It’s easy to get frustrated when an employee is failing to produce the volume or quality of work a business owner expects. Sometimes leaders or managers of a company are tempted to play the blame game. However, pointing a finger at a struggling worker only exacerbates a bad situation.
In truth, performance improvement must be a two-way street. There’s no doubt that an under-achieving team member must step up and do better. But it is incumbent on an employer to provide information, tools and support to help his or her improvement efforts.
Map the Route
To get started, before addressing an employee, fully investigate the performance issue. This means first defining the nature and degree of the problem and then determining whether or not management has done the best job possible in helping the employee to be successful. For example, when and how well was the employee trained? Someone hired years ago may have been taught to do a job differently than it now needs to be done today.
Also, is the employee aware that his or her work is considered subpar? Has anyone discussed the problem with the employee or put it in writing? Staff members who aren’t sure whether they’re on the right track often wait for feedback, rather than proactively seeking guidance. That means a company leader may need to act at the first sign an employee isn’t meeting expectations, rather than hoping the situation will remedy itself.
Embark on the Journey
Once the issue has been established, the manager needs to meet with the employee, clearly and specifically stating performance concerns and informing him or her know that the objective is to work together to find a solution.
After naming the specific performance issues, it is best to ask the employee how he or she feels the situation can be corrected, including offering predetermined suggestions. There may be issues a leader is not aware of, such as tools that are in disrepair or missing, or poor lighting in the employee’s workspace. It's crucial for a manager to be open to such input. If the employee attributes the subpar performance to lack of clarity about expectations, the remedy might be as simple as weekly meetings with his or her manager to go over what needs to be accomplished. If the employee reports feeling overwhelmed and unable to prioritize tasks, additional training on organizational skills or better use of technology may be in order.
Arrive at the Destination
Work with the employee to create a performance improvement plan that includes specific goals and a timeline for achieving them. Then follow up regularly. If the goals and timeline are met, the benefits of having a more productive team member are tremendous. If they aren’t met, it is up to a company leader to consider what further action to take. Finally, it is important to date and document meetings and conversations regarding an employee's performance as a standing practice.
Employee retention isn’t about only strong compensation packages and company-wide recognition. It’s also about making the effort to help struggling employees find success. When the person in question is, underneath it all, a good worker, it’s a trip well worth taking.