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Companies invest huge amount of $s in sourcing, hiring, on-boarding new employees, and spend much more on employee development & training on continuous basis – However, we consistently see about 10-15% of workforce moving into bottom most bucket and find it hard to deliver on expectations. This seems surprising, considering that fact that same process, criteria and interviewing panel is applied to new-hires, however, we see this pattern in 6-12 months, sometimes even earlier. This is a one of the top challenges for people/project managers and adds considerable overhead to manage the effects non-performance.

This makes it an interesting topic, and possibly applies to most industries and work streams!

Key considerations are: Reason for under performance has multiple dimensions, not just lack of skill or interest AND  under performers can be brought back on track to excellence in period as short as 6 months. Question is, do we know the root cause, and if we do know, what are we willing to do to get them on track. These are also subjected to business considerations on how critical the role is, on how far we are expected to go.

Below are few reasons for employees slipping into bottom bucket shortly after getting into new role or company. People managers can make efforts to understand which bucket the employee falls into, using 1:1 connects.

1. Lack of clarity on expectations: Not everyone has ability to grasp group’s strategy and execution plans, and team’s expectation on their personal delivery. Accountability of creating clarity on expectation lies with both employee & their manager, and it’s quite possible that there are gaps in understanding. When that happens, employee wouldn’t align with common goals, and therefore cannot deliver to expectations.

2. Lack of training/knowledge: Technology is changing quickly, and employees can lose “relevance” pretty quickly if they haven’t planned their skill development. This is another major cause for low performance and delayed and insufficient results.

3. A distracting non-work related issue: Health, relationship or other issues can dampen the passion and slowdown things. If this continues beyond certain period of time, a noticeable performance issues might surface and that’s time to detect and act. But these are difficult to isolate and even more difficult to resolve.

4. Skills aren’t fit for the current role: This could happen due to a incorrect hiring decision, where the skill set of the employee is largely different than current work stream, and the employee is unable to use his/her strengths to excel in current role simply because they don’t match.

5. Other reasons: there could be host of other reasons, including loss of interest, conflict of interest/diversion to another income source, lack of passion which can dramatically impact results delivered.


Lacks initiative: Doesn’t or can’t think of an out of the box solution. Also, doesn’t come forward to try something new. Only things those are pushed down the throat will be attempted.

Carries negative intent: Sees negative side of everything and eventually impacts perception of others in the team.

Not open for feedback: Confront the feedback with reasoning rather than actionable plan to fix issues.

Does not produce desired results: Byproduct of all above and most critical impact is substandard results by these individuals, mostly consistently. In most cases, their assumption of self-performance is normal or good, and they could object to any other improvement suggestions.


Key to optimal solution is to first understand potential reason for the below-par performance, out of above possible issues. Once that is identified, you can take one of below tracks as appropriate, to offer a solution that’s a win-win.

1. Communicate: Help the employee understand where she/she stands based on organizations expectations. This is most crucial part of people management. This could be a sensitive discussion, if you are dealing with an under performer – Do your homework, collect data, understand strengths & weaknesses, apply practical scenarios to the events in the past to look at them objectively.

2. Coach & measure: Once the issue has been identified & communicated to the employee, you will need to hand-hold them on their journey towards improvement. Also, define what the improvement would look like, in tangible terms, so that the employee understands and can feel the progress made.

3. Offer alternatives: In case if improvement plan not yielding results as expected, work with HR, other teams to provide alternative career options that might suite employee’s strengths or skills. A different role or team can get best performance out of the employee.

4. Facilitate transition: As a last resort, and in the interest of employee’s career, it’s important to let them to know when it is time – Timely career decisions can immensely help people have exponential growth, however, people managers can help employees identify this on time.

Most admiring leaders I have worked with, have always strong opinions on what their employees should be doing next, and how. They guided, mentored through the journey, for those would could grasp and follow. These discussions care turn careers and create life changing opportunities for people who work with you!


Happy Leading…

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