A Guide to Managing Underperforming Staff

For small businesses, time is money. Employees who underperform are wasting both. Read our guide and learn how to deal with them

A Guide to Managing Underperforming Staff

Speaking at a recent event as part of workspace provider Avanta’s Grow Your Business programme, Russell Guest (Director at ESP Ltd) offered small businesses some valuable advice when it comes to managing underperforming staff.

Outlining the typical UK workforce, Russell suggested there are three key employee types:

Disciples – Your dependables; your eyes and ears in the office who have a deep understanding of your business’ values and key to future success

Donkeys – A regular plodder who consistently delivers but not necessarily ambitious

Terrorists – Unproductive workers rarely performing at their best, these can be difficult to manage and often cause tensions amongst other colleagues due to their inability to make valuable contributions

Businesses should always look out for these ‘terrorists’, who can have a negative impact on employee morale and take up excessive management time. Their poor attitude to work and underperformance can often become a drain on other team members. Russell explains:

“It is critical to manage corporate terrorists effectively to minimise the impact on productive employees, as poor management will have a negative impact on your bottom line.”

Unfortunately, many employers fail to take the necessary steps to manage such a situation, and allow issues to reach the point where business performance is significantly hindered. This highlights the importance of identifying and dealing with such problems early on.

Open communication with staff and informal counselling can play a key role in dealing with these situations before they escalate – and businesses should be proactive in keeping a copy of this activity on file. If underperformance is still an issue, following an informal (and subsequent formal) process correctly is vital, as failure to do so could result in significant additional time and cost to the business.

Russell also highlighted the importance of identifying the root cause of underperformance before committing to any type of disciplinary action, as it can provide some much-needed clarity when making organisational changes as part of a fair and reasonable assessment. Businesses must always see a disciplinary or dismissal as a last resort – use it sparingly, and always strive to minimise instances of underperformance by recruiting the right staff, and engaging with that talent right from the off.

However, there will always be exceptions. In such an event, here are Russell’s five key steps to dealing with underperformers:

  1. Identify the key issues to the underperformance by engaging with employee
  2. Identify effective ways for employer and employee to address the issues
  3. Agree and record action with underperforming employee
  4. Meet regularly to review your employees’ progress and identify ways to continue improvement
  5. Deal with continued underperformance through possible legal processes

For more information about Avanta and the Grow Your Business programme, visit www.avanta.co.uk

Related Articles

You can learn more about growing your business in our Get Britain Growing initiative or for specific staff management advice see our business article on 11 tips for successful management.

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