10 Top tips for dealing with underperforming staff

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Having a fantastic team that works together for a common goal and shares your vision is definitely the key to a successful business. It’s also pretty difficult to achieve. One weak link in the team can cause everything to fall apart so it’s important to sort out issues as and when they arise. Even the strongest most experienced managers can shy away from dealing with underperforming team members, hoping that they will just improve on their own. However, burying your head in the sand is never advisable in this situation, it’s always better to face the problem head on and deal with it – this will always work out better for all parties in the long run. Here are our 10 top tips for dealing with underperforming staff:-

  1. Assess their long term performance

Has the team member always been underperforming or is this a more recent situation? There’s a big difference between an employee that consistently delivers poor results and one that is just going through a bad patch. Look at reports and compare performance results and see if you can pin point when the performance changed…this might give you a clue as to why they are struggling and how you might be able to help.

  1. Listen and communicate

Meet with the employee to discuss your concerns but listen first to their explanation and understand their issues. Most employees will be very aware of their shortcomings and more conscientious ones may have been worrying about it for a while. Tackled in the right way these staff will be open to help and guidance in how to improve and move forward.

  1. Give specifics

Simply telling your staff member to ‘do better’ or ‘pick up the pace’ can be infuriating and confusing for them when they are struggling to keep up with their colleagues. As a manager it is important to give examples and specific ways in which they can improve. Quick wins will always be well received and can help motivate an employee to start finding their own other ways in which they can improve their performance.

  1. Create performance goals together

SMART goals are the best way to keep someone on track but it’s important to create these goals together and get agreement from the staff member. Creating goals for improving performance without their input might cause the employee to feel overwhelmed or demotivated. They need to know that the goals set are achievable and that they are being set up to succeed not to fail.

  1. Regular follow ups

It’s all well and good having in depth meetings thrashing out the problems and then setting goals and tasks for the employee to complete to help them improve but if you don’t then meet with them regularly to assess their progress the chances are they will eventually go off the boil again. Regular follow ups are essential and needn’t be time consuming. A 15 minute catch up once a week is all that’s needed to keep track of their performance and motivate them to keep going.

  1. Deal with the employee’s concerns

If an underperforming staff member feels that there are issues within the business that are preventing them from achieving better results then it is really important that these problems addressed and measures put in place to ensure that the employees are able to perform at their best. Obviously not all changes can be made overnight but as long as steps are being taken then employees will feel that their needs are being met and any further underperformance will be on them.

  1. Encourage and motivate

Positive and constructive feedback is essential to keep any employee motivated through a period of improvement. The most important thing is to find out what makes your employee tick, what motivates them? If an employee is particularly motivated by financial reward then maybe this would be a good way to achieve the end goal, however, some may be more motivated by praise in front of their peers. Never assume you know what motivates a person as every employee is different.

  1. Use training and resources

It may be that the underperforming staff member needs retraining or additional training to help them achieve their goal. If this is an employee that you feel is worth keeping then it is always worth the extra time and effort required to make this happen. It might be worth finding a work buddy to help them experience better ways of doing their role or bringing in an external training provider to train a group of team members together. Remember your staff can often be undertrained but never over-trained.

  1. Formally follow up on underperformance

If, after all your efforts, the staff member is still not up to scratch then it is time to start formally documenting the issues and taking the employee down the disciplinary path. There needs to be timescales put in place from day one so that the employee knows that their underperformance can’t just continue forever, that there will be a time at which things become formal and bad performance will not longer be tolerated.

  1. Know when to call it a day

In every manager’s working life there will be a time when they have to let a team member go. It is never a pleasant job, but in business it is inevitable and the longer you leave it the more difficult and unpleasant it will be. If you are confident that you have done all you can to help an employee improve their performance and they have continued to bring in poor results then it is your duty for the sake of your business and the rest of your team to let that person go. Remember these things are not personal and will generally be the right thing for all concerned.

Keeping a happy motivated work force around you can make for a better working life. As a manager keep your ears close to the ground and always be aware of issues and grumblings in your team – this way you can deal with problems as soon as they occur and keep your successful business running smoothly.