When it comes to managing poor staff performance, you need to act quickly. Whether you are looking for advice on how to manage an underperforming employee or you’re looking for a plan for managing an underperforming team, our poor performance checklist is designed to increase productivity levels at your organisation.
Employees aren’t robots. When you lead a team, you manage human beings, which means work life isn’t always predictable. Sometimes, you’ll be impressed with your team’s overall performance and productivity levels, but other times, poor performance will rear its ugly head. When this happens, you’ll need a plan of action to turn things around.
Our step-by-step performance checklist covers everything from how to discuss poor performance with an employee to formal procedures that can be taken if performance doesn’t improve.
Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #1: Define the Core Performance Issues
To correct poor performance, you must first be clear on the core performance issues at hand. The problem must be definable. You must be able to clearly describe the issue resulting in poor work performance. This step is the most crucial and basic — if you can’t do this, you can’t combat poor performance at all.
This step begins by analysing the employee’s work performance. Look at how your employee operates. Gather data and information and understand 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? Be specific. 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 help you articulate the issue.
When you meet with your employee to discuss their performance, leave hearsay at the door. Discuss specific incidences, come armed with emails or any documentation you can gather to back up your point, and demonstrate that what you are saying isn’t personal — it’s a very real problem that you want to address and resolve.
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: Discuss What Might Be Causing the Performance Issues
Performance issues don’t just happen — there is always an underlying cause. As HR executives and line managers, it is our responsibility to get to the root of this problem. Meet with the employee and discuss the potential reasons for poor performance at work. Is there something about the work environment preventing them from working optimally? Are they being tied up by red tape or ineffective workplace practices? Is the technology clunky or out of date? Is the employee being bullied or discriminated against?
Poor performance may be a result of problems at home, or it might simply be a lack of ability. Whatever the case, you need to set a meeting and establish an honest dialogue so you can get to grips with what is causing the issue.
Your employee won’t want to open up if they feel you are judging them or they fear for their job. Let them know they are safe to speak their minds and that you are there as a coach to get them back on track.
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Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #3: Provide Feedback as Soon as Possible
Many managers have a tendency to avoid conflict. They want to keep up morale and ensure employees are happy, so giving negative performance feedback can seem counterproductive. But the fact is that avoidance makes performance issues worse. Managers need to commit to regular performance reviews, during which the parties involved can discuss employee performance, successes, failures and opportunities for training. This is the core of what all performance management is based on.
You should know that 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 from indirect managerial feedback.
Employee feedback can’t — and shouldn’t — wait. Timely feedback is crucial. Before poor performance becomes habitual or worsens, schedule a one-on-one with the employee in question. Define the purpose of the meeting and keep the tone non-judgemental but serious. When done soon after the fact, the information will be fresh in everyone’s minds, leaving less room for debate or confusion.
Once the performance issue is recognised and understood, you can begin to resolve it. Sugarcoat the truth about an employee’s performance and nobody is better off.
Deliver feedback promptly, but if you’re too wound up to deliver the news in a measured manner, take the time you need to calm down. If you go into the discussion in an emotionally charged state yourself, the employee will be defensive and closed to your feedback.
Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #4: Offer Solutions and Suggested Actions to Fight the Underlying Cause
Taking your employee aside, informing them of their poor performance and shoving them out the door is not going to resolve performance problems. 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.
Employees have a certain responsibility to manage their performance. They are expected to do the work they are paid for, as per their job description, to a standard worthy of their pay grade. However, employers also have a responsibility to provide adequate support. The more support you are prepared to offer them, the better their chances of reaching and exceeding the standards you expect and within a quicker time frame.
You might want to consider putting your employee on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). This is a performance agreement in which manager and employee define reasonable and practical steps to improve performance. This will involve commitment from the employee as well as from the company — perhaps in the form of a training course or streamlined workplace processes.
Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #5: 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.
Performance management software is for small business as well as large organisations. In fact, such software can help SMEs thrive.
Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #6: Redirect Strong Performances to Support Negative Qualities
Keeping track of employees through performance management systems is not only beneficial for preventing performance problems — it also enables you to track upward trends and focus on strengths. This means that rather than simply dismissing an employee as a poor performer, you can redirect their strengths elsewhere. For example, a person may struggle with administrative skills but have incredibly strong communication and influencing skills that could benefit your business.
By having a wider perspective of both good and poor performance, managers can support the recovery of underperformance by considering how the individual can better leverage their strengths.
This can work in two ways:
- If an employee has a relevant skill that can be used to strengthen performance, the positive progression in that skill can be redirected to support areas where 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.
- Consider whether it is possible to adjust the individual’s job description or redistribute tasks within the team to enable them to spend more time working on items that play to their strengths and less doing the things they are not so good at. By doing this, an underperforming employee has the potential to become one of the star performers in your team.
The war for talent is raging and unemployment is at its lowest — if you believe an employee has talents that can be nurtured within your organisation, do all you can to develop and retain them. You’ll benefit in the long run.
Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #7: Disciplinary Action
The best part of performance management is helping employees thrive and develop while benefiting the business. The downside is that sometimes, underperformance can’t be turned around. When an employee fails to work with their line manager to bring their performance back to an acceptable standard, it might be necessary to issue written warnings and begin a formal disciplinary process that may, ultimately, result in demotion or dismissal. It’s not the best outcome, but, at times like this, companies should look at the silver lining — if the employee isn’t a good fit, you will have a vacancy that will hopefully be filled with a more suitable and engaged employee.
To increase the odds of finding an ideal employee, recruit with your company’s core values in mind. Your values should impact every decision made within your organisation, so you want an employee who is motivated by those same values.
Now you know how to manage an underperforming employee, you need the right software to help you monitor the performance of your team. Discover how Clear Review’s performance management system can help you keep track of how your staff are progressing and quickly identify signs of underperformance.