There are five main ways to overcome performance problems associated with a lack of ability. Consider using them in this sequence, which starts with the least intrusive: 1. Resupply, 2. Retrain, 3. Refit, 4. Reassign, 5. Release. Be sure to address each of these interventions in one-on-one performance interviews with employees.
- Resupply: Focus on the resources provided to do the job. Do employees have what they need to perform well and meet expectations? Ask them about additional resources they think they need. Listen for points of frustration. Note where employees report that support is inadequate. Verify the claims with your own investigation. People will often blame external sources for their poor performance before admitting their own fault. This is a very effective first step in addressing performance. It signals to members of your team that you’re interested in their perspective and are willing to make the required changes.
- Retrain: Provide additional training to team members. Explore with them whether they have the actual skills required to do what’s expected. Given the pace of change of technology, it’s easy for people’s skills to become obsolete. This option recognizes the need to retain employees and keep their skills current. Resupplying and retraining will often cure poor performance. People and organizations may get into ruts, and fail to recognize these issues until poor performance finally highlights them.
- Refit: When these first two measures aren’t sufficient, consider refitting the job to the person. Are there parts of the job that can be reassigned? Analyze the individual components of the work, and try out different combinations of tasks and abilities. This may involve rearranging the jobs of other people as well. Your goal is to retain the employee, meet operational needs, and provide meaningful and rewarding work to everyone involved.
- Reassign: When revising or refitting the job doesn’t turn the situation around, look at reassigning the poor performer. Typical job reassignments may decrease the demands of the role by reducing the need for responsibility, technical knowledge, and interpersonal skills. If you use this option, make sure the reassigned job is still challenging and stimulating. To ensure that this strategy is successful, never use demotion as a punishment tactic within your organization. Remember, the employee’s performance is not intentionally poor – he or she simply lacked the skills for the position.
- Release: As a final option for lack of ability, you may need to let the employee go. Sometimes there are no opportunities for reassignment, and refitting isn’t appropriate for the organization. In these cases, the best solution for everyone involved is for the employee to find other work. You may need to consider contractual terms and restrictions; however, in the long run, this may be the best decision for your whole team.
Remember, there are potential negative consequences of retaining a poor performer after you’ve exhausted all the options available:
- You’ll annoy other members of your team, who may have to work harder to « carry » the poor performer.
- You may promote a belief in others that you’re prepared to accept mediocrity – or, worse, underperformance.
- You may waste precious time and resources that could be better used elsewhere.
- You may signal that some employees deserve preferential treatment.
- You may undermine the whole idea of finding the best person for the job.