Articles, HR Strategy, Internal Communications

3 Strategies for Tackling Poor Employee Performance

When an employee underperforms or fails to achieve their goals at work, managers are often left wondering about next steps. Firing staff should be a last resort, but an unmotivated employee can harm morale and poses risk to the entire team. In general, every employee’s performance matters, so finding a way to enhance and maintain motivation is essential.

Instead of asking yourself where the employee has gone astray, consider how you can re-inspire and re-engage through continuous performance management or other solutions. When you track the performance of a staff member at your organization and check in frequently, they’ll be more likely to express their concerns.

With 85% of the workforce reportedly disengaged at work, it’s time to consider the best strategies for handling an employee’s poor performance before they become just another addition to this statistic. Here’s what you can do:

Ask questions

The process of hiring, onboarding, and training a new employee costs on average $4,000. The costs of both hiring and keeping an employee are just one of many major reasons why termination shouldn’t occur until all other options are exhausted.

Instead, start with sitting down with the poorly performing employee and getting their feedback while asking your own questions. From this investigation, you can gather more information about why the employee is unhappy, unmotivated, or what you can do to re-inspire them at your company.

Additionally, you can determine through this line of questioning if they are truly unable to meet the requirements of the role. In this case, termination may be the proper course of action.

Look Internally for Solutions

An employee’s performance is based on their capabilities and their motivation. Sometimes, an organization can assist with both of these through internal resources, tools, and processes.

In the case of resources, ask employees what additional materials or training opportunities they would like to see to enhance their abilities in tackling their responsibilities. Maybe this comes in the form of an online course, or maybe it’s attending a lecture on SEO best practices.

Asking your staff directly is the best way to provide resources that are truly helpful, instead of just assuming what they would want or need. Be sure to acknowledge their development as they take advantage of resources and their performance improves.

For those employees whose abilities seem lacking, this could be a situation in which they are placed in a role that isn’t ideally suited to them. If there are different opportunities within the organization, consider moving the underperforming employee to one of them to see how they do. For example, the apparently disengaged staff member on the BD team could turn out to be a superstar within the customer service department if you gave them the chance to try it out.

Establish Clear Goals

An employee cannot be considered an underperformer – or a star performer, at that – if there is no established framework in place for measuring performance. Set up a system of goals and achievements within your company that employees can use to guide and inspire them. Plus, you can use these goals as benchmarks along the way when you check in with staff and evaluate how they’re doing.

When your organization is on a set course, employees feel like they have a purpose. As a result, motivation increases, and so too does performance.

Solving the problem of poor employee performance at your organization doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. However, it’s generally good practice to solicit feedback from the employee in question, consider what you can do to support them internally, and set clear goals to instill a sense of purpose while having a means of measuring performance.

About the author:

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing for 15Five, of course.