Saturday, September 08, 2012

Managing underperformance…

“Sir, I did not even know, what are the expectations from me by my boss. And now, you people are telling me that my performance is not at par. If this is a case then why this was not communicated earlier. I would have made improvement.” One so called underperformer employee was complaining after he was rated below expectations after annual performance review sessions.

Managing underperformer is always challenging task. Sometimes even managers do not take concrete stand on this. However assume that you have everything in place and you identified underperformers in the organization, how you would deal with them?

What is underperformer?
 Underperformers are poor performers are those who fails to perform the duties as per the job profile and KPIs. But it is not only about the results, it is also related to non-compliance of set behaviours, rules and regulations and policies of the company. However underperformance is not the misconduct. Sometimes it is just making people aware about the same. Sometimes, expectations are not clear; they don’t know the dos and don’ts in the organization.

Reasons for underperformance
There are many reasons why an employee may perform poorly. Some of the common reasons are:
  • An employee is not clear about expectations, performance goals and KPIs.
  • Relationship with superiors and interpersonal differences
  • Mismatch of the job profile and employee capabilities.
  • Lack of personal motivation, low morale in the workplace and/or poor work environment
  • Personal issues such as family stress, physical and/or mental health problems or problems with drugs or alcohol
  • Cultural mismatch

How to deal with them? Is sacking them is the only solution?
Most of the time, poor performers are treated without logic. Sometimes manager does not want them in their team due to personal biases.  Direct termination in such cases is not the solution. Dealing with underperformance can be challenging and confronting for employees and employers alike, but it does need to be addressed. Managers need clear procedures, organizational support and the courage and willingness to manage the issue.

Methodological approach:

Identify the problem
It is important to understand the key drivers of performance or underperformance within the workforce. It is also important to correctly and specifically identify the problem.

Assess and analyze the problem
Once you identify the issue behind being poor performance, it is a time to analyze it how serious the problem is, how long the problem has existed, and how wide the gap is between what is expected and what is being delivered.

Once the problem is analyzed, call the meeting with employee to discuss issues.

Meet with the employee to discuss the problem
During the meeting the employee should be able to clearly understand:
          what the problem is
          why it is a problem
          how it impacts on the workplace, and why there is a concern.
The discussion should end with the solid results and agreeable solution.

Jointly devise a solution
Where possible, it is important that a solution is jointly devised with the employee. An employee who has contributed to the solution will be more likely to accept and act on it.
When working out a solution, the employer should:
          Explore ideas by asking open questions
          Emphasize common ground and keep the discussion on track
          Focus on positive possibilities, and offer assistance, such as further training, mentoring, flexible work practices or redefining roles and expectations.
A clear plan of action should be developed with the employee to implement the solution. This can be in the form of a performance agreement or action plan. A performance agreement or action plan can:
          Reflect an understanding of performance expectations and what is to be achieved over the specified time period (performance improvement milestones)
          Clarify roles and responsibilities of the employee
          Include strategies for training and career development
          Include timeframes for improvements (these may vary depending on the issue and needs of the business, however it is important to give an employee adequate time to improve their performance) reinforce the value and worth of the role being performed. 

A date should be set for another meeting with the employee to review progress and discuss the employee’s performance against the agreed action plan.

The HR and line manager should keep a written record of all discussions relating to underperformance in case further action is required. Generally, it may also be used as evidence if legal action is taken about the matter.

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