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By Peter Done | Published Aug 15, 2012

Get everyone to pull their weight

Q: I have this one employee who has been with me for over two years now. She is very much comfortable within her role at the moment and I feel that although she does not do anything particularly wrong, she is not providing much of a benefit to the company. How can I address this issue and make her more productive for me?

A: Employers often find they have “the one”, or maybe two, three or more employees who just seem to be coasting along in their job content with performing below the standard expected and below the standard that they can reasonably achieve. Generally, employees who are not pulling their weight cannot just be shown the door, but just because their behaviour does not necessarily warrant some kind of formal disciplinary action, it does not mean that it should be left unaddressed. They were employed to do a job and to do it well.

Employee underachievement reduces productivity, profit and morale in the workplace. There are a number of ways for employers to manage such employees and a number of procedures that can be implemented that will enable an employer to deal with “the one” efficiently and successfully.

Employers should set out an employee’s specific role when compiling a job description, which ought to be fairly detailed to enable potential employees to have a good idea of what the job entails before they are even hired. Job descriptions can then be supported by an employee’s contract of employment and handbook, which should set out the standard expected of all employees regardless of their particular role. By providing employees with suitable job descriptions, handbooks and important information from the start, employees can be reasonably expected to know what is reasonably expected of them.

Inductions and training for new employees are opportunities to show new starters how their job should actually be performed in practice. Some employees may require further training or a reminder of their initial training once they are established in their role. A repetition of the most important company policies and procedures, as well as information specifically related to their job could be a good way of reminding employees just what is expected of them and how to achieve those expectations.

Probationary reviews and appraisals are ideal opportunities for employers to discuss performance and set goals with their employees. By discussing any issues that there are with employees, employers should be able to determine whether their underachievement is an issue of conduct or capability, that is the underachievement within or beyond the employee’s control? If appropriate, employers can organise to meet with certain employees more frequently, so that performance can be monitored efficiently and short-term objectives can be set. It may be more achievable and motivating for an employee to have long-term goals broken down into more manageable chunks with set dates for completion.

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