April 12, 2014 – What is the best way to improve employees who are not
performing to their potential? You first need to know what is going on
with the particular
employee. Is there anything else going on in their job, the work
with co-workers, with a supervisor, or more broadly in their life that
precluding them from performing?
April 12, 2014 – What is the best way to improve employees who are not performing to their potential? You first need to know what is going on with the particular
employee. Is there anything else going on in their job, the work environment,
with co-workers, with a supervisor, or more broadly in their life that is
precluding them from performing?
face it, most people don’t wake up in the morning and think to themselves: “How do I steal from my employer by doing a
lousy job?” The reason for this is that people normally associate feelings of
safety with remaining employed. This is normally not assured with blatant or
continuing underperformance on their part.
If you can alleviate or improve upon whatever is hampering
your apparent underperformer’s work, the problem is often resolved quickly.
Having worked with hundreds of small to mid-sized employers since 2004, we know
this can involve many factors:
- a lack of knowing what exactly is expected at a level they
really understand, and can therefore act upon
- a poor manager who demotivates
- personal problems that are distracting their focus from timely,
This is not about excuses. It is about understanding what is
really going on in order to truly help enable employee performance. This is
also not about prying too deeply into an employee’s personal life. Instead, it
is about asking, respectfully and supportively, how you can help remove
potential barriers to their individual performance.
The difference between success and failure here is often
driven by your approach. Help is usually accepted; blame is usually deflected. As
a bonus, helpful employers usually ends up earning the trust and respect of
their employees, the number 1 driver of their, and increasingly your,
If, after understanding what is really going on with a
particular employee, you still believe it is a performance problem, ask them
how you might be able to help them perform better in their job? Nicely, calmly,
usually privately, and in a spirit of discovery, while taking notes, ask them: “How
could we as an organization, or me as a leader here, enable you to perform
better in your role?”
Listen carefully to their responses, and let them come back
to you if they want to think about it for a day or two. Maybe they need some
training, coaching, mentoring, support, tools, safety gear, ventilation, or
potentially something else. Enable them if it seems reasonable. Normally, by
working with someone to get their performance level up, the sheer fact that
you’re doing so provides an improvement. This is because you are positively
impacting their self-esteem, plus the additional gains you are likely to
Finally, if and when you and/or your qualified human
resources consultant has completed the diagnostic work required to determine
that there is an actual individual performance problem, then, and only then,
should you consider additional action.
For a typical small to mid-sized employer, this will involve
a progressive discipline process as laid out in your HR policies and procedures documentation, tied back to
their employment agreement. This normally starts with a verbal warning, working
through one or more written warnings, moving up to a formal performance
improvement plan, and failing improvement, potential termination, normally
“without cause” in a legal sense. Pay in lieu of notice, statutory severance,
career transition and common-law considerations should all be contemplated. In
reality, these parting goodies, as they are often viewed, are to provide a
bridge for the employee as they work to find their next employer. You are also
covering off some of their basic physiological and safety needs in the process.
Don’t begrudge them: it’s wasted energy. We recommend you pay up and move
Alex Gallacher CHRP, SHRP is managing director of ENGAGE
HR™. He can be reached at www.engagehr.com .
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