15 Jul 2019

Dealing with non-performing employees

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One of the most difficult parts of being a people manager is dealing with non-performing employees. Below are some top tips for handling them in the right way.

1. Decide if this is a long-term issue or whether their performance has only dropped recently.

There’s a big difference between an employee who consistently does not meet performance standards, and a good employee who is struggling temporarily (and which could be due to a variety of reasons, including an illness you are unaware of). Assess each employee and their situation individually, then decide the appropriate action.

Looking at metrics, such as past appraisals, feedback from clients and colleagues, plus your own personal experience with the employee, will help you to determine if you’re dealing with a consistent non-performer, or with an employee who may be stressed, unfocused, or overloaded on a temporary basis, who is otherwise a well-performing employee.

2. Don’t assume - ask

A good manager should not assume that he or she knows the underlying causes of the poor performance. It’s always best to have a meeting, and allow opportunity for the employee to talk and for you to listen.

Ask how work is going, what are their frustrations, what are their challenges or problems. Ask about progress and find out if your employee is aware of the performance issues or not.

3. Be specific and provide examples

Generic feedback is rarely useful. Employees need to know exactly where they are going wrong, so try to be specific and provide examples where you can, to demonstrate what they are doing wrong and then how they can do better. Ask them what they think they can do to improve, and if they need any support to be able to do better.

4. Keep track of (and acknowledge) progress

Better performance does not happen overnight, even when it is attitude related. When it’s a capability case, then they will need a lot of support and monitoring at regular intervals. If you can see even small improvements, make sure you tell them, which should encourage them to make further improvements. If their efforts are acknowledged and encouraged, you are much more likely to get to the desired end result.

5. Motivate

Most employees will lack self-motivation, at least initially, so it is vital you provide some motivation in order for you to see performance improvement. Individuals are motivated by different things, (money, better opportunities, more high-profile projects, recognition, status) so try and find out what motivates them, and then help him or her see how improving performance can allow those things to happen.

6. Provide appropriate training and resources.

Sometimes lack of performance is literally down to lack of training. You could have great people who are willing to do the work, but simply are not equipped to do it. A little training investment can often result in dramatic performance improvement. Discuss the requirement with the employee and decide how best to deliver this training, which may be as simple as assigning a mentor with a more experienced employee internally, to hiring external resource from a professional.

7. Know when it’s not working

If you have done all the above, allowed time for improvement and yet the standards are still not there, you will need to decide whether the employee has a future with the organisation. If you do dismiss, ensure you follow correct and fair dismissal procedures.

To discuss this or anything else, please contact Juliet.