Ever hired someone who seems to have the right skills, attitude and desire to succeed only to watch them flounder in their new position?

This can be super frustrating for managers, coworkers, and HR. Not to mention your underperforming employees, who may not only be taking up vast amounts of time and energy, but also quietly thinking about hitting the road. Talk about wasted resources! Let’s take a look at why this happens— and how you can prevent it.

When it comes down to it, there are three basic reasons employees fail.

  1. They’re in the wrong position
  2. They’re in the wrong organization
  3. You’re not giving them what they need to succeed

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) all of these things are within your control.

Right Bus, Wrong Seat

Let’s talk about hiring. What’s your process like? Do you have a detailed plan or are you flying by the seat of your pants? Do you involve people from the team or leave it up to hiring managers? Are you primarily focused on hard skills, soft skills, or cultural fit? How will that affect your search?

If you’re looking to fill positions, it probably means you’ve got more work than you can handle. Rushing through, putting off or skimping on the hiring process can be really tempting. But these tactics will only hurt you in the long run.

When you have a well-designed plan to follow, you’re much more likely to find the right people for the right positions. Take the time to develop a strategy for who and how you want to hire by:

  • Re-thinking roles and tasks
  • Re-writing job descriptions
  • Re-assessing how you determine who is a good candidate
  • Re-examining who is involved in interviews and decision making
  • Re-structuring your hiring processes to align with your new goals
  • Re-vamping your onboarding program

Even with the best hiring practices in place, you will occasionally discover an employee who is stuck in the wrong position and unable to live up to his or her full potential. Once you’ve figured this out, you can make adjustments through cross training activities, adjusting job functions, or considering that person for other positions as they become available.

Now let’s talk about internal moves and promotions. They’re great, right? Absolutely! But beware of promoting your top performers away from their core strength areas. If you’ve got a salesperson who excels at bringing in new business, think carefully before “rewarding” her with a Sales Manager position. These are two very different skill sets, and being good at one doesn’t mean she’ll automatically be good at the other. If you move a high performing rock star into a position that’s a struggle, the effects can be devastating, both for that individual, and for your ROI. Yes, by all means, promote your best people. Just do it in a way that continues to allow them to excel. 

Wrong Bus

It happens, even in the best of companies. Perhaps you’ve got a few people who just aren’t feelin’ it. They don’t buy into your mission. They’re just punching the clock. They’re sabotaging your efforts and spreading ill will. Clearly these folks hopped on the wrong bus. The thing is, you’re the driver. You let them on, and now it’s your job to help them off.

A few tips to make this process go smoothly:

  • Document what’s not working
  • Have a meeting to discuss current performance and future career visions
    • Who knows? Maybe there’s an easy fix!
    • Set realistic goals and agree on measurements for success
  • Document again
    • If all is going well, great!
    • If not…
  • Set that person free

Often, unhappy employees want to leave their jobs. They’re just too scared to do it. Meanwhile, the negative energy they emit brings the whole team down. Letting these individuals go can set them on a path to where they really want to be. And set you on the path to building a more consistent and positive company culture.

It’s not them. It’s you.

If you consistently find yourself with underperforming teams or employees, the problem is likely on your end. Even the very best employees can’t succeed if they don’t have the proper tools to make it happen.

Here are some common reasons good employees fail:

Lack of direction – If your employees aren’t clear about what they need to do, how can they possibly perform to standard? Assigning tasks in a half-assed manner will get you half-assed results.

Poor communication – Checking in the day before a project is due is too little, too late. Especially if you neglected to share said due date in the first place. Communicate clearly and openly before and throughout a project to make sure everyone is on the same page. Once the project is complete, communicate some more. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Answer questions and make notes about ideas for next time.

Bad management – If you’re responsible for managing a project and it goes awry, you need only look in the mirror to find out why.

  • Create an atmosphere of communication, trust, and confidence, and people will naturally succeed.
  • Rely on micromanagement, fear and distrust, and you will see projects get done, but only to minimal standards. You will have effectively squashed all creativity, innovation, and project ownership.
  • Manage like a magician, appearing out of nowhere to assign projects, leaving the details hidden in your bag of tricks, and constantly looking for applause, and you will see results disappear in a puff of smoke— along with the respect of your team.

Lack of teamwork – If your organization operates in silos (or silence!) you’re setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Teams need to work together, talk together, succeed together and celebrate together. If you’re not actively encouraging and facilitating these things, you are your own worst enemy.

But how will I know if my employees are struggling?

Sometimes, it can feel like you’ve been blindsided when a key project or employee doesn’t come through. But there are usually some telltale signals that things aren’t working, if you know where to look.

Here are some signs your employees are in the dark:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Procrastination
  • Mistakes
  • Silence
  • Resignation letters

Okay. That last one was a joke. But the cost of underperforming employees isn’t. If this is an issue in your company, it’s time to take a good look at your HR and management processes to see what’s going on. Look for patterns of behavior among teams and projects, and commit to carving out time with top leadership to talk about what’s going on. Your employees— and your business— are depending on you.

At Q4intelligence, we work with agencies who believe in looking beyond insurance to provide real solutions to today’s most pressing business concerns, including employee turnover and performance management. How? By transforming the relationship between brokers and HR professionals from a single annual transaction to a powerhouse of constant teamwork, communication and results.

If you’re interested in a true employee benefits partnership that will help keep your employees healthy and happy and make your company an employer of choice, let us know and we’ll introduce you to an agency in your area. If, by chance, there isn’t one in your neighborhood, no worries! We’re full of great ideas.

Photo by Kiosea39

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook