How To Manage Underperforming Staff

Any good organization is often regarded as only being as good as its staff, so managing employees is important and without employee performance being optimized, good organizations will go bad. So given how critical staff performance is within an organization, how do you manage underperforming staff? Unfortunately there is no one ‘magic bullet’ that will ensure that all underperforming staff suddenly achieve performance targets, but there are management strategies that can help!

One of the most fundamental processes for managing underperforming staff is known as progressive discipline, which focuses on helping the employee to know that their performance is not up to the expected standard and helping them be aware, through regular feedback, what is happening with regard to their performance. The feedback acts as a way in which the employee can be made aware of what is going well and where improvements need to be made.

In order for the feedback to be useful it needs to be frequent and not only delivered when the performance standards have not been met. The underperforming staff also need to be told when they are performing well or up to the expected standard.

It is also critical to communicate performance expectations and standards so that staff know exactly what is being expected of them and so when they do not meet these standards, they will be aware that they are underachieving. It is obviously unacceptable to simply retrospectively tell a member of staff that they have not performed according to the standards set; they need to know what these standards are!

The manager should also focus on the reasons for under achievement. Why is the employee not performing well? Are there good personal reasons or even organizational problems that are affecting performance? Once the reasons for underachievement are understood, then they are easier to rectify!

Some organizations believe in coaching, so that an employee is given every opportunity to improve their performance. Sometimes this can be an exceptionally useful management tool because coaching can highlight problems within the organization that the employee has failed to highlight to their manager. Coaching can be labor intensive, but on the other hand it ensures that highly skilled employees can be retained and their performance improved and it can also help management to see how the organization as a whole functions, through coaching and spending time with an employee.

Any good manager will also look at his or her own performance as well. Is the manager managing performance in the right way? Are they able to offer guidance, good communication and a clear understanding of the implications of non-performance. Sometimes the manager can assume that these things have been done, but nonetheless, it is important that they are done and that a record is kept to prove that staff have been equipped with all the information required to be clear about performance standards. There will always be a small minority of employees who feel that they can take liberties, always ling on the edge of what is acceptable, but never going far enough to get the sack. That is why good record keeping is good for everyone involved when it comes to managing performance!

Given that there is no ‘magic bullet’ the management of underperforming staff is really down to different processes and strategies, often dependent on the culture and attitude of different organizations. However, the fundamentals of making sure that all staff are fully aware of what is expected of them are really critical. Until organizations have made performance standards clear and communicated them, it is almost impossible to manage underperforming staff!

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