Being able to handle poor performance on your team means mastering performance management. You need the right tools, techniques, and concepts for managing a variety of different personalities.

It’s important to remember that teams go through different stages of development, which will also play its role in performance. For example, if you’re putting a new team together or adding new members, this can present workflow, social, and communication challenges. If you’re trying to boost a well-established team from mediocrity to excellence can mean stirring up your team members’ creative juices.

In each phase of team growth and operation, you must provide perspective and continually inspire employee engagement with your businesses’ core mission and bottom line.

What is Performance Management?

So what exactly is performance management? The VP of SAP SuccessFactors says, “There are so many factors influencing the effectiveness of the performance management process. Some employees are more competitive and self-confident than others. You also have manager differences – you can have a great process, but if the manager implements it poorly that impacts the situation.”

Poor performance needs to be identified and addressed by management, but this isn't always easy as performance varies from one person to the next.
Performance management is a crucial skill for any leader. It can help them determine each team members capabilities and if they need to improve in certain areas.

There is a great deal of insight that has been gained from neuroscience and psychology to help us better understand employee productivity and motivation. Hunt encourages team leaders and executives to study this data to become more informed.

Of course, to be relevant, the performance management data must come from situations that match your workplace and industry as much as possible.

Understanding the Basic Components of Performance

Most business experts define employee performance as a union of two factors, motivation and ability. Ability includes both the aptitude and skills an employee brings with them to the organization as well as any training, resources, and support offered by their employer.

Motivation includes both intrinsic motivations (passion, mission, commitment) and extrinsic motivations such (benefits, pay, salary).

It’s not always easy to tell if one of your team members is working to the best of their capability. Is a person just playing dumb to coast through the day or could they be confused by exactly what their role is on your team? There are a few ways to determine this.

Identify and Address Ability Concerns in Underperforming Employees

Most often, you will find that issues start with the hiring or recruiting process.

  • Did this person have the right amount of skill and experience for their position when you added them to your team?
  • Is the employee engaged with their work?
  • Was this person ready for a promotion or hire?
  • Are they making a genuine effort but make a few noticeable improvements?

Company resources, such as training materials, can help employees that are struggling in some cases, but not all.

For example, if an employee was doing great in a previous position but is having trouble on your team, try to determine what’s missing.

  • What resources did they have in their previous role that they no longer have?
  • Did they have access to IT, logistical, or communication support previously?
  • Were they previously working mainly on their own but now on a team?

Try your best to determine which parts of an employees job may cause them trouble and which they can do easily. Is it possible to refocus an employees strengths all the while training them to improve upon their weaknesses?

If this doesn’t fix your employee’s issues, you may want to consider transferring them to a less-demanding position.

Determine Motivation Problems Within Your Team

As we’d mentioned, there are two things that impact employees performance ability and motivation. If an employee has excellent skills and experience but turns in sloppy or late work, their motives have likely shifted.

In such a case, you will want to examine the motivation structure you have put into place.

  • Is the employee bored?
  • Can you invest in them by offering them a leadership opportunity?
  • Would they benefit from a more challenging role or project?
It is important to identify reasons an employee is lacking motivation.
If an employee is bored or their work is not challenging enough, this can lead to a lack of motivation and impact their work life.

Although intrinsic motivations can generally inspire employees to become more engaged in their work, they often show up for their job primarily for extrinsic motivations.

If one of your team members is unusually unmotivated, determine what has changed.

  • Did the employee recently receive a pay reduction?
  • Did your company change its benefits plan?
  • Was the employee passed over for a promotion with a pay increase?

In most situations, it is cheaper to determine what you can offer an unmotivated employee to get them back on track as opposed to going to HR for firing, recruiting, and training someone new. It is normal that you will sometimes need to let people go, but do your best to avoid this outcome.

Most employees enjoy regular feedback in regards to their work. Be sure to set clear, tangible goals for employees that are struggling.

Define Excellent and Poor Performance for Your Team

As a leader, you need to set goals and standards so that your team knows where they stand. The days of merely guessing what the boss wants or waiting for annual employee performance reviews are long gone. Most employees expect to provided with clear instructions, fair job targets, and regular feedback.

People are much more likely to perform better if you provide them with a simple definition of what excellent and poor performance are.

Poor performance can mean many different things depending on what industry you’re in. Be sure to set minimum acceptable standards – especially for transfers or new hires.

Above all else, remember to communicate with your team members frequently. Use one-on-one meetings to provide feedback and create a culture of openness and trust.

Use the Correct Performance Management Tools

Most employers consider firing an employee as high-stress, expensive, and the last resort. If you’re wondering how to keep from getting to this point, keep in mind that you have a whole host of performance management tools available.

For example, if you want to encourage team communication and creativity, you can consider using team-building games.

You can create an action plan for employees that are underperforming. Work with them to create a performance improvement plan that outlines the problem, potential solutions, and rewards/consequences.

You can use time tracking software to identify any productivity issues quickly. With the correct data, you can reduce the need for any terminations.

Speak with Employees about Their Performance

Improving employees performance can be far more cost efficient than simply hiring or training a new employee. While the employee may be having trouble in their position, they likely know your product front to back.

Poor performance can be a result of boredom or many other issues. Speak with your employees one on one to determine the cause and a solution.
Speak one on with with those who have been under performing. Come up with tangible solutions and goals for them to achieve.

Take the time to speak with your underperforming team member one-on-one and layout areas where they are excelling and where they can improve. Provide them with specific situations and solutions that they are struggling with and be sure to frequently follow up with them to see how they are progressing.

Know When It’s Time To Fire An Employee

If you’ve worked with an employee to improve their performance and it is merely not working, it may be time to let the employee go. In the end, poor performance goes against the whole reason you hire someone – to get results. Before you put an employee on the termination track, be sure that you’ve done the following first:

  1. Address the person directly about the issue.
  2. Ask the employee if they know the root cause of their issue.
  3. Provide resources for skill development.
  4. Evaluate your motivation structure.
  5. Reward employee efforts and results.
  6. Have goal setting meetings with your team.

Be sure to back up your assertions with examples and data. By showing the termination is due to a difference between individual and corporate missions, you can avoid bringing any personal judgments into the equation.

Firing is never fun or easy, but you can deter any legal issues by taking the high ground in these critical conversations. Of course, you’ll want an HR person to sit in on the termination session to protect both your company and soon to be ex-employee.

The Bottom Line

Performance management is a crucial aspect of every leader or managers job. It is not just a challenge for your team members to overcome to thrive in the workplace. As a leader, you share in the failures and success of all your team members. In a way, your success is greatly connected to every employee. It is time to create an environment that rewards and encourages consistency, hard work, and dedication.