Another problem can occur when leaders or managers don’t articulate clearly what their expectations are of a role and what they need from it. Therefore they place someone in it, but change may occur and the person doesn’t perform as expected. Essentially, the requirements of the role may have changed, yet “the job has not been realigned to match with the person on the job – it’s almost about structural/job fit and job design,” Dentesano says.
Another important consideration is that often leaders fail to provide ongoing feedback and development. “You end up with people who are poorly aligned but possibly not due to any fault of their own,” Dentesano says.
Right Management’s outplacement program research indicates that around 47% of people change job type or function after a redeployment activity, giving an indication of mismatch of skills, interests, motivators and/or real job fit. “People change, jobs change, things outside of work change, and we don’t keep up with that with more development or the changing profile we need for the job,” Dentesano says.
Adams adds that required skills and capabilities change, so sometimes people may initially have what’s required to succeed; however, over time, if their skill development does not keep pace with the change, their performance may suffer. This is particularly true when changing market demands and competitive pressures mean business success is dependent on enhanced or new capabilities. “While some employees will readily adapt to the new requirements, others may struggle, and potentially those who were once considered good or solid performers may over time move into the underperformer category,” Adams says.
In other situations, poor performance may have little to do with the skills and expertise required to do the job but instead be more related to the attitude and mindset of the employee. Employee disengagement can strongly contribute to a slide into poor performance, where at best employees may set aside discretionary efforts and additional contributions and at worst may passively or even actively undermine an organisation’s efforts and initiatives.
“While the attitude and mindset of most employees can be improved, there is typically a small percentage of employees where fundamentally very little, if anything, can be done,” Adams notes.
Finally, Adams suggests some that organisations can be ‘blind’ to true poor performance, in part because the organisation’s goal- and target-setting processes have broken down or because the organisation accepts the objective measures of performance on face value alone, or because the manager has hired people who are more like themselves. “This last issue often masks less obvious contributors to poor performance, such as the clashing of egos and styles or a lack of diversity of thought and opinion,” he says.
To address the first issue that Adams has noted – the breakdown of an organisation’s goal- and target-setting processes – it’s critical to investigate whether the targets and goals set in some areas may be too ‘soft’ or too ‘hard’ when compared to other areas. “In these instances, some employees may ‘appear’ as poor performers; however, it is their targets, relative to their peers, which may have been set with a higher degree of challenge and stretch,” Adams says.
This issue may be further compounded when poor performance and top performance are not clearly defined and understood.
In the second issue outlined by Adams, organisations viewing performance through measurable performance results alone without effective governance and verification of the facts will likely miss the true details of what has actually occurred. “These details can include strong contributions by the employee in other areas valued by the organisation, or where the employee’s performance has been undermined by fellow employees,” he says.