Every office, warehouse, and production facility has one: an employee who takes up an inequitable portion of the supervisor’s time and effort. This employee may bring important knowledge and experience to the role, but he also causes frustration for management, and other team members, because he “just doesn’t get it.”
What “it” is varies from job to job, but the scenario plays out in a similar way. First, there’s the initial patience while you wait for things to click, followed by the constructive coaching efforts, and then, finally, the escalation to performance management, which is a coded way of saying warnings and write-ups.
Let’s pause and clarify we are not talking about unqualified individuals who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, people who are experiencing personal problems (though that’s something to consider with struggling employees), or those who are openly uncooperative and insubordinate.
We mean someone who has the education, credentials, or work history and came well recommended. Let’s also assume your company administered proper training and made efforts to integrate the employee into the environment. And that the employee is, of course, eager to succeed.
Often times it’s as simple as this: The employee is in the wrong role.
Ideally, companies would assess all their top candidates using a scientifically valid pre-employment assessment. Not a cheap, gimmicky “personality test” without proven reliability, but a venerable instrument that has been thoroughly researched, tested, and refined over decades and is respected throughout the industry (modesty prevents us from saying “Hint Hint: the Caliper Profile”).
Such a tool can reveal an individual’s strengths, motivations, and limitations relative to (here’s the important part) the job responsibilities you expect that individual to perform.
But say the company did not assess the employee prior to hiring him. He’s in the role now, so it’s too late, right? Not at all! Existing employees can benefit greatly from completing an assessment. Sometimes a coaching strategy and an action plan arise from the evaluation. Other times, like in the scenario described above, we find that the individual’s strengths do not align with the current position. It could be that a struggling sales rep would be ideal for a warehouse operations supervisor position. Or that a seemingly absent-minded administrator is really a frustrated account manager waiting to take flight.
The benefits of finding ideal roles for promising, but struggling employees are often greater than simply resolving an underperformance problem. You’re also saving time by not having to train a new person from scratch on your products, services, procedures, and organizational goals. Moreover, you gain insights into what type of coaching would work best for that person, and the results can be revisited later for career-pathing purposes. In fact, you might just take a “problem” employee and turn him into your next top performer.