Do you have the right talent at your table?

The festive season is here. Halloween and Melbourne Cup are behind us and we are heading full speed into year-end frivolities. Our thoughts turn to celebrations at work and at home. Gatherings at this time of the year are typically marked by the sharing of a meal around a table. This got me thinking.  We put a lot of thought and care into who is invited to sit at our table on social occasions, but what about tables in the work environment? Do we have the right people sitting around these? People whose achievements and contributions we want to acknowledge and the people who will carry our businesses onwards and upwards into the new year? Are there people at our table who are not pulling their weight or who have the wrong attitude or skills to help us reach our commercial goals? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then please read on. Help is at hand…..

It is interesting that most executives and business owners spend a great percentage of time managing the budget and the financials when in actual fact, capital is abundant and relatively cheap. By contrast, very little time is spent proactively managing the scarcer resource, talent (Eric Garton, HBR, May 2017). This poses the questions;

  •  What investment in time are you making in monitoring your people to identify those who do or don’t just ‘clip the ticket’?
  •  If you have identified employees who are strong contributors and those who are not, what are you doing about the people who are not giving you 100%?
  •  What are you doing to inspire and recognise those who are?


Year end is a great time to recalibrate the talent in a business and then to take steps to move forward positively and fully charged into 2018. I was at a social function recently and chatting with a friend who runs a small business. In the flow of conversation, he shared with me what troubles him most as a business owner is not so much finding great people, but exiting employees from his organisation who are not the right fit for his business. To be honest, this fills most managers with dread and fear.

Questions that spring to the minds of leaders:

  • What do I say and will he/she react?
  • How much of my time will it take when I have clients that need my attention and I have a business to run?
  • Will I end up at the Fair Work Commission?

Sounding familiar? I would suggest that the more potent question leaders should be asking is what is the cost to business if underperformance is tolerated and the issues are not dealt with? One bad apple can sour an entire team and
workplace culture.

There is a scale of performance issues and each level requires a different response and intervention. Let’s start with Underperformance. This is where an employee does not complete tasks to the required standard, fails to follow workplace policies and procedures, behaves unacceptably and/or is disruptive in the workplace.

Although it can be time consuming, we advocate that leaders begin with a coaching mind-set and a commitment to improving the performance of the employee. In a previous blog, my colleague Simon Corcoran shared four great tips for dealing with performance issues and I’ll repeat these here:

  • Be honest – easier said than done, but removes unwanted surprises and lets all parties understand the whole situation
  • Build a plan – we believe in giving people the benefit of doubt, so work with the employee in building an action plan that shows them what greater performance looks like
  • Coach – be a coach to them. Don’t cast them aside, waiting for the next fumble. Coach them by giving real time feedback that is firm but gives them hope for improvement.
  • Be prepared to make tough decisions – outline the ramifications of not adhering to the plan. There are other options available besides termination.

Even if you run a small business, it is a good idea to have a written Performance Management policy in your employee kit-bag. Ensuring that there is a documented performance improvement plan that has been shared with the employee, supported by regularly scheduled and documented reviews, will be vital in successfully managing this process.

It is best practice to provide written warnings setting out clearly your expectations before considering termination of employment.  Remember the aim is to lift performance.

If an employee in your workplace causes risk to the company, other employees, behaves extremely inappropriately or commits an illegal act, this is described as Serious Misconduct and the remedies for this are different to those for underperformance.

In this instance, the employee may be immediately dismissed without notice (ie time and/or payment). It is obviously prudent to make sure you have all the facts and evidence to validate your decision if you choose this option. Employees need to have been employed for 6 months before they can apply for Unfair Dismissal and the claim must be made within 21 days of the dismissal. This rises to 12 months for small business that have less than 15 employees. In discussions where dismissal is possible, it is a good idea for the owner or manager to bring a senior person to the meeting to be a witness and to take notes, and for the employee in question, to be offered the opportunity to bring a support person (not a lawyer) to observe.

Dealing with talent management concerns can be traumatic, with high levels of emotion pumping on both sides. However, my experience has always been that turning a blind eye to these issues results in the problem snow-balling and negatively impacting the broader team and the reputation of the manager. On occasions, there has also been the potential for reputational damage to the company.

My message here is clear….just get on with it. Remember that you can ask us for professional help and support to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The end of the year when things are slowing down, when people head away on holidays and companies close for the break, can provide a window of opportunity to think about development planning.

At A Human Agency, we work individually with our clients to ensure the right organisational structure and the right talent are in place to positon the team to achieve higher levels of business success.

As we move into 2018, we invite you to talk to us about your talent strategy. Do you have one? If you don’t, no panic. A blank piece of paper and a commitment to invest in your people, is an ideal place to start. No matter how big or how small your business, we can help you get the right people to your table.

Get in Touch

We’re here to help, you can email me directly, [email protected] or submit your details below.


E. Garton 2017. What If Companies Managed People as Carefully as They Manage Money. Harvard Business Review.

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This allows us to learn about your business goals and objectives; and for you to get to know our team and how we can support you to achieve those goals.

Our sessions are designed to:

  • understand your specific questions, covering your current situation, potential challenges in culture, behaviour, performance, diversity or inclusion, and any other concerns you may have.
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  • Most importantly establish a foundation for working together. We want you to feel confident that we are the right HR partner for you, because this is your business’ future you are about to invest in, so we need to get it right. 

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