Turn Around an Under-Performer

March 24, 2023
Turn around under-performing employees to bring your team together and employ a top-notch crew.

Any business will likely have an employee or two who is not performing at his or her best. Sometimes the poor performers can even be those at the top – in management positions or above. Regardless of the level the trouble exists on, there are ways to work with employees to turn them into top performers through motivation, feedback, teamwork and training.

When an employee is not performing up to standards, there are steps that should be taken to identify the issues, and work with your team to correct them. In today's tight job market, it is often necessary to work with staff to make both employee and employer happy, especially when personalities are a good fit. The same strategies can work from the top down.

Consider Hiring for the Right Fit

With a job market stretched thin, hiring managers continue to see fewer candidates with the skills required to fill openings. If an applicant is close or can get up to speed, consider evaluating whether he or she is the right fit for the workplace.

"Nobody's applying," explains Claudia St. John, president of Affinity HR, an Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) endorsed partner that handles recruiting, training, hiring and onboarding throughout the industry. "We’ll take them and grow them."

"We tell our clients not to be as tight with their requirements," St. John tells NOLN. "The talent just isn't out there. Those that are out there are commanding salaries."

Behavioral testing and interview questions such as, "Tell me about a time when you …" or "How did you handle a customer complaint …" help the hiring manager get a picture of how the applicant operates, his work style, and whether he can handle difficult situations.

Affinity HR works with interpersonal behavioral assessments to help determine a good fit for employees, and resolve situations.

"A lot of conflict in the office is just different behavioral styles," says St. John.

A manager might have a different behavioral style than an employee, and that can create friction until the two assess personalities and learn to work together. St. John suggests that different personalities and work styles contribute to a type of diversity in the workplace. However, it can take time to successfully blend a workforce with diverse personalities and work styles.

"In those situations you do your best," explains St. John. "But you need to realize you are part of the community."

In other words, it could require some "give and take."

Be Prepared to Coach Your Team

Even your top performers may require insight from management to help determine progress and set goals. St. John outlines five responsibilities managers have, and how those five actions help across all employees.

"I try to remind managers they have five responsibilities," St. John outlines.

Managers should communicate clearly delineated performance expectations; make sure employees have the tools and competencies they need to complete and satisfy expectations; have a process in place to evaluate how employees are doing; and offer feedback that has constructive comments mixed in with positive feedback, St. John outlines.

Approaching Employees about Poor Performance

Too often managers approach employees by lecturing, but it often has the opposite of the intended effect, as it can shut down a conversation, explains St. John. "The first place to start is by saying something like, 'I'm observing … tell me what you're experiencing …' That works whether it's a performance issue, a productivity issue or personal issue."

The best way to help an employee improve performance is by stating explicit guidelines and expectations. It helps workers know what they need to work on, and how to get there. It also communicates that a manager is willing to work with the employee to bring them up to speed. "It gives them tangible ways they can improve," St. John explains.

Feedback is Key

While St. John offers five key actions managers should take to work with employees, she says feedback is the most important. "Are you giving enough feedback? Not just corrective feedback, but positive feedback," she says.

While it is helpful to offer some constructive feedback, positive feedback is important. "I think that 85-to-90 percent of feedback should be positive," St. John states.

If approaching a worker with a compliment is difficult for a manager, she offers an example phrasing. "I observed … and it was great."

Feedback is free, and offers direction as well as positive reinforcement on a job well done.

"Focusing on positive behaviors the employee is bringing to the office, and also giving them tangible ways they can improve," St. John explains. "I think the positive feedback should happen every single day. That's the best management tool we have, and we don't use it enough."