People not performing to their full potential is a common but teething problem. In spite of screening their resumes for prior work experience, giving skill tests, taking detailed interviews and doing background checks, a lot of times entrepreneurs realise that some people just don’t perform. This is not only true for new hires, but also for the old employees. Sometimes, old employees just stop performing well, and we can’t understand why!

This has come from my years of experience trying to empower people. Sometimes, even when you empower them and give them full freedom to run projects, even the most able people deliver poor performance.

At Till it clicks, we have developed our own checkpoints to diagnose why sometimes our people are not able to perform. We run these checkpoints, in the order of the steps mentioned below and are normally able to nail down the reason for the sudden drop in performance. These checkpoints along with the solutions have never failed us. I hope you too find them useful.

Check 1 : Intention and Attitude

Humans lose motivation. It can be for a variety of reasons, but once a person loses his motivation, it becomes very difficult to assign to him projects with high responsibility. They can become indifferent to the outcome of the project. This behaviour is dangerous and very contagious. Indifference is the most common symptom of this checkpoint. When you see repeated indifference, it is time to take action.

Suggested Action :

Confront the person and politely ask him about his intentions and his career path. Ask the person what is wrong. Know how he is trying to deal with it. Offer to help. Damaging the company is usually not their primary objective, but it is a result of something they are struggling with internally. If the employee believes in the company, it is possible for the entrepreneur to pull him back to normalcy. If the employee has already taken a decision to leave and is just waiting for the right opportunity, it is in the best of the company to give him a dignified exit as soon as possible.

I would however say, that we have not had people at Till it clicks with this problem. Yes, people feel demotivated from time to time, but we have not had people with attitude and intention problems. We have been lucky in that aspect.

Check 2 : Clarity

Once the employee has passed the attitude test, check whether the employee has clarity about the project. Knowing the objective of the project and the stakeholders involved in the project would normally give the employee clarity. Clarity comes with proper knowledge transfer about the project, the roles and responsibilities, the dependencies on his timely completion of the assigned work, and the timelines of the project. We have observed that lack of clarity is very often the primary reason behind poor performance.

Suggested Action :

We are planning to introduce a quarterly test for the employee about the project. This shall not be a technical test, but more about the general knowledge of the project. The report of this assessment will not reflect in performance review of the employee, but will show him a mirror and motivate him. If employees fare miserably in this assessment, it is important to organise a knowledge seminar for them. When a person knows the project inside out, he automatically feels responsible and works towards successful delivery.

Check 3 : Physical and Intellectual Bandwidth

This is by far the most common reason for low performance. Often people overestimate their potential and take more work on their plate than they are capable of performance. The culprit of this error is as much the manager as the employee. Lack of Physical Bandwidth often is easy to diagnose. Symptoms such as always acting busy and working overtime give it away. Lakh of Intellectual bandwidth however is much more difficult to diagnose and much more dangerous. Here the person often takes more responsibility and the thought of the project constantly runs in your time. This makes it difficult for him to focus on any other work at hand.

Suggested Action :

In case of shortfall of physical bandwidth, put an additional resource and split the workload. In case of shortfall of intellectual bandwidth, take a few things away from the person, and ask him to focus on a small but important component of the project. This will ease the pressure and the quality of delivery will go up drastically.

Check 4 : Intelligence

This is not the most common checkpoint and often is least damaging. Unless for highly specialised jobs, normal people have enough intelligence to perform the job well. But in exceptional cases when the intelligence really falls short, it can be substituted with sincerity, developing SOPs and building processes. With proper guidance, employees who lack intelligence can still become high performance employees.

Suggested Action :

It is very difficult for the manager to tell the employee that he lacks intelligence. This has to be done subtly and in such a way that it does not damage the self esteem of the employee.. In fact, the employee doesn’t even need to know that the management is covering up for the shortcomings of the employee. Once such a situation has been identified, the management is supposed to cover the employee up in one of the following ways :
Make him report to someone more intelligence
Work with him and develop SOPs, processes
Ask the employee to be sincere and reward sincerity.
Have reasonable expectations.

These checkpoints have really helped us build a highly motivated team and we are now on course to becoming one of the top B2B marketing agency in India.