Would firing slackers boost productivity? (Editor’s Notes)

U.K. report recommends easier way to dismiss employees
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/22/2011

How tempting is this for employers? A leaked, government-commissioned report out of the United Kingdom is suggesting employment laws be changed to allow for no-fault dismissal.

Essentially, employers would be able to get rid of any employee by paying a fixed amount of reasonable notice.

The thinking in the report, written by private equity boss Adrian Beecroft, is lazy employees who coast through the workday are hurting competitiveness, and a scheme to make it easy to show them the door and replace them with more capable workers would benefit the economy.

Just imagine if that concept was instituted on this side of the pond when it comes to terminations. No more trying to guess how much money a worker is entitled to on termination, no more struggling with the Bardalfactors (character of employment, length of service, employee’s age and availability of similar employment) to come up with a magic number.

No more building a rock-solid case to justify dismissal and no more wondering if you’ve overpaid a worker on her way out the door.

One would expect Canadian employers to be chomping at the bit for a magic formula to calculate reasonable notice (and employment lawyers perhaps equally panicking at the loss of business).

But, interestingly, the Charted Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), Europe’s largest HR association, has come out firmly against the proposal.

And they’re right. It’s not a good move — at least not for the stated goal of improving productivity and competitiveness.

CIPD, instead, is calling on the government “to encourage U.K. businesses to recognize and rectify gaps in management and leadership skills.”

You can read more in-depth about its thinking on this topic in an interesting report put together by KaterinaRudiger, skills policy adviser at CIPD, entitled Good Management: A New (Old) Driver for Growth?

CIPD’s thinking is bang on here: A plan to make it easy to sack underperforming workers may treat the symptoms but it won’t cure the disease.

A better question to focus on is this: Why are there so many underperforming workers? Organizations may want to engage in some navel-gazing exercises to get to the bottom of why leaders aren’t able to inspire people to perform better or improve productivity.

It’s far cheaper to put resources into developing a handful of leaders than it is to start firing workers en masse, recruiting new ones — and doing it all over again when history inevitably repeats itself.

But the concept of a simple formula to calculate notice periods? That remains appealing.

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