What You Need to Know About Managing Poor Performance in Your Team

Managing poor performance in your team isn’t simple, but countless business leaders must handle it regularly.

Performance issues emerge for various reasons. Stress and anxiety caused by problematic company cultures or external factors like economic distress, personal problems at home or a lack of skills or motivation can lead to issues with productivity and engagement. A lack of purpose, direction and ongoing support can also all impact a team member’s ability to deliver consistent results.

Fortunately, there are ways to address and eliminate performance issues whatever their cause. Here’s how you can empathetically and effectively manage performance problems as a team leader.

Understanding the Root Causes of Poor Performance

The first step to overcoming poor performance in the workforce is understanding what’s causing the issue. Underperformance can appear in various forms, from employees who fail to meet deadlines or turn up to work on time to those who have a negative, sometimes toxic attitude that impacts the morale of other staff members.

Diagnosing the issues resulting in decreased productivity and inefficiencies ensures you can implement the right strategies to fix the problem.

Some of the most common root causes of poor performance include:

  • Inefficient processes or systems: Up to 42% of HR professionals say poor systems and processes cause problematic productivity. If your employees don’t have access to the right technologies, standard operating procedures and guidelines, they’re more likely to make mistakes.
  • Personal issues: Work and life aren’t entirely disconnected.

    Personal stresses, medical problems and family and relationship issues can all affect productivity.

  • Burnout: As many job roles become more demanding, burnout is becoming increasingly common. Employees overwhelmed by unrealistic schedules and limited support can quickly lose motivation and find it difficult to deliver results for their employer.
  • Company culture: A problematic company culture caused by poor leadership, limited support or collaboration and even conflict between coworkers can harm employee performance.

    Alternatively, a strong company culture empowers staff members to thrive in a diverse, inclusive, and friendly environment.

  • Skills Gaps: According to this report from Gartner, 70% of employees think they haven’t mastered the skills they need to thrive in their careers. Gaps in hard and soft skills make it impossible for employees to unlock their true potential and increase the risk of burnout.
  • Demotivation: Sometimes, employees don’t feel motivated enough to perform well at work. They can’t see the purpose or impact of their work and their responsibilities are unclear, making it difficult for them to excel.

Addressing Poor Performance: The Step-by-Step Guide

Once you’ve explored the common root causes of performance issues in your business, the next step is implementing a holistic strategy for overcoming the issue(s), which requires more than just a commitment to training people.

Business leaders must combine effective communication, clear development plans and a strong company culture to achieve results.

Step 1: Implementing Effective Communication Strategies

Exceptional communication is a crucial cornerstone of any successful business. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to communicate consistently and effectively with their teams.

Solving the problem begins with ensuring team members know their roles, responsibilities and company expectations.

To address this issue, team leaders need to ensure that team members are clear on their tasks and responsibilities and how what they contributes to the company’s broader goals and the purpose they serve. This helps to pave the way for exceptional performance.

Beyond setting clear expectations, business leaders must ensure clear and honest communication is consistent in the workplace culture.

Robust communication strategies can help managers and supervisors identify the root cause of performance problems more effectively and work with team members to find resolutions collaboratively.

Ensure you have a strategy in place for:

  • Consistently delivering performance reviews: Don’t just tell your employees what they need to improve or what they excel at once a year.

    Ensure you’re regularly sharing feedback, both motivational and developmental.

    Motivational feedback highlights what a team member is doing well and encourages them to continue to operate in this way.

    Developmental feedback is required when someone isn’t quite meeting expectations and you want to draw their attention to the impact of how they are currently operating and what you want them to do instead.

    Active listening and empathy: Demonstrating empathy for your employees and actively listening to their issues helps to forge stronger relationships between team members, managers and the company.

    It also means your team members are more likely to inform you if they’re concerned about burnout or overwhelm at work.

Give your team members plenty of ways to share feedback about the company culture, work processes and challenges they face. It will give you a broader overview of the problems affecting your team.

Step 2: Developing Personal Improvement Plans

Based on your conversations with employees and the insights you gather into the root causes of performance issues, you can begin to develop comprehensive “performance improvement plans”.

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are personalised documents that outline the steps team members need to take to overcome underperformance issues and achieve their goals.

They should include:

  • Clear, realistic goals: Discuss your employee’s goals for their career and how they align with the broader goals of the business.

    Set clear, measurable targets for your team members to work towards. Ensure these targets are realistic, based on the existing strengths and weaknesses of your team members and the support you can offer.

    Use frequently monitored milestones and support the employee in returning their performance to company standards and expectations.

  • Strategies for development: Outline the resources you can offer individuals to assist with their on-the-job development so that they have the necessary skill set to return to their previous performance levels or achieve the required performance levels for their role.

    This could mean providing access to training courses to address skill gaps that may be virtual or in-person or have additional coaching.

    Consistent feedback and monitoring strategies: Determine how often you’ll meet with your employee to review their progress towards their goals. Define which metrics or KPIs you’ll monitor and continue to reinforce the company’s expectations.

    Ensure your team members know who they can turn to for extra support if they encounter problems.

Performance plans are tailored to the specific issues and needs of the employee you want to support. Consider their learning style and unique requirements carefully and regularly check in to ensure your team members have all the support they need.

Step 3: Creating a Supportive Work Environment

Over recent years, a growing body of research has demonstrated that a positive work environment directly impacts employee performance and productivity.

According to the University of Oxford, happy workers are up to 13% more productive.

Creating a happy workforce starts with developing a positive and supportive company culture, which means turning your workplace into an environment based on company values that will often revolve around trust, respect and collaboration.

Examples of areas that companies prioritise are:

  • Diversity and inclusion: Ensure you provide equal support to all staff members, regardless of their background. Encourage cross-team collaboration and give every employee a voice when making crucial business decisions.
  • Motivating employees: Find ways to motivate your employees by creating reward and recognition programs that champion their hard work. Offer meaningful feedback regularly and request input from employees in return.
  • Exceptional leadership: Train your team leaders and managers to model desired behaviours, such as inclusivity, honest and transparent communication and a commitment to collaboration.

Crucially, ensure your team members can connect with business leaders or HR professionals when they discover an issue with the company culture.

Overcoming Poor Workplace Performance

Addressing poor performance in your team can be complex. Business leaders must take a holistic, strategic and empathetic approach to address the causes of disengagement, poor motivation and diminishing productivity.

Most importantly, commit to constantly optimising performance, assessing the outcomes of your staff members, and ensuring you’re aware of any issues individuals and teams might be facing.

Fortunately, with the right strategy, you can improve performance, enhance your employer brand, attract more talent to your business and increase retention.

Kind regards

Neil Scarborough – Managing Director

At The Recruiting Office, we have been helping firms with their talent acquisition and a wide range of job seekers find their ideal roles for over a decade and have successfully placed hundreds of top tier candidates. If you want to find out how we can help you – call us on 01603 964816 or email neil@therecruitingoffice.co.uk

Further Reading:

How to Become a Company People Want to Join

Cultural Fit: Why it’s Important in Your Hiring Strategy