Working Hard or Hardly Working? How to Identify & Motivate Staff Who Aren’t Living Up to Expectations

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Working Hard or Hardly Working

Not every employee is a superstar – and not every employee needs to become one.  But when a straggler in your organization isn’t keeping up with the “solid center” that drives your organization’s productivity and motivation, it’s important to know how to identify and motivate these team members.

Finding the Stragglers

If you’ve recently conducted performance reviews or are working on them now, use them to identify staff who might not be living up to expectations.  Some factors to consider:

  • How well do managers think the worker is doing?  Compare the employee’s job description to managers’ descriptions of the employee’s work.  Make sure these match: if managers think the employee’s key duties are different from those listed in the job description, make sure everyone is on the “same page” before making a final call as to performance.
  • How well does the employee describe his or her work?  Motivated employees will often be able – and even willing – to “talk up” their accomplishments from the previous year.  By contrast, an employee who is falling behind will either have no accomplishments to share, or will feel no interest whatsoever in sharing them.

In some fields, “straggling” is clear from the data: an employee may close fewer sales, recruit fewer new clients, or complete fewer or less-complex projects.  In other fields, underperformance may require a more qualitative analysis.  Collect as much information as you need.

What to Do When Underperformance Appears

When you know you have an underperforming employee on your hands, here’s what to do:

  • Address the problem.  Start by talking to the employee – and don’t put off the conversation.  The longer an underachiever stays on the team, the more likely his work will generate feelings of annoyance or resentment, both for the employee and for co-workers.  In addition, a sudden bout of underperformance may have an easily fixed cause – so why wait to find and fix it?
  • Ask why underperformance is happening.  An employee who is a poor fit for the job, who lacks training, or who doesn’t understand what is expected of her may underperform for any of these reasons – but all of them can be fixed.
  • Start a conversation.  Approach the employee in the spirit of collaboration, not confrontation.  You’re both trying to find the cause of underperformance and to fix it, not to assign blame.  Explain what you’ve observed, talk about how the employee’s underperformance is affecting the company, and stress that you want to help.
  • Create a plan and follow through.  Create a specific plan to list, track, and measure improvements.  Follow through with regular monitoring and coaching to help the employee get back on track.

At Burnett’s Staffing, our experienced recruiters can help you find staff who can exceed expectations and thrive in your organization’s specific culture.  Contact us today to learn more.

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