Management Tips··8 min read

Here's How To Improve Underperforming Employees

underperforming employees

The last thing any organization needs is to employ people that are a liability instead of an asset. So the question is how to manage underperforming employees? This guide looks at the top signs of an underperforming employee and the best way to deal with the situation.

Signs That Employees Are Underperforming

Here's your plan of action.

Failing to Meet Performance Standards

When employees consistently fail to meet performance standards, it's a clear sign of underperformance. This could manifest in the quality of work, adherence to deadlines, or even daily duties. Managers should set clear performance goals and use real-time feedback to address these issues. An action plan for improvement can be developed to guide the employee back on track.

Disruptive Behavior and Poor Morale

Disruptive behavior in the workplace can be detrimental to company culture and employee morale. Underperforming employees often exhibit poor morale, which can affect the entire team. Addressing this requires a candid conversation and possibly additional training to improve engagement levels.

Lack of Skills and Inadequate Training

Employees who lack the necessary skills for their job duties are likely to underperform. This often stems from a flawed onboarding process or lack of proper training sessions. Managers should identify these gaps and provide access to training or even consider online leadership training to fill them.

Personal Issues Affecting Work

Sometimes underperformance is linked to personal issues or challenges in an employee's personal life. While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial, unresolved personal issues can spill over into job performance. One-on-one meetings can help identify if additional time off or other support is needed.

Inconsistent Performance Over Time

If an employee shows a fluctuating pattern of progress, it may indicate performance issues. This inconsistency can be due to various reasons, from unrealistic expectations set by management to a lack of personal goals. Performance reviews can offer constructive criticism and set long-term goals to address this.

Failure to Engage and Collaborate

Low-performing employees often show a lack of active listening and engagement, affecting their relationship with the team leader and the quality team as a whole. Employee feedback, especially 360-degree feedback, can be invaluable in these cases. An action plan template can help structure subsequent meetings aimed at improving performance.

Six Tips To Improve Underperforming Employees

It can be challenging to determine the best method for dealing with underperforming employees. However, these tips will help you address underperformance effectively to boost workplace productivity.

Check If The Problem Is Not On Your End

The typical reaction to underperformance is to blame employees for slacking. However, what you perceive as slacking might result from a fault on your end. Therefore, employers and managers should ensure employees understand what they're expected to do. Otherwise, if employees are working with vague expectations, they may not even be aware they're underperforming.

Management should be as explicit about what employees are expected to do. Not only that, but it's also crucial to communicate clearly about the consequences of not meeting these expectations. Suppose employees are underperforming because of a problem on your end. In that case, you should avoid confrontations and focus on communicating effectively and providing education so that everyone is on the same page.

Talk to Underperforming Employees

Do you want to know what is causing employee underperformance in your organization? Talking to underperforming employees can help provide the answers you seek. For the best results, you should speak with each employee individually to keep things confidential.

Bring the matter up without being confrontational, as it's all too easy for emotions to escalate. When you bring the issue up, you may be surprised that some employees know their performance level has dropped while others may be clueless about the situation.

Regardless of which scenario comes up, it's good to encourage employees to share with you their thoughts on why they may not be performing as expected. This will help you understand employees better and will ensure that you develop a performance plan tailored to their needs.

For instance, if an employee's performance is affected by temporary external factors, you can solve the issues by asking the employee to take some time off work. This will give them room to work on the stressful situation, whether it's a relationship problem, family illness, or a traumatic event.

During the meeting, you should also take the time to ask in-depth questions to help you understand the employee's long-term career goals, the support they need from management, what they don't like about their current role or the existing work culture, and how well they are handling their workload. This will help you gain valuable insights that help you promote employee performance.

If face-to-face meetings don't yield the desired results, you can obtain the information you want by sending out surveys asking for employees' feedback concerning underperformance in the workplace.

Be Clear About What's Expected of Employees

After talking with employees to understand why they're not putting in the required level of effort, it's always a good time to reiterate your expectations and highlight the areas that need improvement. Go over their duties and tasks and explain the standards they have to meet when completing those duties and tasks.

This is especially important if the employee is a new hire since new hires are still acclimating to their position and have a lot to learn before they become fully productive.

To keep employees on track, you should provide documents that help employees understand what is expected. That way, they can always refer to these documents to maintain focus on the end goal.

The goals you set for employees should be SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific. This implies that you should regularly check up on employees and provide feedback on whether there's a performance improvement.

Don't forget to ask what you can do to help improve employee performance. Asking this question shows you're not looking to blame or criticize, but you're looking for practical solutions. At the same time, you should be clear that the newly crafted employee performance improvement plan must produce the desired results and outline the potential consequences of continued poor performance. Whatever is communicated, there should be no room for misinterpretation or confusion.

Provide Employee Training

If there's a high prevalence of underperformance in the workplace, it's often necessary to provide training. Before providing training for underperforming employees, it's a great idea to investigate areas that need to be brushed upon.

For instance, if employees lack confidence when using a newly installed software program, you should provide adequate training that helps restore productivity.

In any case, it's best practice to ensure employees receive ongoing training in line with their goals and aspirations. This helps to improve employee satisfaction which in turn boosts productivity.

Roll Out Employee Rewards That Are Based On Performance

A common cause of poor employee performance is lack of recognition. When employees feel they are not being appreciated enough, they may lose their motivation to work hard.

Fortunately, implementing an effective employee rewards program doesn't have to be expensive for employers interested in how to motivate underperforming employees. Simple initiatives like "thank you bonuses" and gift cards will motivate employees to perform better.

Therefore, when an underperforming employee starts improving and accomplishing more goals, employees should reward this improvement. Recognizing and rewarding excellent employee performance will go a long way towards addressing company-wide underperformance.

Address Underperformance Quickly

Employee underperformance should never be left to fester as the long-term consequences are costly for the organization. When the issue is not addressed as quickly as it arises, it means you're leaving employees to learn new behaviors that can be very hard to unlearn. Even high-performing employees may begin to underperform and disengage if they notice what's going on.

In addition, employees will think that that kind of behavior is acceptable to management, so they will not make an effort to improve. New hires will quickly become part of the problem if they follow what other employees do.

Therefore, you should establish a work culture that has zero tolerance for underperformance from the get-go. You should schedule a meeting with underperforming employees as soon as you notice the issue. Again you should confirm that employees understand what is expected and the consequences of not meeting those expectations.

Know What to Do If The Situation Doesn't Change

When all is said and done, you should expect your efforts to combat underperformance to produce positive results. But what happens when underperformance continues to be a problem? First, go over the entire process to ensure you didn't miss some crucial aspects that may be contributing to the lack of change.

However, if you have done your due diligence, you'll have to implement disciplinary action and escalate the repercussions if this fails to get the appropriate response. For instance, you may let the employee off with a warning the first time and move to demotion and finally termination of employment if things don't change.

Letting an employee go should be the last resort, but sometimes there's nothing you can do if the employee is not a good fit for the company, even after you have tried everything to help them improve. Alternatively, you can reassign the employee to see if they would perform better in a different role with different responsibilities. If this doesn't work, it's back to the last option – termination.

The Bottom Line On Improving Employee Underperformance

Employee underperformance is never a welcome thing, so it's essential to know how to nip it in the bud effectively. Hopefully, the methods covered in this guide will help you deal with the situation more efficiently.

Remember to find out the causes behind the underperformance before tackling the issue. Also, try as much as possible to work with your employees to motivate them towards a common goal.

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