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Identifying Performance Problems in the Workplace

March 14th, 2014

Before you can tackle an employee performance issue and address the necessary coaching, warning, training, or alternative action necessary to solve the problem, you’ll need to be able to answer a few important questions. And your managers will all need to approach these questions from a similar standpoint. First what exactly does excellent performance look like? How about adequate performance? And how would each of your managers define a “serious” performance problem? Here are a few ways to get a handle on performance related obstacles to productivity.

1. Benchmarks should be clear, publically available and universally understood.

During a new employee’s first annual performance review, both parties should agree on the exact definition of success within this role. If possible, these benchmarks should be measurable. Sales quotas, units processed per hour, new clients gained, new customers served daily, accounts closed or new accounts opened annually, and revenue generation can all be included in the factors that determine performance.

2. Intangibles can also be considered, but with caution.

An excellent seller may be difficult to get along with in the workplace, which means higher stress and lower productivity for everyone, despite her strong closures. The reverse is also true–sometimes low sellers are well liked and have a motivational effect on everyone around them. But the question for you is clear: How much do these intangibles really matter? Can you afford to keep a low seller on board because of her strong organizational skills? Can you afford to keep a high seller on the team despite his tendency to serve as a general drain on the company? Before you criticize an employee or threaten termination for performance-related reasons, take these issues into account.

3. Fairness is everything.

Performance assessment should always be numbers-driven, and never bias-driven. Some employees and managers simply get along better than others, but personal feelings should never corrupt an assessment of performance. If they do, excellent assets with great value to the company may be discouraged and driven away. And weaker producers will be kept on board long after they should have been coached toward success or shown to the door. If you sense your assessments could be more balanced and unbiased, you’re probably right.

4. Factor growth into any assessment of employee value.

Which would you rather have on your team: a high performer who never grows and never improves? Or a weaker employee who underwhelmed you during her first year but has made vast, ongoing gains since then? Growth and value are very different metrics, and both should play a role in any calculation of employee merit.

Reach out to the CT staffing and business management experts at Merritt for more on how to approach the review process and provide meaningful feedback for your teams.

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