When your team is working well together, leadership feels like a cinch. It’s when tasks are failed, deadlines are missed, and stress levels begin to rise when your skills are needed the most.
A poor-performing team member can have disastrous effects on morale and motivation. Other team members’ work is affected, and they can wonder why they must work so hard when others seem to be slacking.
Act quickly! Allowing underperformance to remain in your team lets the problem fester, and everyone involved will just become more despondent.
Instead, help the employee by following the steps below. You can turn around poor performance in an employee by taking actionable, measurable steps to help them get over the challenges they face.
Get the Full Picture
How do you decide whether an employee is underperforming? You require quantifiable metrics to judge one team member objectively against the rest of the team. In sales, for example, you can use sales call analytics and reporting to get precise details on an agent’s call volume, connections, and conversion rates.
Not only does this help you understand where the employee might need to improve, but it also makes discussing it with them more manageable as you can show them objective measurements that prove they have some areas they should work on.
But poor performance rarely comes down to the employee alone. Decisions you or your company have made contributed to putting that person in that chair. Have they been adequately trained? Are they a good fit for the job overall? Do they understand what is expected of them? The poor performance of an employee is an opportunity to reassess your hiring process, in-house training, and job descriptions.
It’s best to get multiple views on why certain team members might be underperforming when possible. Confidentially talk to other people who have worked above the underperforming employee. Ask other team members about challenges in the workplace and whether your management style is a help or a hindrance.
Discuss the Situation
Now you have a firm idea of what may be happening in the team to cause underperformance in the employee, it’s time to discuss it with them. Some people don’t take this kind of feedback on the chin, so make empathy your default, and frame the discussion as a way for both of you to improve together.
Explain to the employee that you’ve noticed issues with their performance and believe they have it in them to do better. State you’re looking for ways to help them improve and would like to brainstorm some ideas together. Don’t put them on the spot—give them a day or two to digest this information and develop an improvement plan.
Make an Actionable Plan
Instead of just agreeing to do better, make a concrete plan with measurable actions so that progress can be monitored. Discuss the resources they need to make this plan come to fruition.
Do they need additional training? What do they need from you? Call coaching in sales can turn timid reps into sales giants. The more you can show you’re invested in helping them grow, the more buy-in you can expect from the employee.
The employee must acknowledge the problem. You can’t help someone who decides they’re unable to improve or adapt. If the person is obstinate even after you’ve genuinely tried to help them multiple times, you must decide whether their negative behavior is enough of a detriment to the team for them to be transferred or removed.
Make sure the goals you set out are reasonable. Everyone needs time to change, so set both short-term and long-term goals that will see the employee gradually improve.
Arguably the most crucial part of the improvement plan is to keep monitoring the employee at regular intervals. Get the employee to check in with you periodically, preferably at a set time and date.
Some employees will feel embarrassed about receiving help, so it’s vital to remain confidential about what you discuss together. When the employee sees that they can trust you and you’re making genuine efforts to help them, they are more likely to open up to you about the reasons they’re struggling, and they’ll work harder to improve.
Sometimes, no progress is made. Discuss with the employee again why they think they’ve seen minimal improvement in their work despite the efforts you’ve made together. If they continually fail to try to improve, the tone of the discussion must move from helpful coaching to explaining the consequences of their actions. Explain that you might need to change their duties or offer them less work. In serious cases, disciplinary action is required, or even letting a person go who is severely detrimental to the team.
On the other hand, when positive changes are made, recognize them, and praise the employee. Often, recognition from a manager that improvements have been made lights a fire under an employee, and they can go from being the worst-performing member of the team to near the top of the pile. Once the employee has returned to satisfactory performance levels, give them more autonomy and explain that you know they’re capable of handling it for themselves from now on.
Build a Team You Can Be Proud Of
In summary, it’s crucial to tackle underperformance in a team member as quickly as possible. The sooner you intervene, the less damage the employee’s performance can do to team morale.
Get a solid idea of the problem and why it might be an issue by checking measurable metrics, discussing the challenges employees face, and getting to know the individual.
In partnership with the underperforming employee, draw up an actionable plan for them to improve over the course of weeks and months. Offer them all the resources they need.
Finally, monitor their performance and discuss it with them periodically. If you invest time and energy into your underperforming team members, you should find they return the favor by doubling down and working hard to be the best they can be.