What to do when your longstanding employee starts underperforming
When most of us think about the problems that our businesses can face due to staff underperformance, we imagine that the issues in question are likely to be created when we recruit the wrong person. After all, the process of finding the right member of staff can be tricky, and there are many things that you need to do to ensure that you’re giving individuals everything they need to hit the ground running.
But what if you have a member of staff who has been with you for quite a while, and has always made a solid contribution, but you suddenly start to notice that their performance is slipping?
These circumstances present a unique set of challenges, and if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track.
It’s essential that you don’t panic. You’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve created this guide just for you, and we’re going to walk you through absolutely everything that you need to know.
So without any further ado, let’s get started!
Don’t pretend that it’s not happening
If your member of staff has previously met their goals and made a strong contribution to the company, then you might think that the best approach is to just wait and see what happens. After all, doesn’t everyone go through patches when they’re feeling a little unmotivated?
Take this approach, and you may well find that things fix themselves. This is absolutely NOT the thing to do though if you’re serious about growing a strong and engaged workforce. If you start treating staff differently, you’re going to run into problems sooner rather than later. As well, your other members of staff will quickly notice that something isn’t quite right. Perception is important, and you need to act with integrity, and in a timely manner.
Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, especially when it’s with valued members of staff who have been with the business for a long time. As a leader though, it’s your duty.
If you’re struggling to bite the bullet and take action on the situation, take a step back and think about things objectively. Emotions can overtake your common sense, and no one’s expecting you to be a machine. How is this person not meeting your standards? What impact is this having on productivity, profits, and relations within the team? Often, you’ll quickly realise that you have no other option.
Get together for an informal chat about the situation
You don’t need to blow things out of proportion. The beauty of being proactive is that you can often nip problems in the bud and get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss.
As a first port of call, arrange an informal meeting with the individual in question, and raise your concerns about the problems that you’ve become aware of. Speak to them about what they feel is going wrong, and find out if there’s anything that you can do to support them.
There’s a whole host of issues that could be at play, and pinpointing precisely what is going wrong is the first step in getting things back on the right track. It could be the case that they’ve been working on the same projects for a very long time, and they’re struggling to stay engaged. They may have problems outside of the workplace that are having an impact on their performance.
Don’t jump to any assumptions before you’ve got all the information, and be sure to act on the details that you take away from the meeting. Almost all leaders and managers will say that they listen to their members of staff, but all too often, they’re just going through the motions. Make sure that you don’t make this mistake.
Put an improvement plan in place
Once you’ve spoken with your employee and you’ve agreed that changes need to be made, it’s absolutely vital that you create a structured and detailed improvement plan. Simply telling the member of staff that they need to make changes is not enough. It’s ambiguous, it’s open to interpretation, and it’s not going to help anyone.
Instead, set objective goals for the individual to meet. Make sure that your employee agrees to them, and get them down in writing. From here, you can arrange to have follow-up discussions to assess the progress that is being made.
It’s important that the plan will help you to get things back on track, but don’t expect miracles overnight. Consistent, small changes are often more sustainable, and will be easier to manage.
Provide the necessary support
It’s not enough to agree to the necessary changes, and then assume that everything will fall into place. You need to ensure that your employee has the support that they need. Of course, what this will look like in practical terms will depend on the individual, and the specific circumstances.
It may be the case that extra training is required. It’s worth noting though that going down the more formal route is not the only option, and there are many things that you can do within the workplace on a day-to-day basis that will ensure your staff feel supported.
For example, you could allocate mentors and coaches, arrange regular catch-up meetings, and invite plenty of feedback around what you could do to help staff to reach their goals. Again, listening is essential. Remember that your workers are individuals, with differing needs and preferences, and a one-size-fits-all approach will rarely create the results that you’re looking for.
Act in accordance with your policies and procedures
Your policies and procedures exist to uphold standards. They ensure that you act in accordance with the law, that your staff are treated fairly and equally, and that everyone is working towards wider goals and objectives. So make sure that you’re using them!
Sometimes though, you can find that your policies are no longer fit for purpose. They may be outdated, or you may realise that you haven’t been implementing them in the way that you initially intended.
If you have concerns about how equipped you are to manage underperformance, then we can help. Get in touch today, and arrange a free HR audit. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.