Dealing with poor performance

Here are several steps you can take to help employees meet their minimum performance standards:

First, make sure employees understand the minimum performance standards, and the consequences of not meeting those standards. Include performance standards in job descriptions. Beginning with the recruiting and screening process, ask about performance in past jobs and whether candidates met those standards. Get specific examples, and when you check references verify that those standards were met.

Next, in the new hire onboarding process, make sure job skills are taught at the minimum performance levels. If the new employee cannot meet those levels within the prescribed times, give a job termination warning and then terminate employment if the standards are not met. Don’t delay; problems ignored now will only become worse with time.

Next, be sure that you understand the difference between “can do” and “will do.” Can do means employees have demonstrated that they have met the minimum standards, and that they can repeat that performance every day. Will do means employees have the attitude and perseverance necessary to meet the standards every day, in all kinds of conditions.

Next, communicate with employees every day how important it is for the company that they meet their performance standards. Contracts depend on it. Sales depend on it. Customer confidence depends on it. Repeat business depends on it. Without all these things your company, and their jobs, cannot survive.

Finally, solve problems in a positive way. Find the underlying causes of poor performance. Lack of training? Not enough training? Some obstacle in the way? Lack of urgency to meet the standards? Ask how you can help. Ask for the employee’s commitment to meet the standards, remove any obstacles in the way, and reinforce good performance. A little praise and reinforcement can do wonders for poor attitudes or a lack of motivation.

For more detailed information on this and other topics dealing with employee hiring and motivation, check out my website at There you’ll find books and other resources to give you more detailed help. And if you have questions or concerns, feel free to comment below, or send us an email at

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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