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Performance

How Managers Can Help Low-Performing Employees?

5 December 2022

8 min read

Lynette Teo
Lynette Teo

The 80/20 Pareto’s principle explains that 80% of the results come from 20% of the employees in talent management. However, an organization should build robust systems that can make every employee a high performer. In every company, there is a section of employees who perform below average expectations due to various reasons. That could be personal or professional. A manager is responsible for finding it out and helping the employee in order to create efficient teams.

According to a McKinsey report, 86% of employees attain job satisfaction if they have a good relationship with the management. It is said to be a good relationship only if the managers look after employees’ well-being too. Managers should not just focus on the performance of the employees and fire them if they do not perform well. Employees should be seen as people, not just as resources that carry out the tasks in a company. Managers should be ready to guide them if they feel lost.

Here are a few ways how managers can help low-performing employees.

1. Identify the Problem

There are multiple underlying reasons for an employee’s low performance. If you are a manager, you should first check if they have been assigned the right projects. For instance, an employee might be very good at social media content creation but is not very good at other forms of content creation. In that case, a manager should know his/her employees well enough to give tasks according to their strengths. 

If there is an employee who undergoes some personal issues, you should be empathetic and give them some time or support they need to help them recover. It does not imply that the employee should be idle at the office but just that you should understand and give them the nominal workload instead of increasing it as they are underperforming. Employees always do better if they feel that their company cares about them.

2. OKRs for Clear Job Expectations

If you are a manager, you should clearly communicate to the employees what is expected of them. The employees, who do not know their objectives, are working in vain as they are not aware of the direction they are headed. This is where Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) play a vital role. Objectives provide a clear view of the results expected from the employees. Key Results are the milestones that will help the employees to reach their objectives.

OKRs help employees cross-check whether they progress towards the right destination or not. If they do not, they can change their paths anytime. This also helps you to monitor the progress of your team members and provide guidance as and when needed. OKR is a concept that can have numerous use cases but should be implemented only if there is a need for it. 

3. Ongoing Feedback

A survey conducted by Betterworks reveals that 66% of companies show year-round productivity enhancements as a result of implementing a continuous feedback system. Low-performing employees can improve their skills and work efficiency only if they learn where they go wrong and what they should do differently to bring results. You should have regular feedback sessions with the employees to discuss their performance. Ask your low-performing employees how they feel about their performance and learn their thoughts without forcing your opinions on them. 

After listening to their words, start with positive feedback and then move to the areas for improvement. During these continuous feedback sessions, make the employees with low performance feel comfortable and speak about the challenges they face at work and the obstacles that hinder their performance. 

Managers should review the progress of the employees periodically and give feedback immediately instead of waiting for the once-in-a-year performance appraisal process.

4. Open Mind and Growth Attitude

If you are a manager, being open-minded with a growth attitude is absolutely necessary to make low-performing employees into high-performers. If you already have a preconceived notion about the low-performing employees when you enter the feedback or appraisal sessions, you will never give them a chance to improve by imparting your knowledge to them. A manager should be open-minded to take fair decisions and possess a growth attitude to think of solutions and utilize every employee’s fullest potential.

5. Effective Training Programs

When you have continuous feedback sessions with low-performing employees, you know what they need the most at the moment to improve their performance. Based on those session notes, you can suggest training programs to them to improve their skills and perform better. Instead of overloading them with work till they resign or not giving them tasks to fire them (which happens in companies with no strong work ethics and culture), it is better to organize training programs that can help them. This will build loyalty and trust among the workforce.

6. Mental Well-Being

Depression and anxiety have become serious health problems in recent days. Mental well-being is very important to maintain physical strength. In a study, more than 42% of employees suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. This could be one of the reasons why your employees are not performing well. As a manager, you should convey the thoughts of your employees to the higher management and suggest that they arrange sessions with mental health experts for every employee in the organization. This will bring a massive productivity increase in your company as the employees would feel heard and the employees who really needed help would have received it from you.

7. Work Together

Depression and anxiety have become serious health problems in recent days. Mental well-being is very important to maintain physical strength. In a study, more than 42% of employees suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. This could be one of the reasons why your employees are not performing well. As a manager, you should convey the thoughts of your employees to the higher management and suggest that they arrange sessions with mental health experts for every employee in the organization. This will bring a massive productivity increase in your company as the employees would feel heard and the employees who really needed help would have received it from you.

8. Dump Your Traditional Performance Review Process

Traditional performance review process will not help low-performing employees or any employee. You can never learn about your team members’ mindset, their difficulties, and the solutions they need as you will have a conversation with them only once a year. Even that conversation will never be deep as both of you will feel awkward discussing your thoughts and feelings after 12 months. In the end, nothing productive will come out of the entire performance review process. Therefore, dump your traditional performance review process and adopt the continuous performance review process.

9. Recognize and Reward Every Effort

If the low-performing employee has achieved a milestone that you had set for him, then make sure to recognize his effort and reward him. Some managers do not recognize the achievements of employees as they are terrified of the word ‘reward.’ Rewards need not be a hefty sum of money; it can be a recognition note, or a token of appreciation for recognizing their efforts. This gratification will motivate the low-performing employees to perform more efficiently. Every company should adopt strong rewards and recognition programs to appreciate every employee’s efforts.

10. Upskilling Opportunities

Treat low-performing employees just like how you treat high-performing employees. They should get equal opportunities like access to courses that can help to upskill. As a manager, you can suggest a course that would suit the employee’s skillset. Those skills might come in handy when your team needs them. Perhaps, this also could be a chance for them to explore their interests and direct their career in their field of interest. This might look like a lot of work but it is totally worth it as you retain your employees by building trust among everyone through your kind and determined core values.

To Wrap Up

A manager has the power to make low-performing employees into average or high-performing by implementing the right strategies. More than money, employees care about company culture, the field of work, the responsibilities they handle, etc. Identifying what is bothering your low-performing employee and resolving it makes you a strong leader. Hiring talents are difficult these days; therefore, adopt solutions that help you to overcome your challenges with talents and retain them.

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