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Jun 6, 2017

In a dynamic, competitive environment where every business strives to be the best it can be, poor performance is a stumbling block we just can’t ignore. But what are the true costs of underperformance, and when should managers accept responsibility?

As a performance management concern, underperformance can be devastating. The Wall Street Journal reports that just one underperformer among a high-performing team can decrease overall productivity by up to 40%. A lack of enthusiasm and productivity can have other unfortunate effects, such as decreased morale, increased errors, and hours of valuable time wasted.

Some managers are of the opinion that all employee underperformance is a management failing  because they either hired the wrong person, failed to onboard them appropriately, or didn’t set clear expectations. Here are just a few reasons why you might actually be to blame for employee underperformance:

You aren’t communicating regularly and effectively

By now, you’re probably aware that the annual performance review is useless and dying out. These rare meetings try to achieve too much in one sitting. This approach doesn’t allow you and your employees to regularly revisit objectives, annual appraisals are a huge waste of time and, most importantly, they don’t promote open lines of communication.

The relationship between manager and employee is paramount to employee engagement levels. If you’re not making time for regular performance discussions, there is too much scope for performance to plummet. Begin monthly check-ins and develop a culture of honest feedback and discussion.

Your workplace processes are unnecessarily complex

As one source puts it, expecting great performance from an employee who has to navigate arbitrary, complex processes is like asking them to sprint with a ball and chain. It is the responsibility of management to streamline existing workplace processes, to free up time for employees to get on with achieving their objectives.

Listen to your employees. If they’re unsatisfied with the amount of red tape involved in a process — whether it be in preparation for a performance review or in order to book a holiday — take it under serious consideration.

You never demonstrate any appreciation

You might be lucky enough to have enthusiastic, hardworking employees with hordes of discretionary effort. But if you don’t take the time to acknowledge their performance, it is unlikely that your employees will feel inclined to maintain this passion long-term.

Employees need more than a paycheck. They need recognition on a regular basis. Question how often you approach them with negative feedback, or constructive criticism. Now consider how often you show your employees they are a valued and respected team member. This lack of appreciation is mentally draining, and if you refuse to acknowledge great effort, you can’t be surprised when it begins to dwindle.

Your employees aren’t clear on their goals

The setting of clear objectives is a critical performance management tool that will boost employee performance and productivity. Do your employees really know what is expected of them? Do they have autonomy and ownership over their objectives? Do they know how their objectives align with company goals?

Give your employees motivation, direction, control, and context. You’ll be rewarded with a newly invigorated team member, rather than an employee who is simply dispassionately following instructions.

You’re giving your employees more than they can handle

Do you have unrealistic expectations of your employees? Do you expect them to work extortionate hours, or to deal with an intimidating workload? Employees who are asked to work too many hours experience a huge dip in performance, as do those who can’t physically keep up with the demands placed upon them.

Burnout is a real issue for companies in this day and age, and managers should take note: employee burnout negatively impacts retention levels and general morale. Keep your expectations realistic and remember your employees are humans, not robots.

Your employees aren’t challenged

Employees are increasingly ambitious and hungry for knowledge. They see jobs as development opportunities and they need a challenge. Work with them to create Personal Development Plans (PDPs), encourage them to create objectives that are stretching (but not unrealistically so), and provide information on how they can advance within your organization.

Intelligent, active brains get bored when they aren’t being exercised, so provide a means for them to advance, develop and progress with you, or your talent will begin to look for work elsewhere.

Employee experience is becoming increasingly critical to engagement, retention, and productivity. Be sure to give your employees the respect they deserve, and you’re sure to be rewarded with loyalty and incredible performance.