How to manage underperforming employees
BH Marketing Team | 10.20.15 - 11:16 AM

Let's face it - despite your best intentions and most concerted efforts on the recruiting front, it's inevitable that sometimes you'll run into difficulties with an employee who isn't quite pulling his or her own weight. Whether it's a usually stellar worker who seems to be going through a rough patch or a staff member who's exhibited a trend of declining productivity over a period of time, identifying and re-motivating these employees is a key part of effective management.

But it can be a sensitive issue, to say the least. Even though it's part of the job, few managers relish the confrontation associated with chatting with an employee about unmet expectations. Fortunately, there are ways you can efficiently address any issues while still being tactful and respectful. Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Quantify your concerns
Chances are, if an employee has been underperforming, he or she will be aware of it. However, from a management perspective, that doesn't mean that you're off the hook in addressing the issue. For starters, the staff member's perception of his or her performance, as well as the impact it's having on company-wide productivity, may vary drastically from your outside perspective.

That's why it's important to be clear, concise and, most importantly, quantitative when you bring up concerns with an employee. Ensure that your workers know what the source of concern is, how it's affecting the rest of the company, and what needs to be done to improve performance so minimum expectations are met.

It may even be helpful to have your employee explain to you what they think the issue is first, so you can get a better idea of where you diverge in your individual assessments of the situation.

Sit down with your employees to clearly outline issues and plans for improvement. Sit down with your employees to clearly outline issues and plans for improvement.

2. Listen as well as talk
As with any communication between manager and employee, this is a conversation that should definitely be a two-way street. It's understandable that your employee will have something to say - and he or she may even be defensive. But the important thing as a manager is to make it clear that you aren't putting anybody on the defensive. You can further shore up this impression by inviting your staff member to voice any concerns, explanations or any other important information that's relevant to the discussion.

Perhaps you'll learn of an area in which improvement can be made within the company to better support employee productivity. You may even be made aware of a medical condition you might not have known about before. While it may not change the fact that adjustments need to be made, it can help contextualize the issue and show your staff members that their concerns are valued and considered.

3. Set clear goals
You can't expect to see any measurable improvement if you don't establish what goals your employees should be striving to meet, so it makes sense that that should be the next part of the process. Keep in mind that this employee has been struggling, so establish the source of the difficulty and then work together to mutually set goals to help overcome those obstacles.

Be sure to include a timeline as part of your plan so that everyone has a rough schedule as far as when these improvement metrics should be met. You may also want to include regular or semiregular check-ins during the course of the improvement so that any emerging concerns can be addressed.

4. Recognize achievement
Even though your employee may be struggling, it's not always effective to play the role of the firm disciplinarian. In fact, recognizing achievement - even small goals along the way - can be important for providing encouragement and setting a positive example.

Even worse, discussing shortcomings with an employee while failing to recognize areas in which he or she excels can look one-sided and unfair, and can be a great way to alienate a worker and make him or her less engaged.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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