Even great performers sometimes experience a slack due to a variety of reasons. Low employee productivity is not good for businesses. But at the same time, it is inevitable. But how can managers deal with poor performers?
There is no single answer to this question. This is because there is no one single way to determine or find a solution to resolve the issues related to poor employee performance. This is why managers get uncomfortable dealing with poor performing team members. But no matter how uncomfortable it gets, it needs to be dealt with on an immediate basis.
Here is a step by step way to deal with employees whose performance has not been optimal.
1. Question your sources
The first question to answer for any manager is the reliability of the source from which the information of poor performance has been derived. Relying on staff members might not be the best way to judge the performance of an employee. It has been documented that extensive employee manipulation of feedback ratings has occurred in companies using a 360-degree feedback for performance evaluation including GE, IBM, and Amazon. It needs to be based on objective information, and not on subjective opinions.
Instead of directly jumping to conclusions related to the employee’s poor performance, the following two key questions need to be asked:
- Has the employee been unable to meet his targets or deadlines over a long period of time?
- Is the employee making too many blunders, despite constant supervision?
Answering these questions will make the start of the analysis non-personal and purely professional.
2. Analyze reasons for poor performance
Poor performance is most often a result of a variety of causes. Whatever the cause might be, it needs to be evaluated. The way to do it is to sit with the concerned employee and communicate. Robust and effective communication is often the solution to most problems.
Find out if the employee is going through any of the following:
- An overload of work or a complete lack of work
- Issues with colleagues
- Personal issues
- Change in the type of work
Try and find out if the sudden slack in performance can be attributed to any of the above factors. Set the tone for a human and informal conversation with the employee. Listen for most of the time, asking questions when absolutely necessary. Considering the needs of your employees will make them feel better about the situation as well.
3. Highlight key issues through detailed feedback
It is important that employees feel like their contribution matters when it comes to their work. Whenever their performance is not optimal, managers should reassure them of their importance and how their work impacts the overall business. Managers need to be completely honest and genuine in their endeavor to do this.
At the same time, the key issues where the employee is lacking also need to be clearly highlighted. An accusation is not the way to take here. Under consequences of poor performance need to be stated clearly. This needs to be backed by proper evidence that proves the employee’s poor records. For example, if the employee has been missing work a lot lately or coming in late, attendance records need to be shown. Every feedback needs to be specific and elaborate, to give maximum clarity.
4. Make way for the employee to participate
Employee feedback is always a two-way street. A manager cannot define each and every route to be taken by an employee. A manager can coach, guide and supervise, but an employee needs to be able to work independently. This can only be possible when employees have a say in what they do.
Once managers have a detailed conversation about the causes of poor performance with the employee, they need to help employees participate in suggesting ways to do better in the future. Even if the manager lays out a path and formulates a plan of performance improvement, the employee needs to agree and be comfortable with it. Forcing things down can seem authoritative and might even lead o rebellious behavior. The focus should be to arrive at a mutual agreement to a plan, and deadlines set to it.
5. Hold regular reviews for updates
It all does not end at laying down plans. Managers need to hold regular one on ones to check on the progress of the deadlines being assigned to the employee. This will make employees more accountable. Guidance and coaching should be offered at various stages whenever needed, but also shouldn’t be excessive. Managers need to find that right balance to motivate employees and keep them on their toes.
Performance support tools should be made available to employees at various stages to help them navigate their ways themselves. Offer them tools that can help them be better at their jobs. For example, offer them a free training on a particular function or give them access to a walkthrough for a core process. Technology can be valuable in empowering employees.
6. Reward improvements
According to a study by Pavel Vosk, a Washington-based business, and management consultant, the biggest contributor to demotivation is a lack of recognition for extra effort.
Rewards and recognition are what we all crave for at the end of a hard day’s labor. It gives validation to our work, which acts as a motivating boost to more hard work later. It also gives a sense of purpose to what employees do day in and day out. Rewards such as bonuses, perks, monetary vouchers can work. But it need not always be something related to money. Small gestures can also go a long way. Always give due recognition to high performers in front of their colleagues. Be genuine and substantiate it with examples.
These steps are for employees who have been there for a while and suddenly start showing signs of underproductivity. There will, of course, be cases where some employees will not respond to any of the above efforts. In such a case, a strict decision needs to be made. Bur for all those employees who are not lacking somewhere, but actually going through something else need to be given a second or a third chance.