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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! I recently had a group discussion with some leaders who were discussing their frustration in dealing with underperformers on their team. Everyone is going to have an underperformer on their team at some point. When you do, you have to know if the problem is that they can’t do their job or they won’t do their job. In today’s episode, we’ll identify why employees can’t or won’t do their job and what you can do to help get them back on track.

If you want to help an employee improve their performance, you have to understand the root of the problem. Then, you can determine the appropriate discipline or accountability strategy. If the problem is that they can’t do the job, it is your job to get them the tools they need. It’s pointless to discipline someone when they are doing their best but have not had the proper training or equipment to do their job well.

Q: When faced with an underperforming employee, do you tend to assume that they can't do or won't do their job? Why? Have you ever rushed to a conclusion that was incorrect? What was the consequence of that decision?

4 Reasons Employees Can’t Do Their Job

1) They were never trained properly.

All candidates need hands-on training and professional education to learn their job and keep up with new information and trends. If you overlook training, you will be frustrated because of performance issues, and your employee will be frustrated because they feel unequipped to do the job well.

2) Not having the adequate tools or equipment to do the job.

If the employee needs equipment to produce a product or service, you need to be confident that they have it. Not only do they need the equipment, but it must be functioning correctly. An onboarding checklist will help you ensure that the new employee gets the proper equipment upon starting the position. Follow up frequently to identify any additional tools they may need and replace equipment as it becomes outdated.

3) Being understaffed.

As your business grows, you need to increase your staff. You may even need to consider seasonal help or contract workers to help when you experience a spike in demand. If you do not have adequate staffing, your employees and customers will suffer. So, you must quickly determine whether you need to increase your staffing or allow your staff to work more hours.

4) There is a lack of communication.

There is a problem when no one is giving direction to an employee. It’s hard to hold someone accountable for something they were never told to do. If you have too many people giving orders, the message to the employee can get confusing. This often happens when multiple people in different types of roles are tasked with training and development. Standardize your communications procedure and get all of your leaders on the same page. You will improve the employee experience and increase their work quality when you do.

Q: Which of these four explanations do you see the most? Which one do you think your business needs to work on the most? Why?

If your employee is underperforming and you can’t explain their behavior by any of the above circumstances, it may be that they can do their job. They simply won’t. In this case, you may need to have some challenging discussions, take disciplinary action, or even terminate their employment. Do your best to coach the employee up to a higher standard and greater level of personal commitment or out of employment with your company. Termination can cost your company time and money, so take the decision seriously and evaluate your hiring processes to avoid making the same mistake again.

2 Reasons An Employee Won’t Do Their Job

1) They may be downright lazy.

If the employee doesn’t want to do the work and doesn’t care, no amount of training will help. Even when you hold them accountable, they will fall back into their old habits when you stop watching them. As a leader, you have to identify laziness quickly to not waste time and money on them.

2) They don’t want to do the job.

Sometimes people simply don’t like the job, or they may feel that they are overqualified for their position.

Q: Have you ever been in a position you were overqualified for? How did it affect your work? What helped you stay engaged in a work environment that was not challenging you?

Application Activities:

  1. Evaluate your internal communications strategy. Your employees can’t do their work well if they don’t have consistent, clear communication. Start by asking yourself who is in charge of determining how internal decisions are communicated. What one person directs each employee? How are inter-departmental needs communicated? What qualifies as information everyone needs to know?

  2. Evaluate your current onboarding strategy for your team. Is any of the equipment you issue outdated? Is education included, or do employees have to ask for it? Do you give the same training to everyone, or is their current skill level considered? As you evaluate your system, ask current employees to provide feedback on their experience. Are there any tools they are still missing?

  3. Do you have any dissatisfied employees on your team? Maybe you have someone who is overqualified or who was recently moved into a different position during restructuring. If you’ve avoided discussing their frustration, set up a meeting and put it on your calendar. Be prepared to discuss what they are currently doing, what they want to be doing, and what energizes them. If they are qualified, try giving them greater autonomy or assignments that allow them to work between departments. Giving them different tasks might help them enjoy their job more and contribute more to the team.


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