5 Ways to Help an Underperforming Employee

underperforming employee

In the perfect world, every employee would be the right hire and work hard to accomplish the company’s goals. However, this isn’t a perfect world, and all companies consist of imperfect human beings. Our work performance is impacted by our moods, physical health, passion, motivation, and skill or lack thereof. If you’re managing a team of people, you will eventually be tasked with addressing an underperforming employee.

When you notice a problem, the two easy solutions that come to mind tend to be firing the employee or ignoring the problem in hopes that things will naturally improve over time. However, jumping to these decisions can lead to long-term challenges within your company, so it’s best to face the problem head-on and look for a proper solution.

How to help an underperforming employee

1. Consider the root cause

When you have an underperforming employee, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and decide they either don’t care, aren’t trying, or aren’t the right fit for the job. However, that’s not always the case. Many personal situations may be impacting their work performance. For example, mental health challenges, including burnout, can decrease productivity and increase errors.

Do your best to see if there is another factor contributing to the issue before deciding how to move forward with an underperforming employee.

  • Are they facing difficult situations in their personal life? This could include the declining health of a family member, a strained relationship, or financial difficulties, among other reasons.
  • Are they burned out? The world has faced years of difficult situations, and you may see it taking a toll on your employees.
  • Did they not receive proper exercise when hired?
  • Have they taken on new responsibilities and are struggling to balance all of their work?
  • Do they not have the resources they need to succeed on the job?
  • Are they disconnected from the work? When employees don’t believe in the work they’re doing, it can impact their effort on the job.

Consider what might be contributing to your employee’s lack of performance and productivity. Then, you’ll better be able to identify the next best steps.

2. Talk to your employee

Talking to your employee will likely be a step you need to take to define the root problem. Don’t assume they realize that there is a problem with their current performance. Instead, talk to the individual and let them know what you’re seeing. Approach them with a caring attitude of wanting to help solve the problem. You don’t want to seem like you’re attacking them. Your goal is to make sure they know the expectations and determine if there are any parts of the story you don’t know.

It’s not fair to employees if you wait to address issues until performance reviews. Instead, address them when you are made aware of the issue. Doing so allows you and the employee to work toward a quick solution instead of letting the problem continue. This also allows the employee to make corrections instead of allowing the situation to compound.

3. Provide additional training

If you believe the issues stem from a lack of understanding of tasks, provide additional training to your underperforming employee. Look for skill deficiencies so you can help fill the gap. If you identify that an employee wasn’t properly trained, it’s also essential to look at addressing the cause of improper training. This allows you to avoid the same problem with future employees.

4. Explore other placement options within the company

Sometimes we hire the right person but place them in the wrong position. If you have an employee underperforming, look to see if you have them in a place that is the best fit for their skills and passion. They may be skilled and experienced in different areas, and moving them to a new role may fix the problem. This is a good option when you feel the person is a good fit for your company culture but is not a good fit for their current position. In this time of talent shortage, you may not want to rush to cut an employee that could benefit you in a different role.

5. Create a plan and follow-up

Work with your employee to create a plan to get them on track. This could be moving them to a new role, retraining, lightening their workload, or whatever solution you determine is correct for the specific situation. Have the plan written out so you and your employee are on the same page and the expectations are clear.

Once the plan is in place, set reminders on your calendar to check in and look for progress. If the real problem is the employee isn’t a good fit for your company or is not willing to make the necessary adjustments, you don’t want to allow too much time to pass before parting ways.

Investing in proper training for employees is a win-win solution. First, training helps increase staff performance, which improves the company. In addition, when employees feel you’re investing in them, it can boost their engagement and satisfaction levels. As a result, you have a happier and more productive team.

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