Any business is only as good as the people it employs, and regardless of a company’s size, even one low-performing employee can drag down an organization’s success. This is what makes rigorous recruiting and hiring policies so important, but even with diligent staff selection, every business needs a back-up plan to handle problem employees. 

Dealing with low employee performance can be a challenge for any business. No employee or company does everything right all the time, but it’s impossible to improve without a clear idea of what is wrong. Giving constructive criticism to employees and soliciting constructive criticism from them is critical in improving company operations.

However, making critiques isn’t easy for anyone. Sometimes, managers can be too negative and end up hurting employee morale rather than improving their performance. Employees often don’t take satisfaction surveys seriously and can feel intimidated bringing criticism to their superiors.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for low employee performance, here are some tips for dealing with staff whose work isn’t quite up to snuff:

1. Prevent problems before they start by being specific and communicating clearly.

Effective communication is essential when dealing with performance issues. To make sure your employees do a good job, tell them what you expect right from the start. This can be accomplished by providing precise job descriptions and setting clear performance goals.

Managers should be clear and direct when providing feedback to employees, explaining exactly what needs to be improved and how. If you give vague feedback, they might not pay attention or care. So, it’s better to be specific with your feedback. Tell them what they did wrong or right in real situations, not what might happen in the future. This helps hardworking employees stay on track and not make mistakes without knowing it.

A manager should also be open to listening to the employee’s perspective and concerns, as this can help create a more collaborative and positive approach to resolving performance issues.

2. Provide regular feedback and don’t forget about the positive feedback.

Providing regular feedback and acknowledging your employees’ hard work and achievements is essential in fostering a positive work environment. Talking to your employees about their performance shouldn’t only happen during formal reviews. While it’s essential to have regular performance evaluations, great managers should also be ready to provide feedback anytime an employee slips up. For small issues, managers can offer simple solutions on the spot, and for more severe problems, a formal meeting may be necessary. By addressing the issue early and incorporating it into the performance achievement plan, you can prevent it from happening again.

All feedback should be concise, straightforward, and clear. Feedback shouldn’t always be negative. It’s equally important to recognize your employees’ successes, so they know what they’re doing right and can continue doing it. Positive feedback doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as saying, “Hey, great job on that report,” in passing. However, don’t pepper criticism with positive feedback to make it seem nicer. That can end up just confusing the issue.

Make sure that all feedback is laid out in the simplest way possible. So remember to provide regular feedback, and don’t forget to acknowledge your employees’ hard work and achievements!

3. Diagnose the problem.

When problems do resurface, and an employee consistently underperforms, it’s important to identify the root cause of the problem before taking any action. Typically, problems fall into two categories: a lack of ability or a lack of motivation. Determining the areas in which the problem employee is deficient will help inform a proper response.

4. Be timely.

Don’t wait for an issue to pass and blow over before delivering feedback. The more time that passes after an incident, the more time a person has to repeat it. Late feedback loses its impact and urgency.

5. Create a performance improvement plan.

Once the cause of the low-performance is identified, managers can lay out a path for the employee to improve. If the problem is ability-related, the employee might benefit from additional training or from a slight tweak in their job responsibilities. Employees who lack motivation may respond better to having additional support or receiving more positive feedback about their work.

6. Document everything.

Managers should document any performance-related discussions with employees that extend beyond a casual verbal correction. Keeping a record of an employee’s performance allows managers to track improvement or to determine what additional steps need to be taken for the employee to reach his or her goals. Documenting performance reviews and formal reprimands also gives managers a clear record to show what they have done to help improve an employee’s performance.

7. Provide support and resources.

Sometimes employees struggle with their performance due to external factors such as personal issues, lack of resources, or insufficient training. In these cases, managers can offer support and resources to help the employee overcome these challenges. This could include offering flexible work arrangements, providing additional training, or connecting the employee with resources such as an employee assistance program.

8. Train employees.

Employees should know who they can turn to when things aren’t going right. If they feel intimidated, they may never come forward with feedback. Train employees to recognize the situations where they can deliver feedback and teach them what qualities make that feedback constructive and not destructive. Emphasize the importance of employee engagement surveys, and be sure employees know that their voices are being heard.

9. Train managers.

Managers should set an example for other employees by giving constructive feedback. The manager should be the one to set the tone for all employees with how they address problems and deliver praise. In order to achieve this, managers need training on how to give feedback and a clear understanding of their roles in the company’s purpose and goals.

10. Recognize and reward good performance.

While it’s important to address low performance, it’s equally important to recognize and reward good performance. This can help motivate employees and create a positive work culture. Managers should look for opportunities to praise and reward employees who are performing well, whether through formal recognition programs or simply acknowledging good work during team meetings.

11. Be consistent.

Consistency is key when dealing with performance issues. Managers should ensure that they are applying the same standards and expectations to all employees, and that they are following the same process for addressing performance issues. This helps create a fair and transparent approach to managing employee performance.

12. Seek outside support if needed.

In some cases, managers may need outside support to help address performance issues. This could include consulting with HR professionals, bringing in a coach or mentor to work with the employee, or even seeking legal advice in more complex cases. It’s important to recognize when outside support is needed and to take proactive steps to address performance issues before they escalate.

Following these tips can help managers better address performance issues in ways that benefit both the employee and the company at large. Remember that most performance issues can be resolved without drastic disciplinary action or dismissal, and LBMC Employment Partners is comprised of Human Resources professionals with the experience to help you find solutions to these issues. If you’re ready to learn more about what we can do to assist your business, contact us today.

We’re happy to answer any questions you may have on what our Employment Partners experts can do for you.