Unmotivated and disengaged employees can damage your business in the long run. By lessening morale and productivity, under-performing staff can have a detrimental effect on your team. However, there is often an underlying reason for a dip in motivation. In this blog, Triple Three Solutions want to give some advice on how to find fair solutions when dealing with under-performing employees.

What do we mean by under-performance?

It can be common for managers to mistake under-performance for misconduct. Under-performance is the failure to perform assigned tasks or duties, or to complete them in a poor manner. Employees who are under-performing can often simply need to be re-trained, or re-motivated. Misconduct however, can be something more dramatic, which could result in disciplinary action or even firing.

Once you have identified whether this issue is poor performance rather than misconduct, you can set about resolving the issue in the best way possible.

Step 1: Discover the cause of the problem.

The very first step is to get to the root of the issue. If you have noticed a sudden change in behaviour in an employee, there may be an underlying cause. This could be something temporary, such as moving house, or something more permanent and disruptive. Remember that they were hired in the first place for their skills and that you shouldn’t be too quick to write them off.

Try to identify if the cause comes from the job itself, such as the employee being overwhelmed or stressed in the workplace. If this is the case, you may be able to solve the problem with some simple readjustments. However, the under-performance may of course be caused by personal issues, causing them to lose focus.

The key here is to be understanding and not to rush to blame. Whether with yourself as a manager, or with your HR representative, try to arrange a meeting where the under-performing team member can speak openly, comfortably and honestly.

Step 2: Have a plan of action.

Going into these situations unprepared can often cause further issues. You need to choose your time wisely, as to avoid conflict. Try to address the problem in a calm and rational way, rather than when you are stressed or angry.

You also need to ensure that you cover the matter in a clear and concise way. The employee needs to have a strong understanding of the issue at hand and what is expected of them regards change. Below is a good guideline on what to consider in preparation.

‘ACAS (Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory Service) is an independent government organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes. It takes into account UK employment law when offering advice and guidance. ACAS guidelines state that before considering formal action, you should be able to demonstrate that:

  • The employee is clear as to what is expected of them
  • You have pro­vided feed­back on their per­for­mance
  • The employee is clear about the gap be­tween their per­for­mance and the re­quired per­for­mance
  • You have an agreed plan out­lin­ing what im­prove­ments you ex­pect of them and by when, and the sup­port you have pro­vided to help them im­prove
  • The agreed ac­tion plan has been in place for long enough for the employee to demon­strate some im­prove­ment
  • You have been clear to the employee about what will hap­pen if their per­for­mance doesn’t im­prove
  • You have a clear audit trail of all of the above’  – plushr.com

Step 3: Train and Educate.

If the main cause of under-performance lies within the job itself, remember to ask what the business can do to help. Perhaps they have recently been promoted, taking on new responsibilities or tasks, or perhaps a refresher course would be beneficial. Ensure that all of your staff feels they have the required skills to perform to the best of their ability and to remain happy within their role.

Step 4: Follow up.

As with all areas of HR, it is crucial to ensure that you stay true to your word. Make sure that all required training is booked ASAP and any other agreed terms are met. It is also a good idea to schedule frequent, informal meetings to discuss any problems and progress. Your employee should feel valued, so remember to praise them for their efforts rather than focusing on the negative. By planning ahead with catch-up meetings, you are able to properly measure the changes in their performance; in order to gauge whether or not the issue has been resolved.

What if the issue isn’t resolved?

Whilst you can go through all of these steps with the best of intentions, there can of course be situations in which a solution is not found. This could be due to many reasons and could require a number of different approaches. Ensure that your company’s disciplinary policies and procedures are up-to-date and that all of your current and future employees are well aware of them.

For further information on how to resolve issues with under-performing employees and for any other HR advice, please get in touch with Triple Three Solutions today. Call our HR Consultants on 0333 050 330 or contact us via email at lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk.