Employee underperformance is a massive problem in any workplace, costing the world economy trillions of dollars in lost productivity. When you become aware of an underperforming employee, it’s not always easy to know what’s causing it, how to identify it, and how your HR department can tackle it. 

While challenging to correct underperformance, it can be a process worth carrying out to ensure all employees are fulfilling their contractual obligations and keeping productivity levels high. With this information, you might be in a solid position to get your business back on track. 

employee underperformance
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How to Identify Employee Underperformance

Employee underperformance isn’t a blatant criminal act that’s always easy to spot, like creating fake paystubs for financial advantages or stealing money from a business. You don’t typically identify a single moment when you realize that employees on your books aren’t pulling their weight like everyone else. Instead, you might notice several subtle signs that show a lack of motivation or general incompetence over days or weeks. 

They might be missing deadlines, or they’re repeatedly late to work. Employees might also frequently call in sick, or their work quality has declined. Sometimes, a simple mood change might also indicate underperformance. When your HR department is aware of the signs of underperformance, you might be in a better position to learn how to rectify the problem and improve your productivity levels

Why Do Employees Underperform?      

There is no single reason for employee underperformance. There also isn’t always intention behind an employee who isn’t pulling their weight within your business. There can be many different reasons, such as: 

  • They don’t know your expectations
  • They haven’t been trained to do their job properly
  • They’re unhappy in their working environment
  • They don’t know your workplace’s standards
  • They don’t have what they need to do their job properly
  • They’re overworked or burned out
  • They don’t feel appreciated
  • They’re underqualified or inexperienced
  • They aren’t satisfied with their role
  • You hired the wrong person for the job 

Identifying the reasons for underperformance can be necessary for being able to put steps in place to solve the problem. 

How to Solve Employee Underperformance At An HR Level

HR is often involved in employee performance issues when a solution isn’t always clear from a fundamental supervisor or manager level. An HR manager can attempt to solve the problem by first understanding what’s causing it in the first place. 

Communicate with the employee and find out why they aren’t meeting their business goals and achieving at a level expected by the company. You might learn they haven’t been trained properly, don’t have what they need, or are struggling with a toxic work environment

Understanding the cause might allow you to devise a plan to rectify the problem. This might involve ensuring they have the tools to do their job correctly, providing them with additional training, and having them agree to a performance improvement plan. 

While it can be tempting to skip these steps and dismiss the employee, it’s an integral part of the process. If the employee’s performance doesn’t improve after providing solutions, you have a paper trail showing you did everything possible to help them meet your requirements. After this point, you might stand a better chance of justifiably dismissing them. 

What If Employee Underperformance Is Widespread?

Some businesses encounter multiple underperforming employees rather than just one. While you can use the same techniques above to make improvements, you might realize that the common denominator is your business. 

Rather than attempting to bring your employees into line individually, consider whether significant business issues are contributing to poor performance. By tackling the problem at its root cause, you might stand a better chance of improving performance overall. 

Request one-on-one time with each employee to determine why they’re not meeting expectations. It might be that they aren’t happy with management communication or don’t have the tools to do the job you expect of them. If you notice a common theme among all employees, it’s potentially your business’s problem rather than theirs alone. 

How to Dismiss An Employee

HR departments can solve a myriad of issues with communication, but you won’t be able to resolve every employee performance-related problem. If you’ve provided an employee with everything they need to improve, and that improvement hasn’t happened in a suitable time frame, your business might start considering dismissal. Take these steps to ensure the process is as smooth as possible: 

  1. Have all the information you need ready to pass on, such as timeframes for returning company property, information on how long their benefits stay in place, and when they must leave your workplace
  2. Do it at the right time and in the right place, such as a conference room at a time when business operations won’t be severely impacted 
  3. Be sure of all your legal obligations, such as severance pay, notice periods, and facts for why they’re being dismissed 
  4. Ensure the dismissal isn’t a surprise or shock. Make sure you have made it clear in writing prior that their performance isn’t meeting expectations, and provide plenty of opportunities for them to improve 
  5. Be brief and to the point, as you don’t want to drag out the process any more than necessary 

Employee underperformance can be costly for any business, and rectifying it early can be important. Identify what’s causing it, put steps in place to solve it, and follow all laws and business rules to the letter if dismissal becomes your only resolution.