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Reason For Poor Performance: Is It Only The Employee?

As a Trainer and Coach, I am often asked to provide interventions to improve performance. “Please train my sales guys, they are not convincing the prospects well enough,” is a typical request. I get similar requests about customer service issues, quality issues etc. Stakeholders often think that if performance is an issue, the problem invariably wrests with the employee. If the employee can be trained on new skills and attitude, performance will invariably improve – this is the popular point of view. But I beg to differ.

9 Key Reasons for Poor Employee Performance

Employees may be performing poorly due to any of the following reasons:

  1. They don’t know what is expected from them
  2. They don’t have the knowledge or skills to do what they are told to
  3. They don’t have the right attitude
  4. They are not given the right feedback. In other words, they don’t know how they are performing
  5. They are not getting support from their team members
  6. They don’t have an environment conducive for work
  7. They don’t have the right tools to do their job well
  8. The product is flawed or uncompetitive
  9. The market or economy is faring poorly

Now look at the list above and pick the reasons that you can attribute to the employee. I would choose 2 and 3. All the other reasons could be attributed to other factors including the work culture, management style, product and process effectiveness, global conditions etc. Now if the problem lies somewhere within these factors, how can we blame and employee and how can training them solve the issue?

This is where HR Professionals have to draw the line. When they get requests from Line Managers to train staff, they must take the pain to interview the staff as well. By asking them simple questions like “What is stopping you from performing well?” and then validating the answers with others will give you the real reason behind nonperformance. And that in turn will help you provide the right intervention. Remember this – The employee is not always to be blamed for non-performance and training is not always the solution.

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