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Managing Underperformance

If you believe that one of your employees may be underperforming it's important to address the matter quickly and efficiently.

Performance issues that go unaddressed can affect your whole team’s overall motivation levels, as well as their ability to deliver their objectives, because we all work together and all of our actions inevitably have consequences for our colleagues. 

Common causes for employee underperformance are:

  • a different understanding of what is expected from them
  • lack of awareness of what they should be doing
  • a skills gap or lack of experience is preventing them from achieving their role’s accountabilities and objectives
  • capability issues due to illness or other personal reasons

Identifying underperformance

The three ways in which you are most likely to be able to spot an underperforming employee are:

  • Your regular 1:1s, as these will give you a good understanding of your employee’s performance levels; quality of their work and progress against objectives.
  • Feedback from colleagues or stakeholders on the employee.
  • Your overall observations of the employee at work and in team meetings.

When tackling underperformance, first meet with the employee and explain your concerns about their performance including any relevant feedback you have received. Before anything else, ask them how they are doing and gather information regarding their circumstances. There may be a reasonable explanation that needs to be taken into consideration from the start.

Take care to set expectations at this point, including timescales and how the area(s) of underperformance can be addressed - ensure the discussion is documented. If their performance does not improve you will need to develop a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP) and depending on the nature and severity of the underperformance, consideration may need to be given to progress to the formal capability procedure.

It is important the employee is given every opportunity to improve their performance from the outset. Record their progress, including agreed timelines, on their PIP and consult your HR Partner if you have any questions, or need support and guidance on how to proceed.