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Understanding performance challenges

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Many a time managers tend to associate performance challenges with training intervention and thousands of dollars are spent trying to take care of the challenges.

Report by Paul Nyausaru

The fundamental question that comes up is: Does each and every performance challenge that arises require training as an intervention?

To figure out the nature of the performance challenge there is need to get to the root of the problem and identify the right intervention.

Identifying performance challenges

The first step to follow before you can fix poor performance is to understand its cause.

Ask yourself whether the poor performance is a result of lack of ability or low motivation.

This is important since any incorrect diagnoses of the cause of poor performance can lead to lots of problems in due course.

In some cases employees do not perform as expected due to low ability.

This could be associated with one or more of the following:

  • Over-difficult tasks.
  • Low individual aptitude, skill, and knowledge.
  • Evidence of strong effort, despite poor performance.
  • Lack of improvement over time.

Usually employees with low ability may have been poorly matched with their jobs in the first place.

They may have been promoted to a position that may be too demanding for them.

Or maybe, they no longer have the support that previously assisted them to perform well. How then can ability be enhanced?
The following five ways have been used successfully to enhance ability:

Resupply — Here the manager needs to focus on the resources provided to do the job and ask themselves whether the employees have what they need to perform well and meet expectations.

As their manager, find out from them about additional resources they think they need and as you do so, listen for points of frustration.
Note where employees report that support is inadequate and verify the claims with your own investigation.

Normally employees blame external sources for their poor performance before admitting their own short comings. This is a very effective first step in addressing performance.

It shows your subordinates that you’re interested in their perspective and are willing to make the required changes.

Retrain — Provide additional training to your subordinates while taking time to explore with them whether they have the actual skills required to do what’s expected.

This option recognises the need to retain employees and keep their skills current.

There are various types of retraining you can provide and they include:

  • Training seminars with in-house or external consultants.
  • Computer-based training.
  • Simulation exercises.
  • Company assisted college or university courses.

Refit — When the first two interventions are not sufficient, you may consider refitting the job to the person.

Ask yourself whether there are parts of the job that can be reassigned.

Analyse the employee’s components of the work and try out different combinations of tasks and abilities.

This may involve rearranging jobs of other employees as well. The goal should be to retain the employee, meet operational needs and provide meaningful and rewarding work to everyone involved.

Reassign – When revising or refitting the job doesn’t turn the situation around, consider reassigning the poor performer. Typical job reassignments may decrease the demands of the role by reducing responsibility, technical knowledge and interpersonal skills. If you use this option, make sure the reassigned job is still challenging and stimulating.

Release – As a final option for lack of ability, you may need to consider letting the employee go.

When there are no opportunities for reassignment and refitting isn’t appropriate for the organisation, the best solution for everyone involved is for the employee to find other work. In so doing, consider contractual terms, so that you are not caught on the wrong side of the law.

  • Paul Nyausaru is training and development practitioner. views contained in this article are personal. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk pnyausaru@gmail.com

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