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4 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Conversation With an Underperforming Employee

As companies grow and change, there becomes a greater need for employees who are fully engaged. Without the proper motivation, an underperforming employee cannot be motivated to perform at his/her best levels to help your company continue toward success.

You might have been able to get by with a mediocre employee before, but as your company evolves, you’ll need someone who is fully invested and excited to be part of it.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic answer for how to motivate an underperforming employee. Instead, it takes a combination of time, effort, and an understanding of what motivates this particular worker.

To address this issue, there are four key questions to ask yourself.

1. Is this a career or a job for them?

We are taught to separate work and personal life, but in many cases, the two are intertwined. An underperforming employee might not see enough value in what your company is doing, or they might feel trapped because their role doesn’t inspire them to push themselves. It’s important to analyze the situation and determine what that person cares about most.

If the person has a strong interest in your company’s mission, they might be more motivated by a slight change in position or responsibilities. But if they have no interest in where your company is going, their motivation will likely rely on financial incentives.

Or if they are not invested in your company’s mission, it is best to focus on ways of incentivizing them, or how they can be included in the development process.

Although this is not always possible when dealing with unmotivated employees, when you do have control over their tasks, try to make it fun and allow them to see their work’s importance.

Perhaps an employee is experiencing burnout and is unable to remain in any position long term. In this situation, it is important for you as a manager or executive to create a safe environment where the individual can express themselves and their concerns in a way that they might not be able to in a work setting.

In any of these situations, it is important to maintain open communication with every employee involved. If you see an employee changing their behaviors or becoming disengaged from the growth of the company, speak with them about this as soon as possible. A simple misunderstanding could be easily fixed with a clear conversation.

We as owners and managers must understand the major shift in society and the power of everything and everyone being so connected. Because of it, your employees are looking for real connections in their careers.

If they never feel connected, then your place of business turns into a job. An employee with a job mindset will not push through the hard times because they will seek another opportunity they can connect with and find their career.

2. What is their vision and have you spoken to them about it?

Most employees are ambitious and have their own goals and aspirations. The problem is that they often lack the opportunity to follow their dreams, so instead settle for a job. This is why managers and executives need to speak with their employees about what drives them and where they see themselves in five years. It’s important to ask how your company can help them achieve these goals and if there are ways you can support them.

Sometimes your underperforming employees might not even realize it themselves, because they don’t have a clear vision of what’s important to them. It is crucial for you as a manager or business owner to introduce them to this concept and work with them on developing an individual career path.

You should encourage all employees, including those who are not performing as well as the rest of the team, to find a way to integrate themselves into your company’s mission.

This might be to take on more responsibility, improve their skills or even spend time working with other teams. This will help them create a vision for themselves and work towards becoming an integrated team member that is mutually beneficial for your employee and your company.

3. Are they happy?

It’s hard enough to be an entrepreneur and keep your business afloat, so when you have to worry about employee morale it can feel like an uphill battle.

Keeping your staff happy and enthused is important, as it lowers attrition rates and raises productivity. It also helps to have a fully engaged workforce, as employees are more productive when they are motivated.

Even if you’re the world’s best boss, keeping your employees happy is an ever-changing challenge. People have different needs at different points in their lives, so what works for one person, may not work for another.

Benefits such as food and transportation allowances, health care, and paid leave are easy to understand and address. But making your employees feel like they’re valued in the company culture requires a little more work. The goal is to help them feel excited to show up and be involved in what’s going on in your business.

As a veteran, I had the opportunity to speak with generals about their choice to commit to being in the United States Army for years, if not their whole lives. Despite seeing people they loved and cared about die or being involved in multiple wars, they all have the same reason for staying: They are happy with their job.

What is it that makes a soldier happy, healthy, and motivated to continue serving? What is it about their job as a soldier that they wouldn’t want to give up for anything else in the world?

You have to know what motivates your employees. Will money motivate them or will the opportunity to attend conferences, learn new skills and work with other experts be more effective? Will signing bonuses motivate them to stay longer or will personal development be the deciding factor in their decision-making process?

When you have a clear understanding of what is important to each employee, keeping them happy becomes a whole lot easier.

4. Are they better suited for a different position within the company?

The best employers have a keen eye for finding the right position for each employee within their company. Paying attention to hidden talents that are waiting to be uncovered or skills that have been developed can be beneficial in knowing whether or not your employees are better suited for a different position

It’s important to keep in mind that if an employee is being underutilized or feels like they’re being held back, it’s your responsibility to see what other potential is available to them.

It is better to let talented employees thrive in a different role than allow them to become stagnant and bored with their jobs. An employee who is challenged and successful leaves the company on a positive note and will be more likely to recommend your business as an employer of choice.

If they’re just not doing well in the role, it’s important to know whether or not they are better suited for a different position. This is one of those times where keeping an open mind and taking off your “manager hat” will allow you to see the situation with more clarity.

As someone who has been both an employer and employee, I can tell you that knowing when it’s time for a change of pace can make all the difference in productivity and morale.

Your employees are your people. Take ownership of the team and they will go to bat for you in any situation. How you interact with an underperforming employee is what shows you what you are made of.

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