Managing under performers

HRM 26 Dec 2012

Jayesh Menon

Regional HR Director, APAC, Itron

Here are a few tips for HR in managing underperformers:

•        Understanding the root cause of underperformance is vital. Very often that when we go into a root cause analysis, we realise that the issue was never with performance itself, but in the way expectations were set or communicated.

•        Coach in: Help employees understand what their key strengths and weaknesses are and what they need to do to improve their performance. The first step is to make sure that the employee accepts and recognises that there is an issue with performance.

•        Create an action plan: Once the employee understands his or her underperformance, then HR can facilitate the discussion between the manager and the employee in terms of creating a performance improvement plan (PIP). Specific care should be taken to clearly find solutions to the problems.

•        Follow up: Follow up on the timelines, deliverables and resources determined in the PIP and make sure that they are fair and equitable.

•        Coach out: In spite of all the above steps being followed, if we still have a problem in performance, HR should help facilitate a discussion to make sure that that exit is smooth and that the employee understands that this is a win-win situation for both parties.


Adele Andrews

HR Leader, Global Talent Acquisition, MasterCard Worldwide

The first point around this issue is to find out why. Is it because they were placed in the wrong role? Is it because of personality differences or personal issues? There are so many reasons as to why a person is underperforming in their position – none of which are usually due to intention.

Once the cause is identified, then the action can occur. If they are genuinely over their head in terms of their abilities and the role requirements, close coaching and monitoring would be required to ensure they have the tools required to perform the job successfully. Guidance around this process would need to be driven by HR. If it is more of a personal issue, HR can be there to listen as well as to educate the direct manager on the best way to manage things and encourage positive behaviour.

If it is purely due to bad attitude, a conversation needs to be had as to why and what is driving the attitude. At the end of the day, the employee needs to be the one taking ownership for their decision and responsibilities, to ensure that the right behaviors are demonstrated moving forward. By asking them the questions and driving the responses in the right direction, it will help to develop the measuring tools against which the employee can be held accountable, should performance measurement practices need to occur.


Jennifer Chan

Regional HR Manager, SEA, Konecranes Group of Companies

The first step I take is to identify this group of workers, followed by a discussion with them on their strengths and weaknesses. During the talk, we examine what is the cause for their performance and check if there is any underlying issue that is preventing them from reaching their maximum potential. It is also a good time to find out if these underperformers know how they are doing and if they agree that their work is below par.

After which, we monitor them over a period three to six months, depending on their position and seniority in the organisation. To ensure that they get up to speed, we will send them for upgrading and training to equip them with the tools and knowledge needed to improve their performance. We also practise job rotations by placing them in a different department and environment.

Throughout this entire period, it is important that we motivate, guide and coach this group of workers. Positive reinforcement is more effective in changing behaviour than a negative approach. It is also important that we follow up with them frequently through small discussions and feedback sessions with their line manager or the department that the underperformers might be working with at that time. From there, companies can take appropriate action and create a strategic plan for this group of employees.

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Commented by: M K Liew at 26 Dec 2012 04:44 PM Report this comment
Generally .. it boils down to either ATTITUDE or ABILITY or both .. each is to be dealt differently
Commented by: Mark Lim at 02 Jan 2013 07:50 PM Report this comment
It depends how the staff wish to pursue and look at what he/she is doing, is it merely just doing his/her job or doing it to perform as as a career?

A differentiate of a Job and a Career??
Commented by: shakti singh kushwah at 16 Mar 2013 01:19 AM Report this comment
the objective should be very clear to these employees and these employees should know that what exactly organization is expecting from them, and what are they expecting from organization...and recruiters should take care at the time of recruitment and allocate right person to right job...

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