Performance Management: Managing and Dealing with Poor Performers

January 15, 20168:11 am2619 views

Yesterday, while conducting an in-house workshop for a mid-size multinational commercial bank, I was giving a presentation to about 25 people who were in a managerial role. Precisely, I was asking them about problems they saw in their routine work, issues that wasted their time and provision of resources at work.

One employee wanted me to understand how frustrating it could be working with poor performers and told the group, the following story that went something like this:

“I hired an employee who was very good at credentials, but performed below par for the tasks that we used to give him. He was smart, but smartness never reflected in his work- the work that we gave him. At first, I thought I should know if he needs more job guidance or monetary raise, but nothing worked as such. Later on, witnessing his consistent non-performance, I gave him a final call to which he said ‘I just don’t like working here’.”

Upon hearing this story, the group I was presenting to let out a collective sigh. It was hard to escape the feeling of hopelessness the story left behind.

Soon after the workshop, I recollected the stories of non-performance that I have been hearing from executives across industries, and that too cross functionally over time. As a result, I came up with this simple equation:

Performance = Ability + Motivation

Yes, Performance is a function of both ability and motivation. Here is what these components mean exactly-

  • Ability: Skills and Experience
  • Motivation: Willingness and Curiosity
  • Performance: Job Performance

Based on this, I can confidently say that we find 4 types of employees at work:

Employee Type 1: Ability (YES) + Motivation (YES)

Employee Type 2: Ability (YES) + Motivation (No)

Employee Type 3: Ability (No) + Motivation (YES)

Employee Type 4: Ability (No) + Motivation (No)

Dealing with Employee Type 1 and Employee Type 4 is never a problem. Type 1 is a high performer who largely gets appreciated and recognized within the organization, and Type 4 is a non-performer who is showed the door sooner in the organization.

The problem then is Type 2 and Type 3 employees who stay with the organization for considerably long, and that too without performing. These two are the ones we dub as real Poor Performers, and the real problem.

So here is the catch: Someone with 75 percent ability and 25 percent motivation would be a low performer as much as the one with 25 percent ability and 75 percent motivation. Contrary to it, an employee with a reasonable combination of ability and motivation could be a best fit on job performance.

Dealing with Poor Performance

Managing people is anyways a complex task! If you believe that you have to put yourself and your employee through an awkward and stressful event to effectively confront poor performance, you need to have second thoughts.

The simple fact is that managing poor employee performance should not be a huge event; it should be quick and relatively pain free, for both the manager and the employee.

When poor performance goes unaddressed for longer periods of time, as too often it does, it can become a major problem and thereafter present a situation that becomes completely unmanageable and out of control.

Depending on whether a poor performer is due to lack of ability or lack of motivation, the strategies of dealing with it change.

See: Fixing Your Poor Performance Reviews: Step by Step

Fixing Lack of Ability

The following two interventions can be planned one-on-one with employees, to coach low performers due to lack of ability.

  1. Resources Resupply

Ask your employees if they need additional resources. Focus on the resources you have provided and ascertain if more or different are required.

Verify their claims with your own investigation. People will often blame external sources for their poor performance before admitting their own fault.

  1. Skills Retraining

Provide additional training to colleagues, be it in-house, on the job or external trainings. Explore to understand if they have the actual skills required to do what’s expected.

Given the pace of change of technology, it’s easy for people’s skills to become outdated. This recognizes the need to conduct training programmes that keep employees skills current.

Fixing Lack of Motivation

Having fixed the ability curve, fixing lack of motivation tops the chart for performance enhancement. The following two interventions can be worked out in this context:

  1. Performance Goal Setting

One should do what one loves to do! Goal setting with respect to one’s profile is a well-sought aspect of performance improvement. Employees must understand what’s expected of them and agree on what they need to do to improve.

  1. Performance Feedback

Feedback is crucial, and very helpful to help poor performers do better. They have to know where they stand in terms of current performance and long-term expectations. However, providing feedback requires a lot of tact, such as knowing the timing, style and mode of communication.

Eventually, the question of managing poor performers is – are they poor due to lack of ability or lack of motivation?

Content attributed to Guest Contributor: Mansoor Soomro, Management Consultant & Executive Coach with Learning Minds Group (LMG). He is also responsible for training solutions and nurtures deep passion in corporate training for diverse industries. To his credit, he has rich experience working with SIEMENS and is also a visiting faculty at the Institute of Business Management.

Also read: Who is Likely to be a Toxic Employee?

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