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Getting Underperforming Employees Back on Track


One of the responsibilities of the leaders in your organization is to help keep employees on track. Even your best employees may underperform from time to time. It is critical to immediately identify and address performance issues to minimize their impact. If you have underperforming employees at your organization, one of these four reasons is likely the cause and the good news is there are simple ways to get employees in each of these categories back on track.

They don’t understand the instructions. This probably happens more often than we would like to admit. Humans are imperfect communications. We often assume that others have the same knowledge and experience that we do and therefore leave gaps in our instructions. As leaders, it is important that we are clear with what works needs to be done and what the deadline is. We also need to set appropriate expectations for the quality of work to be completed as well. To make sure others understand, ask them to repeat the task back to you.

They don’t have the ability. There are two reasons employees may fall into this category. First, and most likely, the employee doesn’t have the knowledge or training to complete the job or task to your expectations. This can likely be resolved with some training or coaching. The second reason is improper job placement. Not every person is going to be a good fit for every job. Someone who is not good at math and hates working with numbers, should likely not work in accounting. Someone who is shy and reserved would probably not make a great receptionist or sales person. If you have an underperforming employee, consider whether either of these situations are affecting the employees’ ability to complete the job.

They don’t have the resources. Consider whether you are providing employees with the necessary tools to complete their jobs effectively. If there are other employees with the same resources completing the same job well, this may not be the case, but it is something to take a look at. Ask yourself if you could you add additional equipment, people, time or money to the job in order to help underperforming employees succeed?

They just don’t care. You may jump to the conclusion that the employee has a bad attitude immediately when you have an underperformer. It is listed last here, because leaders really need to consider the previous issues first, before taking a look at attitude. There are a couple reasons why an employee could have a bad attitude and each one requires a different approach from the leader.

Unfair treatment– Take a look at the employee’s peers and direct supervisor and consider whether the employee could feel as though they are being treated unfairly. Talk with the employee and find out if you can help resolve this concern. If there is an issue with the employee’s supervisor, address that as well.

Unclear vision or goals– Help your employees see how their work ties into the overall vision for the company. Discuss how their underperforming negatively impacts the company reaching their goals. Employees want to feel like their work means something. Like they are part of something bigger.

Poor work ethic– Not all employees will come into your organization with the same work ethic. Employees who are not performing to your standards should be informed of the performance expectation given the opportunity to improve. Engage the employee in a coaching conversation and put together a performance improvement plan. Set the expectation that if performance doesn’t improve, disciplinary action will take place.

Coaching employees back to acceptable performance levels is far less expensive and less disruptive than finding a new employee. In a study conducted by the Center for America Progress, the cost of losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16% of their salary for hourly, entry-level employees, to 213% of the salary for highly skilled employee.

Performance issues take place at every organization from time to time. These tips can help you quickly get these employees turned around, which is a much easier and less expensive option than replacing them. Share this information to your leadership team to help them identify these common employee performance issues and help get employees back on track. Need help? Contact our HR experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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