Managing Underperformance

One of the greatest challenges an organization can face is that of underperforming employees. There’s no need to let this problem reach the point where it affects the overall performance of the company.

Multiple important business principles go into effective performance management. Always make sure that the team members are aware of their role and where they stand in the organization. The important tasks should always be effectively done. And encouraging everyone in the company helps employee motivation.

Here is further detail on some of the most effective ways on how to head off or manage an underperformance problem.

1. Clear Expectations and Job-Employee Matching

One of the best ways on how to manage underperformance is by having a clear outline of what the job entails. For example, during the hiring process, the issue of underperformance can be resolved by creating job requirements that are as clear as possible, to avoid confusion.

Exact job specifications don’t only assist in the hiring process by thoroughly screening the candidates and evaluating their skills, but they also allow the interviewer to document the expectations of the company. This would avoid any confusion in the long run, and have the guarantee that the applicant, turned employee, would have a full knowledge of what the job entails.

2. Performance Reviews

More often than not, underperforming employees aren’t even aware that they fail to meet the expectations of the manager. For that reason, performance reviews should be carried out on a regular, periodic basis. This is very helpful in determining if the employee is underperforming, allowing management to fix the problem right away.

However, this should not be treated as something similar to a “report card.” Instead, it’s more of a two-way dialogue and continuous process that could help an employee improve his performance (Best Management Articles).

The following questions should be asked:

  • In your opinion, what do you think the expectations of the company are?
  • Are you meeting these expectations? What are the areas that you fail to focus on?
  • Do you have any issues with the company that’s causing your underperformance? How can it be resolved?
  • Are there any parts of your job that you cannot handle? What are they.
  • Are you having problems with your coworkers? Does it hinder your performance?

As these problem areas are discussed, as much as possible, stay away from being vague or using generalizations that could be taken personally by the employee. It’s important to talk about the specific problems and necessary actions that can be done in order to correct them.

For underperforming employees, it’s ideal to document the exact performance by determining what should be done in order to resolve the problem. Keep in mind, the ultimate goal is to motivate and empower the employees to become productive members of the company.

3. Offer the Necessary Training

Performance problems can be caused by employees coming to work not fully prepared. A number of factors can contribute to this, such as being hired even without the necessary skills, or it can also be that the job has evolved.

In situations like this, training is very important. The employer is tasked to budget this, provide additional funds when necessary, and specify the kind of training employees need.

4. Mentoring Program

In a mentoring program, employees are matched with skilled professionals that can help the employee acquire more skill and learn the important attitudes needed for the job. Aside from that, a mentor could motivate the employee to strive harder, and grow together with the company.

In fact, a solid mentoring program has the ability of transforming underperformers into stars that could contribute to the company’s success. Mentoring develops aptitudes in multiple areas and enables you to quickly learn from someone else’s mistakes.

5. Promote a Sense of Ownership

In bad work environments, employees go to work just to earn a paycheck – nothing more. There’s no real excitement that they can look forward to. The company doesn’t have a vision nor opportunities that would make them aspire to become an integral part of the company.

Performance reviews, mentoring, and training are just some of the best ways to help an employee consider the job as something important and whatever he/she contributes to the company is valued. This gives a sense of ownership and the mindset that “we’re all in this together.”

6. Let Them Go if Necessary

For employers who don’t believe that their employee has the ability to work effectively within the company, even with full support, it might be the best to just terminate employment. A decision like this should be taken seriously, and clean communication about the performance problem should be done.

Further reading: Fair Work Ombudsman (Australia)