As a business owner, you have high hopes and high expectations for your employees. That is why it can be frustrating when an employee who previously performed well suddenly begins underperforming. Or when you hire someone who you thought had great potential, but they aren’t living up to your expectations. This is the time when you as a leader need to put on your coach’s cap and help that employee find their way back to success. Each employee situation and reason for the lack of performance will be different, but the steps you can take as a leader to get the employee back on track are the same. A recent article from Inc. gives some great advice.Pointing finger

Find out why their performance is slacking.
There are many reasons why an employee who was previously successful has a slip in performance. Generally speaking, most employees who are underperforming fall into one of these categories:

  • They are no longer interested or excited by their job. Perhaps their job has become too easy and they need a greater challenge. Maybe they feel that their hard work is not being recognized. These individuals usually have a gradual decline in performance.
  • They are overwhelmed or need more training. It is possible that the employee is not qualified for the position or they do not have access to the resources they need to be successful. It is also possible that your expectations for that position are simply too high.
  • There are outside influences. Employees are people with entire lives outside of the workplace. This can be difficult to remember since we spend so much time with our employees. There may be personal, medical, or family issues causing the employee’s performance to decline. Usually in these situations, the change in performance is temporary.

Decide which group best fits your underperformer to prepare for your next steps.

Prepare feedback and talk to the employee.
Timing is important. As soon as you notice a decrease in performance you should address it with the employee. Have concrete examples of times when the employee did not meet your expectations. Make sure keep the conversation focused on the employee’s performance and avoid any personal grievances.  For each piece of negative feedback, you should be providing 3-5 positive statements.

Tie the employee’s performance to the company-wide goals and reinforce the importance of their work to the organization. Also include some things you are willing to do to help the employee get back on track.

While preparing to speak with the employee, you should consider what you know about that employee’s motivations. What is that employee passionate about? Think about ways that you can use that to encourage the employee.

Have a plan ready to talk to the employee about how they can get back on track, but don’t make that the only option. Encourage the employee to put together their own plan for success. Ask lots of questions and demonstrate that you care about their success.

Follow up and hold the employee accountable.
When you put together the performance plan with your employee, set milestones and checkpoints to hold the employee accountable and then follow through. You may need to make this individual a priority for a period of time until they get back on track. Schedule one-on-one time with them on a regular basis. It will do much more harm than good to put together a plan of attack and then never follow through.

If you see an employee struggling, it Is important to understand why they are underperforming, help them create a plan to get back on track and then follow-up to make sure they are getting everything they need to be successful. More often than not, underperformers can be turned around with a little coaching, preventing the high cost of employee turnover. Understand though, that there may be times when you will have to cut ties with an employee who simply refuses to put in the work necessary to be successful. If you ever need help navigating these tricky employee situations, contact one of our HR Business Partners for guidance.