When it Comes to Your Employees, Think "Team", Not "Family"

Kyle Kirkland
We often hear businesses of all sizes refer to their employees as “family.” It’s a feelgood notion but frankly has little connection with reality. First, you don’t get to pick your family, but you should recruit the best employees you can for your job openings and move on if they’re not meeting your standards. Second, if an employee violates the law or fires off an offensive tweet, you’re not going to stand by them and profess their innocence—leave that to their mom. Finally, if you stop inviting your crazy uncle to family events, he’s not going to lawyer up and force the issue. You don’t have to be cold and heartless with your staff, but families can have a high tolerance for aberrant or abhorrent behavior; you can’t.

We would argue that it’s a better idea to manage your staff like a sports team. Everyone on the team, including players, coaches and administrators, has individual talents and purpose and it’s your job as the general manager to direct those resources toward the collective objective. Track workplace-related data and issues, review employee performance against defined criteria, assign team members based on that performance and cut those that can’t or won’t add to the program. If you’re not empathetic and compassionate, team chemistry will suffer, but if you’re honest, candid and consistent in your assessments and assignments, you’ll have a proven, defensible approach to management. 

In thinking about your workforce as a team, you need data. Head coaches have statistics, film, scouting and practice reports, injury reports, predictive indicators and observed tendencies to consider when building the game plan and making in-game adjustments. Even most in-game decisions can be assessed with probabilities and expected outcomes. Likewise, you should be documenting time and attendance, incidents, mistakes and successes, notes and meetings with the idea that over time, you’ll build a database of talents and tendencies that will help you make better decisions about how to assign players in roles. You should also review that data for strengths, weaknesses and trends and rethink your game plan for improvement based on that assessment.

If you start referring to your team as a team, you’ll find reinforcement throughout popular culture. Sports broadcasts include all sorts of stat lines, camera angles and assessments with breakdowns by former players with real game experience. Your workplace documentation should include critiques from those who know the job duties and have the confidence that your workforce is conditioned to receiving candid feedback in their daily life. They monitor the likes and shares they get on their social media posts, chase high scores in video games, track their fantasy team and binge watch reality competitions on TV. Empirical scoring, critiques and elimination from competition are common in our personal lives; there’s no reason to avoid them in the workplace.

A lawyer once told me, “It’s not against the law to be unpopular.” That’s not a preferred defense strategy in employment litigation, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions for the collective good. Be compassionate—you’re managing people not machines—and make fair, consistent, data-supported decisions, and you’ll gain the respect of your workforce, see improved performance over time and sleep better knowing that you can defend your decisions against third party challenges.
JobStats cloud-based employment documentation software allows managers to document workplace related issues, organized by employee. JobStats is intuitive, easy to use, accessible from any device, secure, fact and reliable and fosters a culture of documentation. Using JobStats, your staff will build employee work histories and performance that will guide and support your decision-making, reduce defense and insurance costs and give you and your HR department peace of mind. Manage with confidence with JobStats.

About the author

Kyle Kirkland is President of Brick HR, Inc., the developer of JobStats documentation software. As owner, President and General Manager of Club One Casino in Fresno, California, Mr. Kirkland has extensive experience managing employees in gaming, food and beverage, facilities, security, administration and managerial positions. He has direct experience in dealing with the challenges California employers face and how to mitigate the related risk. Mr. Kirkland is also the president of the California Gaming Association, a non-profit trade association which represents California cardrooms.

Prior to joining the gaming industry, Mr. Kirkland served as the chairman of Steinway Musical Instruments, the world-renowned musical instrument manufacturer, a position he held for 17 years. Earlier in his career, Mr. Kirkland worked at Bain & Company, an international management consulting firm and Drexel Burnham Lambert, an investment bank specializing in high yield securities. Mr. Kirkland has served on the boards of several public and private companies and non-profit organizations.

Mr. Kirkland holds an A.B. degree from Harvard College magna cum laude in Economics and an MBA degree from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

He can be reached at kyle@jobstatsapp.com.


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