How to Learn from Underperforming Employees

Underperforming employees can require a lot of resources and unpleasant conversations. One study estimates that low performing employees make up between five and ten percent of your workforce. However, they consume at least 26% of their managers’ time.

But it’s not all negative. Whether they’re diamonds in the rough or cautionary tales, we have a lot to learn from underperforming employees if we focus on the data.

Choose objectivity over subjectivity

For example, Brad came to your company with a reputation for snagging ‘un-gettable’ clients and the tenacity of a bulldog. Since joining your organization, however, Brad has struggled to meet his quarterly targets. He spends as many hours on the phone with his manager as he does clients.

All the training and motivation in the world won’t help if someone lacks essential hard skills or foundational knowledge. But many personality characteristics required to succeed can be modeled, learned, and strengthened.

Since Brad has the know-how and the desire to improve, the key to bringing him up to par is in the data. Rather than subjective employee performance assessments and feedback sessions, analytical tools – like Cangrade’s Success Model – identify qualities your top performers share but that underperformers lack. So you can create targeted training to remediate poor employee performance.

Compare top-performers to underperforming employees

To a recruiter, Brad and a top performer may seem to have a lot in common. However, an objective analysis might show that they are polar opposites. Perhaps our top performer does well because she’s detail-oriented and risk-averse. On the other hand, Brad likes to swing for the fences and describes himself as a ‘big picture person’.

Identifying the traits that lead to top performers’ success allows managers to better understand why underperforming employees don’t meet expectations. It also provides valuable guidance for improving an underperformer’s results. Perhaps Brad would benefit from coaching or mentorship from a more experienced team member. Perhaps even a shift to a different role may be in order to better align with his strengths.

Make better hiring and promotion decisions

Focusing on evidence over intuition can help your organization avoid employee performance issues. This will enable you to make the best hiring and development decisions. Screening for the personality traits most relevant to the position and industry, rather than stereotypes, means you hire the right fit for the available sales role – not someone else’s idea of what a salesperson should be. By aligning your organization’s hiring profile with your top performers, you set your employees up for success.

The Cangrade Success Model and other AI-driven solutions continuously refine your ideal employee profile. They do this based on objective inputs about your top performers and your underperformers. That profile then empowers recruiters to filter out candidates who might ‘look’ or ‘feel’ right, but lack the proven attributes required for success.

Even more important, data-driven decision-making ensures that when you promote from within, you opt for the candidate best-suited to the role. Rather than focusing on a candidate’s success in their current position, you assess them on the characteristics needed to succeed in the promotion.

The takeaway on underperforming employees

Underperforming employees have a lot to teach you about your blind spots and your organization. Take the time to objectively compare your underperforming and top-performing employees to learn how you can strengthen your team and make smart investment decisions in your current employees.

Looking for more on talent optimization? Read our article on driving business performance through talent optimization.

Cangrade’s Success Models and Performance Assessment tools can help you easily gather the objective insights you need to make the best development decisions for your team. Contact us today.

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