How to Transform Underperforming Employees into Productive Team Members

No organization can afford to tolerate underperforming employees. Unfortunately, many managers hesitate to address performance issues promptly, hoping they will resolve themselves. However, this inaction can have serious consequences.

Here are eight reasons for underperformance and possible actions you can take as manager to build a more productive workforce.

1. Unclear targets and expectations

Employees may struggle when they are uncertain about their roles and tasks due to vague instructions from their bosses. To address this, you should be clear and precise in your directions. Identify expected outcomes and completion dates and encourage open communication by asking employees if the instructions are clear and understood.

2. Poor ‘fit’ for the job or company

The alignment between employees’ behaviours, interests, and values with the company culture is crucial for success. If a gap exists, have an open discussion with the employee to determine if the chemistry is right.

3. Lack of recognition for a job well done

Simple employee recognition can go a long way in motivating employees. As a manager of others, you should express gratitude for a job well done, offer small rewards such as movie tickets, or write brief notes of appreciation.

4. Insufficient skills or knowledge

Because hiring decisions are sometimes made quickly, the interviewing process may overlook gaps in candidates’ skills and qualifications. You must identify these gaps promptly and provide necessary training to ensure employees can perform their jobs effectively.

Similarly, you should take the time to explain the significance of a task to the employee and how it will impact the organization. Employees perform better when they know how their work contributes to the overall objectives of the company.

5. Poor relationship with the boss

You should avoid at all cost using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to managing staff. Each employee is unique and requires a customized management approach. Understanding and adapting to individual preferences will improve communication and clarity of expectations.

6. Family or health issues affecting work performance

Family or health issues can lead to distractions and increased absenteeism. Creating a supportive workplace focused on health and wellness will help your employees achieve a better work-life balance.

7. Perception of being underpaid

Employees want to be paid fairly and competitively. There is plenty of data by way of salary guides and statistical information available to determine if the wages you are paying are in line with your competitors and industry standards. Paying fair and competitive wages will greatly strengthen your recruitment and retention efforts.

8. Physical discomfort in the workplace

Factors such as poor lighting and uncomfortable furniture can hinder performance. Conduct a workplace audit to identify issues and improve office layout, ergonomics, lighting, temperature, air quality, safety, and noise. Employees will appreciate your interest in their surroundings and their performance should improve.

Ignoring mediocre performance suggests you are condoning sub-standard work. The best course of action is to identify and confront problems early. Meet with the employee to determine the reason for underperformance and take the necessary steps. However, if improvement does not occur, be clear about the consequences. Whether it is no raise, demotion or dismissal, the employee must understand what will happen if performance does not improve.