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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
According to some observers, Kimberly-Clark people once-upon-a-time often began meetings with introductions of themselves that included declarations of how long they had worked for the company. Longevity (if not merely long-term survival) was seen as an important element in the K-C human relations culture. It may still be important, but one's length of service is no longer as strong a determinant of one's future in the company as it may once have been. Management teams are challenging the conventional wisdom that has given longevity a hallowed place in human resources management. In fact, it may have served to shield some dead-wood employees.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal is headlined, "At Kimberly-Clark, 'Dead Wood' Workers Have Nowhere to Hide." The article explains how corporations, including K-C, are using performance management software to weed out salaried staff who don't meet expectations. K-C has moved from being a "paternalistic" company that prized longevity to one focused on pushing workers to improve and tracking their progress in doing so. And--oh, yes--dropping those who don't improve from the company's employee rolls. Since 2009, K-C has laid off close to 3,000 mostly salaried workers worldwide from its global total of about 43,000.

It is not within our reportorial province to recommend any of them, but there are now a number of performance management software programs on the market. They focus on pushing workers to improve and tracking their progress. And they also offer companies using them a more objective and less subjective platform for shedding those who don't make satisfactory progress.

K-C uses the Workday program. K-C's salaried employees--hourly workers don't participate in it--use the program to set goals, report their progress, record accomplishments or mistakes, and solicit and send feedback.

Kimberly-Clark's own statements about its "Human Resources Development and Diversity" plan says, in part, that the intent of its policy is to "Recognize that business performance is dependent on the contributions of individual and that, given the opportunity, people will strive to achieve their full potential and become fully motivated when they understand how working toward company objectives will also help them achieve personal goals." K-C also declares a commitment to encouraging "frank, open and ongoing communication between supervisor and employee concerning the employee's job performance and potential for career growth."

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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