Underperformance – What Do You Do?

An underperforming team member can affect not only their own earning potential and happiness but also those around them. To this end just how long do you leave and someone who isn’t reaching their full potential before steps have to be taken – and what should those steps be?

Underperformance can come in many forms – from poor attendance to simply not making enough calls – we all have different standards we expect from our peers, our managers and those we are managing. But in order to identify the underachieving individuals it needs to be clear from the start what is expected from them. If you suddenly pull someone aside and inform them their actions are insufficient but they were unaware of the levels originally expected from them all you will be doing is damaging their moral and your standing as their manager.

By making it clear to everyone as a group what is expected from everyone and the steps / processes that must be adhered to you can ensure everyone is aware of the expected performance levels. If you are simply measuring on sales rather than KPI’s or attitude then this can be monitored in a very black and white way – what sales have you achieved and how much do you have in your pipeline? If you are focusing more on KPI’s do you have a fair and impartial way to measure them?

The more black and white the KPI’s are – number of dials, time spent of on the phone or quotes sent out is a lot easier to monitor and isn’t as open to interpretation. Making you KPI’s about making sure every customer is happy is a lot more trick to measure and is very open to interpretation – what kept one customer happy those exact same actions might not have worked or another client.

Once this has been achieved you can then start to identify those who are falling short of expectations. The long you monitor people targets / expectations for the more accurate a picture you will generate. Once you have been able to identify who is falling short you can then start to try and rectify the situation. A standard practice for some is to start by having a group meeting and reiterating to everyone what is expected and that people need to ensure they are meeting expectations. This can prove to be a very positive event if handled correctly otherwise it can go very wrong.

If everyone else apart from the individual you were intending to focus on is being successful all you might do is destroy the positivity and good feeling generated by making everyone think you are unhappy with their performance. This is especially true if everyone else is aware who is underperforming and make them question your management approach as to why you haven’t taken steps to approach them directly but rather are ‰’wasting’ everyone else’s time trying to rectify the situation.

Taking the time to have a conversation with the individual in question and ask them how they think they are performing and if they have any areas they want to focus on improving. If they mention the very same areas you are concerned about then you can talk about them in more depth and come up with an easy to follow plan to improve the areas of concern. It could simply be that they had not been provided with sufficient training to attain the levels required or they do not have enough confidence to achieve what they are capable of.

Make the develop plan as simple as possible – focus on only three key areas you both want to improve – if the person in question doesn’t want to improve then no amount of nagging and training will help – by focusing on just these 3 key areas you can make sure they development and improvement actually happens. Once this has been achieved – arrange to meet regularly to monitor progress over an agreed time period – then you can focus on the next steps needing enhancement.

Remember of the whole point of identifying underperforming members of staff is not to start the process of getting them out of your business but rather to help them achieve the levels and develop the skills that made you hire them in the first place.

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