How to manage under-performing employees

Manage under-performing employees

It’s every manager’s nightmare. A candidate who interviewed well and had great references turns out to be a dud. They seem frustrated and unmotivated, they aren’t producing good work, and now they’re bringing everyone else down.

Managing under-performing employees is tricky. Of course, every case is different and what’s right for one employee might be completely wrong for another. Here are seven steps you can take to motivate and encourage an under-performing employee.

1. Find out what makes them tick

Understanding what’s important to a person will enable you to help them connect to their values. For example, if a particular employee values regular guidance, they might be feeling frustrated at being left ‘out in the cold’. Giving them the time to share their ideas and successes with you might be all they need to regain their motivation.

2. Make your expectations clear

When it comes to job descriptions and performance reviews it’s important to set clear expectations and to share these with employees. People lose motivation when they feel unsure of what expected of them, or if they feel that they’re delivering above their scope of work and not getting any recognition for it.

3. Help them set performance goals

People work best when they’re working towards a goal – and your idea of a great goal is not necessarily shared by your under-performing employee. Perhaps you have been setting the bar too high – or too low.

Working together on performance goals gives under-performing employees who feel jaded the chance to set their own career trajectories and to see how their achievements align to organizational goals and team KPIs. This is a fantastic motivator.

4. Offer support

Ideally, some of the performance goals you set with your employees will push them out of their comfort zones. They may need extra support from you or another senior team member. They might even need training. Giving them additional support will show them that they are valued and will help set them up for success.

5. Follow up

Don’t let performance goals gather dust. Turn them into actionable tasks with clear targets and deadlines – and then follow up regularly. Don’t wait for formal review sessions either – a quick check-in over a cup of coffee goes a long way!

6. Recognize and reward improvement

When you see a change in their behavior, even a small one, let them know that you have noticed it. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, but a quick word of encourage might boost their confidence and improve their performance even more.

7. Know when it’s time to act formally

If you have followed these steps and still have a problem managing an under-performing employee, it might be time to accept that you need to act formally. At this point, you should contact your HR team and begin formal proceedings. Allowing under-performing employees to get away with it will only bring the rest of your team down.

Of course, the best thing would be to catch employees before they become under-performers. Developing robust retention strategies and solid performance management plans will help keep your workforce motivated, productive and loyal.

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