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Low performing employees harm workplace culture, can drive out high performers

Arlington, Va., February 10, 2016 – New research finds that low-performing employees not only damage an organization’s culture and morale, they can cause even more harm by contributing to attrition of high performers. The research also indicates that low-performing employees increase the work burden on high performers, and organizations are falling short when it comes to retaining employees that are self-motivated and hard working.

These findings are detailed in Eagle Hill Consulting’s new research report, Are Low Performers Destroying Your Culture And Driving Away Your Best Employees?, available here. These findings are based on Eagle Hill’s survey of more than 1700 professionals from across the federal, private, and non-profit sectors. The survey was conducted to examine the factors that contribute to employee attrition.

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In terms of the impact of low performers, the research finds that:

  • Low performers hurt morale in the workplace and increase the workload for others. When asked to pick the three greatest problems created by low performers, the top concern was that low performers lower overall workplace morale (68 percent). Forty-four percent of respondents say that low performers increase the work burden on high performers.
  • Low performers stifle innovation and contribute to a standard of mediocrity. Some 54 percent said that low performers contribute to a lack of initiative and motivation, resulting in a work culture where mediocrity is accepted. Survey respondents said that the value of replacing low performers is most commonly seen as the the new ideas and approaches that new hires can bring to the workplace (39 percent).

“These findings are troubling. The most successful organizations are those that drive out the weak links and nurture their top performers. Yet, our findings indicate that in some cases, low performers are destroying an organization’s culture and causing attrition of the talented staff employers should retain,” said Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill President and Chief Executive Officer.

“There are, however, ways an organization can reverse course,” Jezior explained.

She says the first step is to use a competency based approach to hiring. This method helps weed out the low performers so they don’t become employees in the first place. Eagle Hill employs a competency-based hiring approach, which digs deep into a candidate’s career to really understand his or her motivations and key influencers.

Also, companies can implement a quality of hire survey three months after a new employee is onboarded. The hiring manager or immediate supervisor completes a survey and rates the new hire on their job performance thus far. Companies can assess the results and make any needed adjustments to their hiring process.

“Finally, it’s critically important to really understand just who your high performers are, then design ways to keep them – added incentives and opportunities, for example. Employee surveys can help, along with ‘stay interviews’ to solicit feedback from your top performers,” Jezior explained.

The research also finds that:

  • Attrition is a common problem for many employers. One-third of respondents reported that their organizations experience high turnover, meaning that employees stay with an employer for less than five years.
  • Less than half of respondents (45%) agreed that their organization does a good job of hiring and recruiting high performers, and less than half of respondents (49%) felt that their organizations do a good job of retaining high performers.
  • Only 60% of respondents said that they would rehire most or all of their current coworkers.

Eagle Hill Consulting LLC is a woman-owned business that provides management consulting services in the areas of business strategy, organizational transformation, human capital transformation, process improvement, program management, and change management. Eagle Hill works with a range of public, private, and non-profit organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and across the nation. Eagle Hill was named a top workplace by The Washington Post and earned multiple top rankings in the Vault 50 Consulting Ranking. More information is available at www.eaglehillconsulting.com.