How to Identify and Manage Underperformance at Work

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Underperformance, or poor performance, is when a member of staff isn’t meeting the standard of work that you expect and have clearly set out in their contract, or their productivity is low. This is not to be confused with poor conduct as that relates more to an employee’s behaviour and not their quality or quantity of work.

An underperforming employee can be costly to your business so it needs to be addressed as early as possible for the sake of both you and the employee.

If you need some advice on how to approach and manage underperformance in the workplace, or you would like us to chair a performance review meeting, then our HR consultants have the experience and knowledge required to provide comprehensive support. Call us on 0845 2626 260 or email us directly to learn more

How To Identify Underperformance

It’s usually quite easy to spot underperformance when you have a strong performance management strategy in place. If you set weekly or monthly targets or have regular deadlines and an employee is not meeting them, then this will be your first indication that they are not performing to the set standard.

You can also monitor their output every month and measure it against previous months or other members of their team to see if there is a noticeable dip or a large disparity between them.
Though it may not always be fair to compare the work output between two members of staff, especially if they are doing completely different roles or working different hours, it can be a red flag if there is clearly a weak link in the team.

It may not always be so easy to recognise under-performance if there are no KPI’s or S.M.A.R.T goals in place which is why it is often recommended that you have some sort of performance monitoring set up for all employees.
Once you have clearly identified poor performance, it’s important that you address it as soon as possible.

What are the causes of underperformance?

First of all, set up a meeting with the underperforming employee to discuss their performance and find out if there are any underlying circumstances affecting their work.

There may be external or personal issues such as bad health, relationship problems, family illness etc. that is causing a distraction and making it difficult for the employee to performance at their best.
These causes are often more difficult to tackle as they are factors outside of your control; however, there are thing you can do to support and accommodate your employee.

However, in most cases the cause of underperformance is an internal issue.
You may have not provided enough training to the employee so they are struggling to carry out their role, you may not have made your expectations of them clear, the workload may be too demanding or they may be having trouble settling in due to bullying in the workplace or feelings of isolation.

It may be a simple enough issue to resolve once you are aware of what the problem is; however, it may be a little more complicated if there is no obvious cause for their underperformance and they are just not right for the job.

How To Combat Underperformance at Work

If they are facing internal or external challenges that are negatively affecting their performance, then you need to support them with this as much as possible.
This could mean hiring someone to support them with the stressful workload, offering them flexible hours so they can juggle issues outside of work or extra training so that they can better understand their role.

You should always give employees a fair chance to improve, so before making any rash decisions you should try implementing a strategy with the employee and monitor them closely for the following weeks.

Set your informal action plan by letting the employee know what is expected of them, providing them with regular feedback, introducing some training, if necessary, and agreeing on a time frame for when you expect to see improvements.
Also, inform them as to what may happen if they do not demonstrate improvements in their performance so that they are aware of the consequences and may even be more motivated by this.

Ensure that you have a clear audit trail of the above to avoid any repercussions further down the line and revisit the issue in a follow up meeting once the deadline has been reached.

It may be a case of dismissing the employee if they shows no signs of improvement, especially if it is costing you time and money that you cannot spare. Otherwise, you may choose to be more lenient and find them a different role within the business where they may work better.

Whatever action you decide to take, it will require a formal meeting. These types of meetings and discussions can be difficult to have so our HR consultants are on hand to chair any employee meetings that you need to conduct and offer professional advice if you need it. Give us a call today for a free consultation.

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