The Business Owner’s Guide to Avoiding Underperformer Stress

Businesses thrive on the dedication and talent of their employees. But what happens when someone isn’t pulling their weight? Underperforming staff can create a wave of stress, impacting the morale of colleagues across the business, stunting productivity, and often, impacting your bottom line.

If this is something you’re grappling with, don’t despair – here’s your essential guide to proactively addressing this issue and building a high-performing team, or reach out to our team of friendly HR experts at The HR Consultants, where we provide HR without the blah blah blah.

1. Crystal clear expectations from day one

• Detailed job descriptions: Ensure each role has a well-defined job description outlining responsibilities, goals, and performance metrics. It’s vital colleagues understand their areas of responsibility and the expectations for their role, so be as clear and concise as possible.
• Transparent communication: Openly discuss expectations during the hiring process and onboarding. Encourage questions and provide clear examples of successful performance; the last thing anyone wants is to start a job that’s different from the one they thought they were going into.
• Regular check-ins: Schedule frequent one-on-one meetings to provide feedback, address concerns, and track progress. Make sure these are purposeful, have structure and are more than a simple chit chat. Having regular one-to-ones means that any issues can be nipped in the bud nice and quickly, meaning they won’t go unaddressed and grow arms and legs – which is usually when the real problems start.

2. Nurture a culture of feedback and support

• Constructive feedback: Offer regular, specific feedback that focuses on both strengths and areas for improvement. Be specific with feedback, with real-life, recent examples and agree actionable suggestions on how to improve.
• Ongoing training and development: Invest in training, along with any resources to help employees upskill and enhance their performance.
• Mentors and buddies: Pair new or struggling employees with experienced colleagues who can provide guidance and support; not only is this a good way to develop less experienced team members, it’s also great for building relationships, both with the immediate team, or more widely within the business if the buddy is from a different area.

3. The power of performance management systems

• Set SMART goals: We all know about SMART objectives but how often do we actually check whether we’re setting them? It’s a powerful check-in on the validity of the goal, so keep it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
• Formal performance reviews: Conduct regular performance reviews to assess progress, identify obstacles, and set new goals. Communicate the programme of reviews to your team in advance – not only does that means your team will be prepared for the review, but it also show’s you’re invested in the development of your people, great internal PR for you as a boss!
• Performance improvement plans (PIPs): If an employee consistently underperforms, create a PIP outlining specific expectations, timelines, and consequences. A PIP will make it very clear for the individual what’s not working about their performance currently, and what they need to change to ensure their performance meets expectations, so make sure you use PIPs to your advantage with underperforming employees.

4. Legal considerations for employers

• Employment contracts: Ensure contracts clearly state performance expectations, disciplinary procedures, and termination clauses, that way the business is protected and if an exit is required and there’s no nasty surprises for the employee.
• Fairness and consistency: Treat all employees fairly and consistently, documenting performance issues thoroughly. If you make performance a consistent part of discussions, it will drive a high-performance culture, and that’s key to getting a high performing team and people doing their best work – what every business wants!
• Seek legal advice: If considering dismissal due to underperformance, speak to an HR consultant or HR specialist to ensure you’re protected and remain on the right side of employment laws.

5. When to part ways

• Persistent underperformance: If an employee fails to improve despite support and a PIP, it might be time to consider termination.
• Negative impact on morale: If an employee’s underperformance is negatively affecting team morale and productivity, don’t delay on taking action.
• Legal compliance: Ensure any termination follows employment laws and is conducted fairly and with respect – if in doubt, seek advice from an HR consultant.

Prevention is key
The best way to avoid underperformance stress as an employer, is to prevent it in the first place. By setting clear expectations, providing support, and implementing effective performance management systems, you can cultivate a high-performing team where everyone thrives.

Remember, a motivated and engaged workforce is the heart of a successful business. Investing in your employees’ success will pay dividends in the long run.

Need further guidance? Our friendly team at The HR Consultants provides ‘HR without the blah blah blah,’ so get in touch for a no obligation chat or take a look at our services.