A dip in performance doesn’t mean an employee is suddenly bad at their job. There are many reasons why someone may not be able to work at the expected level. It could be down to a training issue, health problems, difficulties in their personal life, personality clashes with other team members or a host of other reasons. Getting to the root cause as quickly as possible is beneficial for all concerned. Encouraging line managers to address issues early can save a lot of time and pain.
Helping line managers to have difficult conversations
When an employee is beginning to underperform it can be very tempting to say nothing and see what happens. After all, it may just be a blimp, so why rock the boat? If this situation continues for weeks, which can then turn into months, it gets progressively harder to broach the subject. The employee may feel no is either noticing or caring that they aren’t working to their full potential leading to further disengagement and disinterest in their job.
Line managers are under pressure to deliver their own work as well as support their employees. With lots of plates to keep spinning, the temptation is there to ignore challenging conversations and get on with the tasks they have to deliver, hoping everything else will sort itself out. Providing them with the tools to make addressing any issues easier will help them have the conversations they need to have with their employees to help them become refocused and re-engaged.
The impact of poor performance
If an employee is not delivering the volume or standard of work required, it doesn’t just affect them. The impact can be far reaching, affecting those around them and even the whole business. Here are just some of the costs:
- Financial – if you are paying an employee to do a job they are not doing you are affecting throwing money away.
- Wasted time – underperformance could mean deadlines are pushed back or missed, meaning others may be held up in their own work.
- Productivity – managers or colleagues may be required to step in to cover work that’s not being completed, meaning their own productivity may suffer.
- Morale – seeing a colleague who is failing to deliver facing no apparent consequences can be extremely demotivating.
It is in no one’s interest to not talk about a dip in performance and try to find a constructive solution. The employee themselves may know they are struggling and welcome the chance to talk over their problems. Often the issue can be easily solved and spending valuable time on developing an employee’s knowledge, skills or understanding of the business can create motivated and loyal employees who appreciate the support they’ve been given and work harder as a result.
Preparing for a realignment conversation
Unlike some other check-ins, this conversation should be more formal in tone so will require some preparation.
- Find a suitable place where you can talk freely in private. If you are holding the conversation over video, book a meeting room so no one else can overhear the discussion.
- Think about what the issues are and gather evidence to support what you are saying. The conversation will be easier if it is based on facts, not opinions.
- Think about the impact of their diminishing performance – how is it affecting others? Again, try and base this on facts as much as possible.
- Review their objectives. Are they SMART? If an employee is working towards goals that have become obsolete or are too challenging, this could be the root cause of the problem.
- If a line manager is worried about the conversation and wants further guidance, they should approach their HR team for help and support.
What should be covered in a realignment check-in?
This conversation is designed to find the reason or reasons why an employee is not performing as well as they can and find solutions to improve the situation. It should very much be a collaborative process. If an employee is going to make positive strides, they need to understand the issues and buy into the process. It is not about pointing fingers and finding fault, it should be an honest and open conversation to find a successful outcome.
The conversation should cover:
Self-assessment and reflection from the employee
- How do they feel they are doing?
- Do they recognise there is a problem?
- Are there any issues going on outside of work that are affecting their performance?
Work and workload
- Are they feeling overloaded?
- Are they finding aspects challenging?
- Share the evidence you’ve gathered around their performance and the impact of it
- Ask the employee if they understand your concerns
- Ask them whether they are committed to getting back on track
Set SMART objectives
- Set clear expectations around what you need to see going forward
- Together draft and agree new goals, with key results and outcomes which would constitute success if achieved
Offer support to obtain these objectives
- What support can you give them to help them succeed?
- Are there any problems in the team that is holding them back?
- Is there an issue with where or how they are working?
- Are there any specific training needs?
- When should you meet again to review progress?
By going through this process as soon as there is an issue, it can prevent small problems turning into major ones. Framing the conversation around development ensures the employee understands the end goal is a positive outcome and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Our suite of check-in templates supports the entire employee lifecycle, helping line managers have the right conversations at the right time.