5 reasons your employees are underperforming


Are your employees underperforming in the workplace?

Companies spend a lot of time and resources to recruit talent, so when you hire the best, you no doubt expect only the highest quality of work from your team.

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As anyone who’s ever led or managed a team knows, however, employees don’t always showcase their best performance every single day in the office. Temporary anomalies are understandable, of course. After all, we all experience ‘off’ days when we’re not quite ‘in the zone.’

When underperforming becomes a chronic issue, though, it’s time to look deeper into the underlying issues that may be impacting your employees, especially if their underperformance is affecting the quality of their work, the speed of their work, their output volume, and their communication with their colleagues and the company’s clients.

Sometimes, the cause of an employee underperforming may just surprise you in its simplicity, and in how easily it can be resolved.

Below, we discuss 5 reasons your employees may be underperforming and what you can do about each one:

  1. A poor working environment

It’s no secret that our environment largely impacts our morale and productivity. Workplace stress has reached an all-time high in recent years, and many have posited that office design has played a key role in this. After all, it’s hard to operate at your highest potential in a space with dull colours, fluorescent lights, and endless cubicles.

Fluorescent lights, in particular, have been linked with a number of negative health issues like migraines and stress. One solution is to switch out your fluorescent lightning for incandescent lighting, which provides a better spectrum of light.

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Of course, nothing beats natural sunlight. According to an article from Psychology Today, employees who sit near a window are better at staying on task, show greater interest in their work, and report more loyalty to their company. A 2003 study found that when call center employees—who often rotate seats—are placed near a window, they generate an additional $3,000 of productivity per year. Research even suggests that the amount of direct sunlight entering an office can reliably predict the level of employee satisfaction in a workplace.

Plants and views of natural settings can also boost mental energy for employees. In fact, studies have found that workers in rooms with indoor plants perform significantly better at tasks that require sustained attention and concentration.

  1. An unclear job description

Lack of clarity in the workplace can be costly, especially as it pertains to damaging your team’s performance.

Job descriptions serve as a point of reference for your employees. They give team members a general understanding of their role within a company, outline their basic duties, and ideally expound upon expected performance metrics.

Unfortunately, when it comes to day-to-day tasks in the workplace, the clarity from an over-arching job description sometimes doesn’t translate as employees are continuously asked to complete “other duties as needed.” When this happens, it can be difficult for an employee to see the connection between their work and the bigger picture of the company’s success, which can lead to job discontent, stress, and low morale. Additionally, people don’t like to feel as if their time is being wasted on tasks someone in their position shouldn’t be doing.

Alternatively, when job descriptions are abundantly clear, and employees fully understand their role, goals, and action items for the day/week/month, it almost always leads to an increase in engagement and effectiveness.

How clear are your employees on the functions of their roles? Do they have a reference point to refer to when they need guidance on moving forward? Is it clear each day what they should be working on, why it’s important, and how their performance will be measured?

  1. A lack of qualifications

As technology continues to advance in the workplace, you may sometimes find that certain employees struggle to keep pace with their peers.

This issue isn’t exclusive to technology, however. There are a vast number of areas in the traditional office setting that require certain skillsets not every employee may have.

Passion and dedication are important, but skills and qualifications are just as crucial when it comes to completing a task with excellence.

If you identify that an employee is underperforming because of an insufficient skillset, consider offering specialized training that will help bring the team member up to speed. Not only will this boost their confidence and allow them to feel like a valued member of your team, but the gains in their qualifications will directly impact the company and increase work quality and output.

  1. An abundance of qualifications

On the opposite side of the coin, you may come across situations in which employees are over-qualified for the position they hold.

While it might sound counterintuitive (after all, if an employee is more than capable of performing the functions of the role, doesn’t that mean they would put forth their best work?), overqualified employees underperforming in the office is a common workplace trend.

The reason for the underperformance is simple. These overqualified individuals don’t find their tasks and responsibilities challenging enough.

One way to resolve this issue is to present the employee with special projects and increasing responsibilities that will engage them and allow them to put their abundance of skills and qualifications to the forefront. If their performance improves significantly, it may be worth it to consider the employee for a future promotion.

  1. A lack of feedback

How often do you provide your employees with feedback?

Many companies will use ‘performance reviews’ as a forum to achieve this. Performance reviews, simply put, are an assessment and evaluation of an employee’s performance in the workplace. A comprehensive review will identify the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, provide feedback, and help the employee set goals to accomplish big-picture items.

Performance reviews, when conducted effectively, are a great way to set your employees up for success within the workplace. Through them, you can boost morale among your employees, help them reach their potential, get them excited about their work, and create a healthier and more productive workplace.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for companies to conduct performance reviews only once a year. Effective managers, however, discuss an employee’s performance (both the positive and the areas for improvement) regularly. Sometimes, this means daily. Other times, it may occur on a more weekly basis.

When you provide your employees with consistent feedback, you keep the channels of communication open in the workplace, helping your team to understand how they’re on track, what they’re doing well, what skills they need to work on, and so forth. This gives employees regular goals to work toward, which doesn’t leave any room for underperformance.

Optimal performance is absolutely crucial when it comes to the way your employees approach their work in the office. After all, as the old adage goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

If you’re experiencing employee underperformance in the workplace, don’t leave it unchecked. Examine the underlying issues that may be affecting a team member’s performance and address them head-on. Sometimes, those issues are very often small matters that can be easily resolved, allowing your employee to thrive in their role and realize their potential.