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What does average mean, especially in today’s workplace where the lack of employee engagement drains profits? Where it drains the performance of hard working employees who go beyond expectations?


Years ago, a wise mentor of mine shared these words: “When you change how you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

His words echoed the thoughts of French novelist Marcel Proust who wrote, “The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.”

In business, being able to look at what has always been and imagine it differently is a challenge.

In no context is this more evident than in the word, “average”.

Average Performance In The Workplace

What does average mean, especially in today’s workplace, where the lack of employee engagement drains profits? Where it drains the performance of hard-working employees who go beyond expectations?

Ongoing employee engagement research conducted by Gallup continues to suggest that approximately:

  • 1 in 4 employees are actively engaged
  • 2 in 4 employees are disengaged
  • 1 in 4 employees are actively disengaged

Another way to find the answer to what is average is to ask:

What does it mean to give a 110 percent?

For many, the response will be to go beyond expectations or to go beyond average.

So if 110 percent is beyond average, then 100 percent is average.

Now, this viewpoint may shock a lot of people. Many employees believe that 100 percent is exceptional, outstanding from their educational experiences.

Average for them is combining the scores of all students and dividing by that number.

If their performance falls above that number, they are above average.

And from a statistical viewpoint, this is a correct mathematical calculation.

What is Average?

In the workplace, employees earn, as the old expression goes, 8 for 8 (8 hours of pay for 8 hours of work).

This is the expectation or average.

However, due to a variety of reasons from poor management to having the wrong person in the wrong seat with the wrong talents securing the wrong results, only 1 in 4 employees are average.

The Cost of Average

Now imagine you as the small business owner to C-Suite executive have a weekly payroll of $10,000 not including other benefits.

What “average” is costing you is $7,500 in lost productivity.

How long can your business continue to function as it is without taking drastic action?

During recent facilitation with some managers for a multi-billion dollar organization, one of the younger and newer managers asked this question:

“Why do I have to sell people to do their job? We pay them to do the work. Period!”

Other managers echoed her frustration because they realized that management in the past had not consistently addressed poor or less-than-average performance.

And, of course, a few of the older managers did not see any problems.

Avoid Wasted Time

Another manager, experienced but new to this organization, discussed the time necessary to document the less-than-average performance.

With all the projects he was managing, taking time to document an actively disengaged employee kept him from doing other much-needed tasks.

However, he realized this documentation was necessary. To not take action would result in much more serious wasted time downstream.

Average Begins At The Top

To create a culture of “average” begins with management.

These individuals, by modeling the desired leadership behaviors and having the updated tools, can move employee engagement to 8 for 8 or average.

Some of these tools include job descriptions, performance appraisals, and policy manuals.

You must reassign those who cannot move to a position where they are better suited. Or you need to ask them to leave.

Average begins at the top and cascades down throughout the organization.

About the author

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith has over 25 years in sales. Her true joy is selling and…

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