuracy to me the heavier weighted of the two).

According to "learn to type", 8,000 keys-per-hour is an average. Note this is materially slower than an 80-wpm typing standard, which translates to roughly 3x that. Learn to type could be a good resource for you (they have instructions and tests and such)
http://www.learn2type.com/TenKeyTest

Come up with a reasonable standard that takes into account your real options (cost of transitioning, rehiring, retraining, etc). Call it 6K. Discuss it with the employee, document the discussion, if she doesn't hit the number come up with a Corrective Action Plan (training, etc). Give her an hour a day to do that, etc. If she doesn't want to do it, or doesn't succeed, document that. Offer to help her find another role, and failing that, execute on the documented plan.

And, as above, follow Regis's guidance that this must be a level playing field for all employees. Test 'em all. If she is running at 1/2 speed, you can review that with her as material fact, which may be more impactful than "yes, I need to improve".

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that nobody can 1-key or transcribe without touch typing. My best friend 2-fingers about 2x my speed, but can't transcribe because you have to watch the keyboard.

KP

PS: file a formal complaint (seriously) on your HR folks. Assuming they are HR and not payroll admins (different role), their job is exactly this: to keep the company from getting hurt by employees. They should know the law and how to follow it. Sounds like you have some dead weight there, and maybe you should fix that first.

Anonymous
(Associate) |

As another posted stated, standards for all of the team will be the key. I was in a similar situation, inheriting a person who was moved to cash posting as they couldn't keep up in other departments. They couldn't keep up in cash posting either, so I tracked stats for the entire team and was able to document on the employee's review they weren't keeping up. I had previously documented attempts to help the employee, offering flex time, suggesting work routines, etc. HR agreed to let the employee go when I also found excessive tardiness. The stats showed me the way. The employee just wasn't a good fit for that type of work so I believe they are better off finding somewhere where they can succeed.

Richard Hewson
Title: CMA
Company: Richard Hewson Contract CFO
(CMA, Richard Hewson Contract CFO) |

I am assuming this is not a union position. If it is, you should look to the union agreement on performance terms etc first.

I agree with Keith- your HR folks are dropping the ball. They are supposed to be the experts when dealing with documenting and mediating performance issues leading to termination.
The approach I would use would be:

- update or create a position description for all your direct reports
- include performance standards required for each position
- Do a performance evaluation on all your direct reports as soon as possible
- For each direct report, outline areas that performance is lacking, and include a plan to bring performance up to standard within a reasonable period of time ( 6 months? One year? The longer the employee has been with the company, the longer the time frame I would entertain for improvement. )
- Get both you and your direct report to sign off on the current performance report and the action plan including your expectations, and offers to support them in training etc in order to hit the goal.
- Follow up with another performance review in say , 3 months, to compare current performance to that 3 months earlier. Have this performance review signed off by yourself and your direct report.
- Continue with regular performance reviews until your original target date.

I would also review the approach followed with your supervisor. You will want their buy in on the approach, as well as keep them advised that you are working on the issue, and not ignoring it.

At the end of the assessment period, follow through based on what was discussed and agreed to .
This approach treats all members of the team equally, and provides the poorer performers with feedback on their performance and an opportunity to improve it.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

First and foremost: You can have it done fast or have it done right. You can't have both.

There's a lot that goes into this calculus in working with her.
1) You have to take into account her age and color. You don't want an age or race discrimination suit against you and you need to take into account where she is to go if you do have to let her go.
2) That said, she is refusing your offers of help. That helps your case if you need to let her go.
3) Is there another area of the company you can transfer her to? Again, if she is older and unable to find employment elsewhere easily, that may be a good alternative.
4) Is she working hard otherwise? You don't want to fire an employee who's working hard because that sends the wrong message to your other employees that hard work will help your career. If you want the others to work hard, then don't fire her because then why work hard in the first place?
5) Are you measuring against industry standards or just your own? If she is moving as fast as other workers go, then you're the one being greedy and need to do some self-reflection. However, if she is slower than industry standard, then you have a better case.
6) How long has she been there? If she's been there 30 years say, you may just have to stick with it unless you offer some early retirement bonus. If she's been with the company a long time, then sacking her sends a message to the others that loyalty doesn't mean anything. Loyalty still exists. You want it from your employees, you have to give it to them. Its a two way street.
7) Bottom line is that its gonna be tough to get rid of her unless you can show that she truly is a slacker. If she's a loyal employee who is trying her best, you're stuck. Now, if she is slow AND making mistakes, then you have some grounds to let her go. But firing is not a black or white decision. Decisions rarely are. There's a whole lot of factors that go into it. You have a bunch of other factors to take into account here.
8) Remember, you are talking about someone's livelihood here. That's more important than any inflated vanity. If she is truly not performing by any standards and refusing to get better, that's one thing. But sacking an employee who may wind up homeless just because you may have inflated views of the way the work should be is something else.

Christian Nantel
Title: CEO
Company: CFO Toolbox
(CEO, CFO Toolbox) |

Did you ever think about auto cash.
I have successfully implemented this feature in the past with different systems. The bank should provide the transaction details every day around 15:00. You would them import into your accounting system and the matching would be done automatically.
This way you will not have to worry about speed but rather analytical skills because there will always be a few transactions that you will have to analyze to match them with your Invoices.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Many of the cloud based systems now offer this service as part of the system. Saves enormous time and effort; and you bank accounts can be reconciled daily!

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

Document the performance against the requirements and pull HR into the discussion to outline a course of action. Ideally (although unlikely), if there is a lower level position that is vacant and she is qualified, this should be encouraged even though it may mean a pay cut or capping her pay at the current rate. The appropriate course of action will depend on the employee relations climate in the organization, DOL claims history, consistent treatment of similar scenarios, the overall risk assessment and the message it sends to the employees (as it seems this employee "airs her laundry to work colleagues"). Be fair and transparent with the approach to the extent you are not breaching confidentiality of the parties involved.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

I really appreciate the feedback I am getting on this dilemna. As we all deal with challenges in our positions, my greatest one seems to be coming from my HR department. They are missing from the equation to help me move forward and constructively change the message and end result.

BTW - My requirements are not unusually high for an individual whose job is data entry. Entering 60 check payments in an hour is not a high enough volume to handle monthly volume of 3600 or more checks. Our bank is not able to provide a feed, as our system is not integrated and the entity that owns the software is not interested in opening up the code, or working on this piece.

Dabney Wellford
Title: CFO
Company: Wellford Consulting
(CFO, Wellford Consulting) |

Anonymous,

I understand your frustration. All of the other advice is good. How large is the company? Is it privately held? Are you sure that she was not 'placed' in the position by an owner who wanted to make sure that she had a job, knowing that her skills were not great? Tread carefully is any of those are true - possibly looking around for a more suitable position in another department.

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