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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Six Steps to Assess and Improve Employee Performance

Failure to address employee underperformance in a timely and appropriate fashion can damage team morale and even affect your bottom line. No one works in a vacuum, so when a member of your team is struggling to meet expectations, other employees will be watching and take note of how you address the situation. Although a quick fix may be tempting, taking the time to determine the failing employee’s real abilities and motivation will help you better understand the root of the problem—and how best to solve it.

Determine if the problem stems from a lack in ability or a lack of motivation. Before you can address a performance problem, identify the cause. Take a closer look at the job responsibilities, the expectations for this position, and how closely the employee’s abilities fit with those responsibilities. If they don’t, you may need to move the employee to another position. On the other hand, if the root of the performance problem is a lack of motivation and disengagement, then moving the employee won’t resolve the issue.

Explore whether poor performance is unrelated to the individual. Before initiating any performance improvement plans, examine the origin of the performance issues. Some positions actually set up employees for failure. Maybe the position isn’t appropriately structured or the resources to do the job aren’t available. Or maybe there’s a mismatch between your employee’s strengths and the expectations of this particular position. Does this job play to his/her strengths?

Assess the team’s dynamic. Is only one person unmotivated or is this an issue affecting a whole department? Jaded perspectives and disinterest might possibly result from meaningless projects, unclear roles and responsibilities, or inadequate guidance. Have you clearly communicated expectations to your employee and to the team? If the team is confused about lines of responsibility, its members can become discouraged or disengaged, and their work will suffer because of it.

One of the best opportunities for improving an individual’s motivation or reversing a negative team dynamic is through a well-structured reward and recognition program—one that is grounded in timely and relevant recognition designed to shape and develop a culture of appreciation.

If your company doesn’t already have an awards program, look into how you could create a more positive culture with an effective recognition and rewards program.

Clearly communicate when a team member’s performance is not meeting expectations. When a person is underperforming and their job is in jeopardy, it’s your responsibility as the manager to make the employee aware of this, and also to provide help and a plan for performance improvement. Your team is probably well aware of the underperformer and is expecting you to take action. By doing so, you meet your team’s expectation while at the same time putting measures in place to help your employee meet performance expectations as well.

Consider a refit or retrain approach. If the position is structured correctly and you’ve determined that the employee’s performance issues are due to a lack of experience or ability, consider providing additional training. Today’s workplace is technology centric and change comes fast, so it’s not hard for skills to fall behind. Determine what type of training might help the most and build this into your performance improvement plan.

Additionally, look into more effective ways of adapting or refitting the job. Reconsider the employee’s strengths that you assessed earlier in the process and see how the work can be rearranged to provide meaningful and rewarding jobs for your team, while assigning individual responsibilities in ways that best fit each team member’s strengths.

Is there still an underlying employee engagement issue? Your team may have the skills and structure they need to succeed, and yet they are still underperforming. This may not be an issue of ability or job structure, but rather come from an employee engagement problem. If that’s the case, it may be time to outline an employee engagement program that fits your business and corporate culture. You can learn more about employee engagement solutions at Marketing Innovators or get started with us today.


Sources: “Dealing With Poor Performance.” “Management Skills: How to Deal With Poor Employee Performance?” Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback. Blog. “Six Ways to Drive Employee Performance and Motivation.”