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Managing Poor Performance: Checklist for Development and Recovery

Two businessmen women having a one to one meeting - managing poor performance.

When you start to notice poor per­for­mance from employ­ees, the best step you can take is quick and deci­sive action to get them back on track. Fol­low our poor per­for­mance man­age­ment check­list and avoid con­tin­ued drop-offs.

Work­place per­for­mance is not always a steady line, nor will it always be an upward trend. Some­times, employ­ees can see drops in any­thing from pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and effi­cien­cy to atti­tude and communication.

But when things start to go wrong, it’s essen­tial that they are put right as quick­ly as possible.

Per­for­mance dips are not only bad for prof­itabil­i­ty, but they can also be dam­ag­ing to morale, impact oth­er work­ers, lead to poor reten­tion rates and even become habit­u­al. Man­agers play a vital role in tack­ling poor per­for­mance at the first sign of trouble.

Man­ag­ing Poor Per­for­mance Check­list Item #1: Define the Core Per­for­mance Issues

In order to cor­rect poor per­for­mance, you must first be clear on the core issues that an employ­ee is fac­ing. The prob­lem must be defin­able and you must be able to clear­ly describe the issue result­ing in poor performance.

If you can’t do this, you can’t com­bat it.

Analy­sis of work per­for­mance is cru­cial. Look at how your employ­ee oper­ates, gath­er data and infor­ma­tion and ascer­tain exact­ly what is going wrong.

Let’s say poor per­for­mance is relat­ed to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Sim­ply say­ing your mem­ber of staff is unpro­duc­tive is not a clear enough per­for­mance issue. Why aren’t they pro­duc­tive? Iden­ti­fy what is hap­pen­ing in their role that is caus­ing the prob­lem. It could be a lack of sales. It could be an inabil­i­ty to hit dead­lines. What­ev­er the rea­son, it must be definable.

If the prob­lem is behav­iour­al, refer­ring to your organisation’s behav­iour or com­pe­ten­cy frame­work (if one exists) can be help­ful to help artic­u­late the issue.

Expert Tip:

When iden­ti­fy­ing core per­for­mance issues, do not over­bur­den your employ­ee. Focus on fight­ing one prob­lem at a time. Once per­for­mance improves move to oth­er areas.

Man­ag­ing Poor Per­for­mance Check­list Item #2: Pro­vide Feed­back as Soon as Possible

Man­age­ment has a ten­den­cy to avoid con­flict. They want to keep up morale and ensure employ­ees are hap­py, and giv­ing neg­a­tive per­for­mance feed­back can seem coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to that. How­ev­er, avoid­ing dis­cussing per­for­mance issues will ulti­mate­ly make things worse over time — poor per­for­mance issues rarely cor­rect them­selves with­out feedback.

So, the answer is to sug­ar­coat the crit­i­cal feed­back right? Well no.

It may come as a sur­prise, but employ­ees want to hear your crit­i­cism. 94% of employ­ees want to hear cor­rec­tive’ feed­back — feed­back that will help them improve how they work. As a result, it’s impor­tant to be hon­est and direct with what you say.

Uncer­tain­ty does not allow for pro­gres­sion or cor­rec­tive behav­iour. It sim­ply means employ­ees are aware of prob­lems but aren’t quite sure how to solve them. 50% of employ­ees are uncer­tain of their goals and much of this uncer­tain­ty is borne out of indi­rect man­age­r­i­al feedback.

In order to iden­ti­fy the core issue behind per­for­mance dips, as defined in item #1, you must first deter­mine exact­ly what the prob­lem is. So be open and direct and let them know exact­ly where the prob­lem lies, but in a calm, sup­port­ive way so that the employ­ee feels com­fort­able enough to open. If you go into the dis­cus­sion in an emo­tion­al­ly charged state your­self, the employ­ee will be defen­sive and closed to your feedback.

Once the per­for­mance issue is recog­nised and under­stood, you can move on to the next step. Sug­ar­coat the truth about an employee’s per­for­mance and nobody is bet­ter off.

Man­ag­ing Poor Per­for­mance Check­list Item #3: Offer Solu­tions and Sug­gest­ed Actions to Fight the Under­ly­ing Cause

Tak­ing your employ­ee aside, inform­ing them of their poor per­for­mance and then shov­ing them out the door is not going to result in improved per­for­mance. This is not a tal­ent strat­e­gy that will ben­e­fit your company.

To get per­for­mance back on track, you must be pre­pared to offer help and sup­port. The first step in the process comes with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of under­ly­ing per­for­mance problems.

What has caused their per­for­mance to slide?

Dis­cus­sions with your employ­ee may high­light per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al bar­ri­ers that are caus­ing dips in things like pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Once you know what the prob­lems are, you can cre­ate plans to over­come them. This may include addi­tion­al train­ing, men­tor­ing, changes in respon­si­bil­i­ties or assist­ing with per­son­al mat­ters that are impact­ing work, such as psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port or man­age­ment of health con­cerns and gen­er­al wellbeing.

Employ­ees have a cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ty to man­age their own per­for­mance. They are expect­ed to do the work they are paid for to a stan­dard wor­thy of their pay-grade. How­ev­er, the more sup­port you are pre­pared to offer them, the bet­ter their chances are of reach­ing and exceed­ing the stan­dards you expect, and with­in a quick­er time frame.

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Man­ag­ing Poor Per­for­mance Check­list Item #4: Use Per­for­mance Man­age­ment Software

You can’t track per­for­mance if you aren’t car­ry­ing out reg­u­lar per­for­mance reviews. And if you can’t track per­for­mance, you can’t iden­ti­fy prob­lems ear­ly enough to stop them from becom­ing major issues.

A per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem like Clear Review enables man­agers to mon­i­tor the progress of their team mem­bers through focused check-in dis­cus­sions. It also allows goals to be set and for feed­back to giv­en in real-time. By being aware of employ­ee per­for­mance on an ongo­ing basis, you can react quick­ly to prob­lems, instead of back­track­ing or miss­ing them entirely.

Man­ag­ing Poor Per­for­mance Check­list Item #5: Redi­rect Strong Per­for­mances to Sup­port Neg­a­tive Qualities

Keep­ing track of employ­ees through per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tems is not only ben­e­fi­cial for pre­vent­ing per­for­mance prob­lems, but it also enables you to track upward trends and focus on strengths. For exam­ple, a per­son may strug­gle with admin­is­tra­tive skills, but they have incred­i­bly strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion and influ­enc­ing skills.

By hav­ing a wider per­spec­tive of both good and poor per­for­mance, man­agers can aid the recov­ery of under­per­for­mance by con­sid­er­ing how the indi­vid­ual can bet­ter lever­age their strengths.

This can work in two ways:

  1. If an employ­ee has a rel­e­vant skill that can be utilised for stronger per­for­mance, the pos­i­tive pro­gres­sion in that skills can be redi­rect­ed to sup­port areas in which they are under­per­form­ing. Let’s say they have strong writ­ten skills but their ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not up to the stan­dard required. You can encour­age them to use their writ­ing to bet­ter pre­pare for face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions and meetings.
  2. Con­sid­er whether it is pos­si­ble to adjust the individual’s job descrip­tion or redis­trib­ute tasks with­in the team to enable the indi­vid­ual to spend more of their time work­ing on items that play to their strengths and less time doing the things they are not so good at. By doing this, it can be pos­si­ble for an under­per­form­ing employ­ee to becom­ing one of the star per­form­ers in your team.

Do you need to bet­ter mon­i­tor the per­for­mance of your team? Dis­cov­er how Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can help you keep track of how your staff are pro­gress­ing and quick­ly iden­ti­fy issues of poor performance.