11 ways to help your underperforming employees

Why it's essential to determine what's causing an individual's underperformance

11 ways to help your underperforming employees

There are moments where employees lose the drive to work and start to underperform – it happens. However, managers and HR leaders need to be mindful of whether employees stay in an underperforming state for an extended period.

Companies can help in many ways to improve the performance of employees – especially if they are struggling to keep up with the workload. Below, we discuss the importance of assisting underperforming employees and 11 ways companies can achieve that.

Read more: HR dilemma: when bullying is blamed for poor performance

Workplace underperformance and why it happens

According to Glassdoor, workplace underperformance is when an employee starts performing below the required level that was agreed on and expected from them. When employees begin to underperform, the quality of output decreases, which affects the satisfaction of clients and the image of the company as a business. Workplace underperformance can happen after working in the role for some time or even before the employee was entirely onboarded in their new role.

A myriad of factors can cause underperformance. One of the most common reasons is a poor job fit and lack of training. It is hard to stay interested in a job role that an employee was not trained at and is something they do not enjoy doing. As a result, the work starts becoming a chore they do not want to do. Fortunately, there are behavioural assessments and training tools that could help address this issue.

Other reasons could vary from lack of communication, weak leadership, toxic workplace, and even poor employment benefits. Employers need to understand what is causing the underperformance and create relevant steps to address them.

11 ways to help underperforming employees

Listed below are different ways to help struggling employees increase their work performance:

  1. Deal with underperformance as soon as possible

Companies should actively check up on their employees and monitor their performance over time. Once a sign of underperformance is seen, it is best for leaders to take action as soon as they can to minimize the risk of employees continuing to perform poorly. Not dealing with the underperforming employee’s behaviour also presents the behaviour as acceptable by the company, which could mislead other employees to thinking the underperformance as a positive behaviour.

  1. Establish the cause of underperformance

It is essential to determine what is causing the employee to underperform. It could be due to various reasons such as lack of communication in the team, suitability and capability with the role, health-related issues, and personal circumstances.

Due to the myriad of reasons employees could have for underperforming, leaders need to determine which of those reasons is affecting their productivity so they can plan what actions to take and how to resolve the issue. In most cases, the action plan that works for one employee may not work for another, and companies need to step out of the mindset of a one-size-fits-all approach every time there is an issue with underperforming employees.

  1. Have a discussion to establish long-term goals

A simple way to start the process of resolving the performance issue is to schedule a proper meeting with the struggling employee to discuss what is causing the issue, what goals to set, and the necessary actions to take.

In order to see significant improvement, the employee needs to fully understand the reason for the action plan and their influential role in the entire process. The employee and employer need to work together for there to be a positive shift in their performance and output.

  1. Reiterate job expectations

With the repetition of work activities, employees can forget their role in the company and lose motivation to do their best to produce high-quality output. Therefore, it is best if employers and leaders remind them of their role’s impact on company success and what is expected of them from their job. This gives employees renewed motivation to reach their agreed work goals in their position.

In line with this, it is also helpful for employees to determine what motivates them and their personal goals. Then, aligning them with the goals in their role and the company’s targets allows the employee to see their impact on the overall end goal of the organization – making them feel appreciated and important, raising their motivation to work harder and more efficiently.

  1. Respect confidentiality

While transparency and honesty are important within the workplace, certain things – like details of the action plan involving the underperforming employee – are confidential. Sharing to others that there is an underperformance problem being addressed in the workplace is reasonable to keep transparency in the workplace, but it is best to keep certain details between the employer and the affected employee to avoid any misuse of information and embarrassment for the employee.

It is also crucial for leaders to keep things on a positive note when talking about performance problems. It is vital to be straightforward on the matter but keep it in a hopeful tone that does not degrade, belittle, or demotivate the employee.

  1. Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress

Having regular, scheduled meetings with the employee dealing with underperformance is a great way to evaluate whether the action plan improves employee productivity. Depending on urgency and availability, the sessions could be set up daily, weekly, or monthly.

The meetings are an excellent opportunity for the employers to listen to the employee on their experience, concerns, and suggestions. From there, employers can make the necessary adjustments and changes to performance goals and provide the necessary tools the employee needs, such as training and access to relevant data and software.

  1. Document everything

Documenting every progress, setback, notes, and other issues allows the company to keep track of how everything is going. It lets employers evaluate the progress or lack thereof and plan any necessary changes. The recorded documents could also help the company handle the workplace in the future as they can serve as a guide for when similar cases arise – making the progress quicker and more efficient.

In addition, the documents also serve as evidence on how the employers did their best to help solve the issue in case any legal disputes come up.

  1. Introduce them to a mentor within your company

A great, cost-efficient way to help the employee improve their performance is to assign them a mentor within the company. Having someone to demonstrate how to do specific tasks and work helps employees learn and improve their work habits. It also allows the employee to receive real-time feedback and constructive criticism that can be applied as soon as possible – producing quicker results.

Creating a mentor-mentee relationship can help the struggling employee to open up in the workplace. Having someone they could trust encourages them to be more engaged with others in the team and gives them the confidence to join in on discussions and brainstorming sessions.

  1. Suggest time off to focus on personal life changes

Suppose the cause of underperformance is personal issues separated from work. In that case, it is advisable for the underperforming employee to step away from work responsibilities and focus on what is bothering them personally. This suggestion may seem costly as the workplace will lose an employee for a couple of days, but it actually helps lessen further issues and costs in the long run.

Offering time off from work also strengthens the employer image of the company in the employee’s eyes as they feel taken care of and are valued in the workplace.

  1. Reward improvement

When there is visible improvement in the behaviour and output of the struggling employee, employers should take the chance to reward the employee for their hard work. It can be in the form of a sincere note or a small token like a delicious work snack. The gesture encourages the employees to create more positive changes and to maintain their productivity and motivation levels.

  1. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Promoting a healthy work-life balance in the workplace could take a lot of effort and time to achieve but is very beneficial in the long run. Not only does it help underperforming employees improve their output, but it can minimize the causes of underperformance and demotivation for other employees and lessens the risk of other employees having poor performance.

Read more: Q&A: Bullying and underperformance

Having initiative and action to resolve any performance issue greatly benefits both the employer and employee in the long run. However, employers must remember that they are not required to retain underperforming employees – especially after doing the best they could to help the employee. At the end of the day, it is up to employees to start the change and to maintain the uphill movement of improvement.

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