Are Your Employees Underperforming? 5 Suggestions on What to Do

If you ask managers what their biggest frustrations are, you’ll very likely hear that one of them is that despite their best efforts to get the most out of their team, the fact is that many workers, even those with seemingly high potential, either consistently or periodically underperform.  Last week on the blog, I wrote about some of the underlying reasons for employee poor performance, and several things to look out for in order to quickly and easily identify worrying trends.

A key challenge then is how to go about handling underperformance, long before the point of decision to reduce their activities or even their termination from the company.

Large companies – GE being one well-known example – may find it quite affordable and motivating to replace 10% of the work force every now and then. Yet let’s be realistic, most companies (of any size really) can neither afford nor want to do that.  Companies invest time and money into finding talented workers and then training them, and there is a clear value in team continuity and familiarity. Therefore, managers should be able to find ways to identify underperforming workers and find a way to impact positive change quickly and professionally.

So with that said, here are 5 steps will assist you in addressing underperformance in such manner that it strengthens both your team and organization.

Step 1: Set clear goals and carefully choose workers to correspond with the necessary abilities

Underperformance many times results from the company’s and/or worker’s uncertainty concerning what his/her duty entails. If you’ve an have an influence over hiring, you’ll be able to stop this downside by stipulating job necessities that are clear and precise overall.

A job’s specifications won’t solely assist within the hiring method. You need to allow candidates to try and do what’s needed to do. Permit your employees to document precisely regarding which the expectations are, thus there’ll be no confusion in their understanding of duty or in your management.

Step 2: Keep track of performance through periodic reviews and communicate your concerns with the employee

Too many times, workers who are not meeting expectations aren’t even aware of their failures. Regular performance reviews help to to bring the sub-par performance to the employee’s attention. These reviews should be help in the spirit of a sincere, 2-way dialogue on the ways in which performance can be improved.

During the employee-manager meetings, you can reintroduce the organization’s expectations of the worker’s performance. both the places where the employee has met those objectives and where he/she has not, and to receive feedback from the employee about if there are any specific workplace or personal issues impacting their performance which the manager might be able to alleviate.  Remember that these meetings, while perhaps uncomfortable for both sides, should be specific and conducted in a warm and open give-and-take.  The hope is that the worker will see that they are not being judged, and they will feel more engaged and motivated to improve.

Step 3: Offer training for raising performance

The blog has covered before the important role the employee training can play in an overall engaged workforce.  When faced with exisiting employees who aren’t meeting expectation, it’s a smart move to offer them retraining (and/or coaching) and different resources to help them improve. As an example, you may combine an underperforming worker with someone to act as a mentor, or offer him/her a manual with procedures to follow. In addition, there are performance improvement tools – WalkMe is a very valuable technology – which can assist in a worker being more efficient and accurate, within the flow of work (and not taking them away from their daily tasks).  With the extra help, it’s terribly important to acknowledge and praise the worker once he/she performs at a higher level. A manager’s role in all of this is to first all enable and facilitate it, allocate necessary funds for it, as well as to, once again, stipulate the way in which it manages to address the worker’s expectations.  Remember – communication is key.

Step 4: Encourage the employee to be in charge of their improvement – ‘you have the ability to make it happen’ 

Underperformance can be depressing.  People who are struggling sometimes get down on themselves and begin to doubt a) whether they can excel in the end and 2) do they really matter that much?  Several workers assume that for simply “earning a paycheck” you don’t need to have any real excitement concerning the organization or the opportunities it offers. At the same time, they don’t see themselves as a true part of the association.

Training, performance reviews, and mentoring will facilitate any worker in seeing that their job is vital, and their contribution is highly valued by the company. Thus, it helps them to achieve a sense of ownership, but they also need to be cooperative and to respect the company’s work philosophy if the expect good results.  They also need to feel motivated and have the confidence that their efforts can indeed bring results.

Step 5: Follow-Up

Follow up with the worker on an everyday basis. If his/her performance doesn’t improve, or if the employee fails to keep up the development over time, begin the method of progressive discipline. Warn the worker that continued underperformance will lead to him/her being financially sanctioned, and it will ultimately lead to his discharge from the position in the company.

Yet I don’t want to end on a sad note.  The main message here is that managers CAN help struggling workers through a variety of ways.  Sometimes growth comes in painfully fluctuating stages, but in the big picture, with the proper communication and effort, the relationship between manager and employee cab emerge stronger and longer-lasting.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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