In a company, you are likely to encounter two kinds of employees – those who perform well and those whose performance is not up to the standards. The percentage of underperforming employees may be less, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the problem!
An underperforming employee can have a profound effect on the rest of the workforce as other employees tend to be coerced to pick up the slack. Therefore, it’s important to identify underperforming employees and make an effort to manage them before it’s too late.
Identifying Underperforming Employees
Some visible trends that can reveal low employee performance are as follows:
- Not Meeting the Goals and Objectives – It’s impossible to always be perfect, but if a team or an employee is constantly failing to meet their targets by a large margin, then it can be a sign that something is wrong.
- Lack of Teamwork – At times, poor performance can de be detected by an inability to work with other employees. Interpersonal conflicts, a highly politicised culture, gossip, and combative behaviour can derail the whole team’s productivity.
- No Adherence to Company Values and Culture – A careless attitude of not embracing the company’s culture can indicate underperformance. For example, if the company’s value is to prioritise customer relationships, but the employee fails to sympathise with customers, then the individual is not adhering to the company values.
- Disregard for Company Rules – Constant absenteeism, tardiness, disengagement in work and other disciplinary issues can also lead to poor performance. If these issues continue to arise, productivity levels are degraded.
- Low-Quality Work – The employee may still work, but the quality may not be up to the mark. Else, they may be over-dependent on co-workers or superiors wherein the team members always have to pitch in and take their onus. In this case, both the employee and the team will experience a lack of performance in the long run.
How to Deal with Underperforming Employees
After identifying performance problems, come up with a plan of action by understanding the causes and taking the right measures. At times, the reason for poor performance could be the fact that the employee is unclear about the company’s expectations or needs more training. Here are some steps you can take to tackle underperformance issues:
1. Consistent Feedback
For some employees, initiating a conversation and providing feedback on their performance may open up opportunities to improve.
According to a survey done by Clutch’s HR Employee Feedback Survey, 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs and perform well.
This could also be used as a time to have an open discussion by inviting the employee to also share their opinions on what can be done to improve their performance.
2. Personalised Training
If underperformance is pinned at an individual level, the best option is to undertake personalised training and then track the changes to monitor if the performance has improved. Today, most employees lack soft skills (communication and presentation) which can strongly undermine their performance.
Understand the root cause that is a bottleneck in the candidate’s performance and then provide them with the necessary training resources to equip themselves.
3. Explain Expectations and Acknowledge their Contribution
Communicate the goals and objectives of the project to get them on board towards working for a common mission. This will enable them to understand where they fit in the bigger picture and how their contribution affects the business as a whole.
When you provide a holistic understanding of the organisation, it will in turn boost employee engagement and delineate clearly the expectations.
4. Set Performance Goals Together
Tactics like SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-framed performance indicators will help to set clear performance targets. You can collaborate with the employees to set their own performance goals.
This will involve the employees in the process and also win their commitment towards the performance goals rather than simply dictating them the standard performance goals.
5. Time it Right
Avoid emotional confrontation in the heat of the moment and don’t subject the employee to outright criticism. Instead, give him/her some time to cool off and then schedule a one-on-one meeting with them. Listen to the employee’s stance and communicate your expectations to understand what might have gone wrong.
It’s important that you collect your thoughts and approach the topic without any arguments, threatening behaviour or accusatory tone.
6. External Factors
Abrupt underperformance that has surfaced suddenly could be the result of external factors like personal issues, stress or mental wellbeing of the employee. It could be a temporary issue like the passing away of a loved one, new child, relationship problems, health issues, etc.
Therefore, understand if any external factors are hampering the performance of the employee and then address the same by taking prudent measures to resolve their temporary issues.
7. Follow Up
Once you have a one-on-one performance discussion with the employee, it is not the end of the story. Follow up consistently to determine if the agreed performance goals and targets are accomplished and regularly monitor the progress. If they have completed a milestone, appreciate them and acknowledge their progress.
This will show that you are interested in the work of your employees and your due diligence will significantly boost employee morale and performance in turn.
8. Effective Onboarding Process
On-boarding employees the right way goes a long way to better engage employees in their work and affect their performance going forward. Most companies owing to restraints on resources are forced to shortcut this process and the employees are no longer clear on their expectations for the new role.
Investing in quality induction will aid learning and decrease employee turnover over time and save costs. This will result in a win-win situation for everyone.
9. Create Challenging Opportunities
Some roles can be too dull and monotonous, once the employee has exhausted their capabilities at all the aspects of the job. This can easily take a hit on the performance of the employees as they are no longer motivated to do their work.
Get the performance back on track by providing them with innovative opportunities that help them think outside the box and assign them new initiatives to further engage them in their role.
10. Provide Incentives for Performance
If no incentives are in place to reward the performance of the employee, then performance levels are sure to go down gradually or employees will simply leave in search of a more rewarding company. Incentives don’t always have to be a costly affair. A simple recognition and appreciation programme can go a long way to keep your employees motivated.
Ask yourself questions like what you can do to support employees better and how employees envision their career to grow in the next 12 months to come up with creative incentives to reward the performance of your employees.
Deal with Underperformance Promptly
As a leader, it’s important that you deal with an underperforming employee promptly. Otherwise, it will set a wrong precedent and create a ripple effect of negativity on the team and the rest of the employees. And, finally, if you have exhausted every effort to try to bring back the performance on the track, it may be time to let go. Don’t hesitate.
Make sure you have a proper plan to deal with underperforming employees effectively!