When you start to notice poor performance from employees, the best step you can take is quick and decisive action to get them back on track. Follow our poor performance management checklist and avoid continued drop-offs.

Workplace performance is not always a steady line, nor will it always be an upward trend. Sometimes, employees can see drops in anything from productivity and efficiency to attitude and communication.

But when things start to go wrong, it’s essential that they are put right as quickly as possible.

Performance dips are not only bad for profitability, but they can also be damaging to morale, impact other workers, lead to poor retention rates and even become habitual. Managers play a vital role in tackling poor performance at the first sign of trouble.

Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #1: Define the Core Performance Issues

In order to correct poor performance, you must first be clear on the core issues that an employee is facing. The problem must be definable and you must be able to clearly describe the issue resulting in poor performance.

If you can’t do this, you can’t combat it.

Analysis of work performance is crucial. Look at how your employee operates, gather data and information and ascertain exactly what is going wrong.

Let’s say poor performance is related to productivity. Simply saying your member of staff is unproductive is not a clear enough performance issue. Why aren’t they productive? Identify what is happening in their role that is causing the problem. It could be a lack of sales. It could be an inability to hit deadlines. Whatever the reason, it must be definable.

If the problem is behavioural, referring to your organisation’s behaviour or competency framework (if one exists) can be helpful to help articulate the issue.

Expert Tip:

When identifying core performance issues, do not overburden your employee. Focus on fighting one problem at a time. Once performance improves move to other areas.

Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #2: Provide Feedback as Soon as Possible

Management has a tendency to avoid conflict. They want to keep up morale and ensure employees are happy, and giving negative performance feedback can seem counterproductive to that. However, avoiding discussing performance issues will ultimately make things worse over time – poor performance issues rarely correct themselves without feedback.

So, the answer is to sugarcoat the critical feedback right? Well no.

It may come as a surprise, but employees want to hear your criticism. 94% of employees want to hear ‘corrective’ feedback — feedback that will help them improve how they work. As a result, it’s important to be honest and direct with what you say.

Uncertainty does not allow for progression or corrective behaviour. It simply means employees are aware of problems but aren’t quite sure how to solve them. 50% of employees are uncertain of their goals and much of this uncertainty is borne out of indirect managerial feedback.

In order to identify the core issue behind performance dips, as defined in item #1, you must first determine exactly what the problem is. So be open and direct and let them know exactly where the problem lies, but in a calm, supportive way so that the employee feels comfortable enough to open. If you go into the discussion in an emotionally charged state yourself, the employee will be defensive and closed to your feedback.

Once the performance issue is recognised and understood, you can move on to the next step. Sugarcoat the truth about an employee’s performance and nobody is better off.

Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #3: Offer Solutions and Suggested Actions to Fight the Underlying Cause

Taking your employee aside, informing them of their poor performance and then shoving them out the door is not going to result in improved performance. This is not a talent strategy that will benefit your company.

To get performance back on track, you must be prepared to offer help and support. The first step in the process comes with the identification of underlying performance problems.

What has caused their performance to slide?

Discussions with your employee may highlight personal or professional barriers that are causing dips in things like productivity. Once you know what the problems are, you can create plans to overcome them. This may include additional training, mentoring, changes in responsibilities or assisting with personal matters that are impacting work, such as psychological support or management of health concerns and general wellbeing.

Employees have a certain responsibility to manage their own performance. They are expected to do the work they are paid for to a standard worthy of their pay-grade. However, the more support you are prepared to offer them, the better their chances are of reaching and exceeding the standards you expect, and within a quicker time frame.

Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #4: Use Performance Management Software

You can’t track performance if you aren’t carrying out regular performance reviews. And if you can’t track performance, you can’t identify problems early enough to stop them from becoming major issues.

A performance management system like Clear Review enables managers to monitor the progress of their team members through focused check-in discussions. It also allows goals to be set and for feedback to given in real-time. By being aware of employee performance on an ongoing basis, you can react quickly to problems, instead of backtracking or missing them entirely.

Managing Poor Performance Checklist Item #5: Redirect Strong Performances to Support Negative Qualities

Keeping track of employees through performance management systems is not only beneficial for preventing performance problems, but it also enables you to track upward trends and focus on strengths. For example, a person may struggle with administrative skills, but they have incredibly strong communication and influencing skills.

By having a wider perspective of both good and poor performance, managers can aid the recovery of underperformance by considering how the individual can better leverage their strengths.

This can work in two ways:

  1. If an employee has a relevant skill that can be utilised for stronger performance, the positive progression in that skills can be redirected to support areas in which they are underperforming. Let’s say they have strong written skills but their verbal communication is not up to the standard required. You can encourage them to use their writing to better prepare for face-to-face conversations and meetings.
  2. Consider whether it is possible to adjust the individual’s job description or redistribute tasks within the team to enable the individual to spend more of their time working on items that play to their strengths and less time doing the things they are not so good at. By doing this, it can be possible for an underperforming employee to becoming one of the star performers in your team.

Do you need to better monitor the performance of your team? Discover how Clear Review’s performance management software can help you keep track of how your staff are progressing and quickly identify issues of poor performance.