Managing Underperforming Employees: A Checklist For Employers

Managing the performance of a workforce in its entirety requires an understanding of the performance profile of all individual members of staff within it.

The scope of this endeavour can be daunting to employers, particularly when the total number of staff is large. However, with appropriate systems in place, the processes of training, performance and attendance tracking can be streamlined. Protocols can likewise be formulated to help improve staff performance when needed and tackle issues that arise, as well helping to safeguard a business against the risk of disputes and claims from disgruntled staff, in the event of needing to exit an employee.

A proactive approach to employee management can help with a happy and productive workplace, as well as reducing the potential costs that can be incurred when underperformance is poorly managed. HR Advise Me, part of the Loch Associates Group, can help employers to identify the common ways in which employees may underperform and the reasons behind them, as well as ensuring that your business has corresponding policies in place with which to respond. This can help employers become prepared to deal effectively with a wide range of potential issues related to underperformance. 

Managing underperforming employees: common problems and solutions

Although it is always worth seeking legal advice in relation to managing your specific business needs, there are some particular factors, such as absenteeism and misconduct, which are commonly associated with employee underperformance. This guide matches each kind of scenario from which underperformance might result to effective HR solutions, which can be tailored to your unique requirements and implemented with the assistance of the team at the Loch Associates Group. 

Unsuitability for the role

Choosing the right employees for each role is key to preventing problems in the course of employment. Employees who are not selected with careful consideration are more likely to be unsuited to the company culture and/or to have difficulties performing aspects of their role. 

Psychometric testing can profile prospective employees extensively, helping employers to consider otherwise unfathomable insights in relation to the specific nature of the available roles and team dynamics, protecting against the possibility of selecting unsuitable candidates.

Recruitment and retention both depend for their success on effective screening processes underlying the selection of potential candidates. From identifying the best places to source candidates and advertising the role to pre-screening and interviewing candidates, HR Advise Me can assist with specific stages of the recruitment process or its entirety according to your unique needs, ensuring you are best placed to retain the candidates they select.

Absenteeism

When employees are regularly absent from work, this can be due to genuine problems, whether these relate to their medical and physical health or difficult life circumstances. Productivity losses due to employee absence can be considerable, with the average British worker responsible for the loss over £500 annually, according to the CIPD. Preventing unnecessary absences can safeguard against such losses, and having effective systems in place to monitor absences can also ensure that employers can support employees according to their legal obligations, as necessitated by absences that occur. 

BreatheHR is an online management system that allows employers to store all information relating to holidays, sickness and other absences in an easily accessible format. As well as meaning that employees can request holidays and log sickness absences autonomously for employers’ approval, the ease with which individual and collective records can be accessed and analysed makes it easy to promptly identify potentially problematic absences or absence patterns for investigation. 

Proactive Absence Management (PAM) is a specialised service combining experts from across the Loch Associates Group, equipping employers to effectively manage and reduce both short and long-term absences. This may involve a wide variety of different approaches, depending on the nature of the factors which are underlying the absences and the measures required to assist the employee in reducing them. For instance, HR Medical and Support Specialists may be involved to help uncover the problem and to advise on managing it in a manner that allows the affected employee to return to work. 

Misconduct

When employees transgress corporate policies, this can cause a wide range of different kinds of problems for employers, depending on the nature of the misconduct. For instance, inappropriate comments to other staff could result in the organisation being liable for claims for bullying and/or harassment, while the failure of individuals to follow correct health and safety guidelines could put themselves and/or others at risk. 

Handbooks and contracts can be instrumental to clearly communicate to each member of staff their responsibilities, and company policies which it is necessary to follow. The more transparency an organisation can engender surrounding actions and behaviours which constitute misconduct within the workplace, the more easily employers will be able to prevent and apprehend it when it occurs. 

Disciplinary and grievance procedures can be followed in order to streamline the process of dealing with misconduct. A disciplinary matter can be raised by team leaders in relation to the misconduct of staff under their management, while grievances are raised by employees in order to flag up perceived misconduct they may be experiencing. From advice on handling difficult conversations to assist in conducting disciplinary meetings and investigations, Loch Employment Law can assist employers in all areas related to handling disciplinary and grievance matters to bring them to as swift a resolution as possible. 

Poor output

In some cases, an employee’s conduct and attendance record may be exemplary, but there may be performance-related issues with their execution of the role itself. In this instance, psychometric testing can be useful in analysing whether the role may need to be refined to better suit their abilities. 

Coaching and training can be provided to employees who are struggling within their role, and/or to boost the confidence and skills of staff in preparation for taking on new responsibilities. An organisation which has systems in place to provide coaching and training as needed may prevent problems related to poor output, by equipping employees in advance with the knowledge and experience needed to thrive in their roles. 

Reorganisation and restructuring may be necessary to mitigate problems within the business caused by underperforming employees. For instance, this may involve altering the structure of a team so that particular responsibilities are redistributed to those equipped to perform them while other staff undergo necessary training when the need for this is identified. 

The importance of anticipating ways in which employees underperform

Being aware of the various different ways in which employees may underperform — as well as the potential effects of individual underperformance on a workforce as a whole  — is crucial to employers seeking to implement systems to reduce underperformance. It is vital that employers consider the likelihood of different types of employee underperformance in relation to the nature of their specific industry, as well as with a view to understanding and devising approaches to tackle possible causes. 

Mental health-related issues are particularly prevalent in the construction industry. For example, the rate of suicide for employees in this industry is three times the national male average, and mental ill-health is understood to account for over one-fifth of the industry’s total health-related absences. Employers in this sector, in particular, would, therefore, be prudent to proactively put policies in place to preemptively safeguard the mental health of their workforce. Similarly, employers in industries associated with an intensive work schedule, such as the medical profession, are likely to benefit particularly from implementing measures to identify employees who may be struggling in this regard. 

How Loch Associates Group can help 

Having identified protocols to follow in the event of employee underperformance can help prevent its knock-on effects in the workplace — for instance, when other colleagues shoulder the workload of an underperforming employee and become resultantly disgruntled, which can create a toxic workplace culture. 

Matching potential problems to strategic management solutions is the best possible means of ensuring every staff member receives the evaluation and attention required to manage poor performance. The correct approach to preventing and managing underperformance can vary tremendously between businesses, and a bespoke solution tailored to your unique needs will, therefore, be the most effective. Further, in the event that strategies for managing underperforming employees prove unsuccessful, HR Advise Me and Loch Employment Law can provide advice on all aspects of negotiating and managing employee exits.


If you are an employer wishing to discuss the prevention and management of underperformance amongst your staff, our experts at HR Advise Me would be delighted to help. Get in touch.