Addressing employee performance problems can be one of the most daunting tasks for managers. It’s not easy to deliver constructive feedback that may be difficult to hear, and it can lead to feelings of discomfort for both parties. On the other hand, when performance improves due to these conversations, it can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a workplace leader.

Neglecting poor employee performance can significantly impact team dynamics, customer satisfaction, and long-term organisational success. That’s why managers spend an average of 210 hours a year in performance management activities, including conducting performance reviews, coaching, and providing feedback. However, despite the time and effort invested, traditional performance management approaches have proven limited. In fact, research shows that conventional reviews actually make performance worse one-third of the time.

Investing time and resources into strategies for addressing performance issues is necessary for the continued enhancement of workplace productivity and efficiency. Each employee you have will be unique in what they require with different strengths, potential and areas for improvement. While it may not be feasible to create customised strategies for every individual, implementing flexible approaches that can be adapted to suit different needs and circumstances is essential.

However, simply addressing employee performance issues is not enough. Employers and managers must also seek to understand why these issues arise, especially if they appear to be unexpected or sudden. A lack of motivation or poor performance can be symptomatic of deeper issues, such as insufficient training or inadequate communication. Investing in employees by examining the root causes of performance issues can lead to a work environment and culture that fosters productivity, morale, and, ultimately, better business outcomes.

Reasons Behind Poor Employee Performance

When it comes to dealing with employee performance issues, the first step is to determine why the issue has arisen. Without identifying the underlying cause, it’s difficult to implement an effective solution. The majority of performance problems can be traced back to a few common causes.

Here are seven common sources of employee performance issues and how to address them:

1. Lack of clear expectations

Employees need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in their role, including goals, deadlines, and metrics for success. Without this clarity, employees may not know where to focus their efforts, leading to confusion and underperformance.

To provide clear expectations to employees:

  • Start by setting specific goals and targets for each employee and communicating them clearly (in written format so they are able to refer to them as needed)
  • Ensure that employees understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions and seek clarification if they are unsure about any aspect of their role or responsibilities.
  • Be consistent in your expectations and hold all employees accountable to the same standards.

2. Insufficient training

Employees need the right training and support to perform their job duties effectively. When they lack the necessary knowledge or skills to complete tasks, they may struggle and fall behind, leading to poor performance.

Providing consistent training and development opportunities can help employees acquire new skills, expand their knowledge, and improve their job performance. This can be done through on-the-job training, mentoring, coaching, or through online courses and workshops. Training and development not only helps employees to perform better in their current roles but also prepares them for future roles and responsibilities within the organisation.

3. Inadequate feedback

Employees need regular feedback on their performance to know how they’re doing and where they need to improve. Without feedback, employees may not know what they’re doing well or what they need to work on, leading to stagnant performance.

When providing feedback to employees:

  • Start by being specific and objective in your feedback, focusing on behaviours or actions rather than personal traits.
  • Use clear and concise language, and avoid using negative or accusatory language.
  • Offer suggestions for improvement and identify areas where the employee is doing well.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions and engage in a dialogue about their performance.
  • Follow up on previous feedback and acknowledge improvements made by the employee.
Addressing employee performance problems can be one of the most daunting tasks for managers. It’s not easy to deliver constructive feedback that may be difficult to hear, and it can lead to feelings of discomfort for both parties.

4. Lack of reward

Lack of reward can influence employee performance. Do you praise and reward your employees for good work? Some employees may begin to slack off if they perceive that their hard work goes unrecognised. Providing recognition and rewards for a job well done can motivate employees to continue performing at a high level. It can also help foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued and appreciated.

Rewards and recognition can take many forms, such as bonuses, promotions, public acknowledgements, or even a simple thank you. To ensure the effectiveness of such programs, it is important for employers to make the rewards and recognition meaningful, relevant, and fair. Additionally, employers should communicate the criteria for receiving rewards and recognition clearly to avoid any misunderstandings or resentment among employees. When done effectively, recognition and rewards can be powerful tools for improving employee performance and building a strong, engaged workforce.

5. Personal issues

Personal issues, such as health problems, financial stress, or family problems, can impact employee performance at work. In these situations, it’s important to approach the issue with sensitivity and empathy while still maintaining professional boundaries.

Start by having a private conversation with the employee to understand the situation and offer support or resources, such as counselling services or flexible work arrangements. Set realistic expectations and goals, and provide ongoing feedback and support to help the employee meet them. Additionally, ensure that any accommodations made for the employee do not negatively impact the rest of the team.

6. Workplace culture

If the culture an employee works within is toxic, competitive, or unsupportive, employees may feel unmotivated and disengaged, leading to poor performance. Employers can create a positive work environment by promoting open communication, providing regular feedback, and offering opportunities for professional development. Encouraging teamwork and collaboration, building trust, ensuring procedural fairness and vocalising appreciation can also improve employee performance, morale and lead to better workplace relationships.

To conclude, employee performance is a crucial aspect of any business, and investing in strategies to improve it is essential. By prioritising communication, training, and recognition, employers can empower their workforce to achieve their full potential and drive success for the company.