Get an employee performing again
Even the best team members can struggle at times. If you see someone’s performance dip, be ready to help them through it
Employees are any business’s most important asset, but even the most dedicated person will underperform sometimes. This is when you need to use your management skills to help them out.
First off, it’s important to set out what you believe the employee should be doing in their role. A clear job description will help you and the employee understand what they’re expected to do.
If you don’t have a job description written up already, there are a host of templates available – including from firms like In-House HR – that you can use to start the process.
Next, talk to the employee. Explain that you’re updating job descriptions and that you’d like to ensure all the tasks they handle are documented. Discuss what they believe their job entails and what they do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Once you have this information, consider what tasks you require your employee to concentrate on to make the business more efficient. If necessary, arrange for additional duties to be undertaken by another, more appropriate employee.
Schedule a review of the revised job description after, say, three months to ensure that the employee understands what is expected of them. Allow them to talk openly and suggest changes. Listen, and be prepared to change the job description before you finalise it. Record what was discussed and any decisions made in a document that can be given to the employee and also kept in their personnel file.
The same should also be done with the completed job description. That’s important because it’s the standard that you’ll measure their performance against. If they’re unsure what their role is, or if they don’t understand exactly what their targets are, then it’s unreasonable to expect them to meet those targets. When everything is written down in black and white and the employee is aware of their targets and knows that they aren’t meeting them, then it’s appropriate to ask them why.
A problem shared
Bear in mind that there may be other factors you aren’t aware of. The employee may have a sick relative or may be struggling with personal problems that are causing a short-term issue. For example, I know of a case where an employee’s partner left them and took all of their electrical goods. When the business owner became aware of this, they spent a few hundred pounds purchasing a new microwave, kettle and TV for them. As a result, the employee was more motivated at work. The investment was soon repaid in renewed energy and commitment.
Now, this kind of solution won’t work in every scenario. Instead, you need to prioritise understanding the root cause of the problem before considering what action to take. Once you have identified the cause, reflect and decide on an appropriate response.
Doing nothing is never an option, but you might decide to review the problem over a month or two before you speak with the employee. Sometimes, a little time will resolve an issue. However, it’s best to schedule in a periodic review session to make sure you’re actively monitoring the situation. If the problems persist, be prepared to act.
Start by speaking with your employee informally to explain your concerns. Perhaps counselling, coaching or training could resolve the issue. Alternatively, it might be that a little guidance is required on how to achieve their targets. Incentives can also be used to encourage the employee to push themselves.
Even after an informal meeting, make a note of the date and time, and record what was discussed and agreed. Also, when making notes like this, remember that other people may read these comments, so keep them objective and professional.
Sometimes, a formal disciplinary process will be required. Ensure that you have a clear procedure in place and follow it carefully. Eventually, if the employee cannot perform to the required standard, then you may have to terminate their employment. This should only be used as a last resort, as you will then be required to recruit a replacement, which can be a costly and time-consuming process, with potential legal risks if not undertaken correctly.