In our last newsletter, we discussed how to retain the top 10% of your employee base and now we will look at how we can increase the performance of the bottom 10% of your workforce. Identifying and working with these two groups in your talent pool are critical to the success of your business long term because the top 10% of your employees really drive your company sales and overall results while the bottom 10% constantly holds your organization back. Envision a boat anchor in the water that continues to drag and slow you down, those are your lowest 10%.

We compared the top 10% to a thoroughbred racehorse which needs intentional development, challenge, care, and attention to perform at their optimum. Conversely, the bottom 10% of your employee base may do just enough to get by, add minimal value and bring down the performance of your entire organization if they aren’t properly handled.

So, do you just fire the bottom 10% of your employees every year? No, you don’t! Many of your bottom performers have never been told they are not performing well by their direct manager! Yes, this is a true statement. Most managers hate to give critical feedback to employees so they just avoid it and the low performers continue to plod along. All the while, the employee is dissatisfied and so is their manager – not to mention their co-workers! The truth is 99% of employees want to do a good job, but in some cases they just haven’t been told what good looks like – that’s the fault of the manger, not the employee. When poor performance goes unaddressed it can become a cancer in the organization. Low performance then appears acceptable and other employees may become demotivated and join the ranks of the low performers.

We have seen hundreds of situations where critical and specific feedback around performance can change a poor performer into a major asset for the company. Make sure your managers don’t delay in having coaching sessions early and often. It is even more critical to have coaching sessions with new employees, especially if you see performance issues within the first few weeks or months of employment. Sometimes new employees need to be told how things get done in your company and what the norms are. That’s part of a good on-boarding process.

Sure, in some cases poor performers may need to leave the organization, but in many cases once specific coaching and feedback is shared with them, improvement comes quickly and is dramatic. Address the performance issues early to avoid major issues further down the road. If a plane starts off course by 2 degrees and the course is corrected quickly there are no issues. If that plane continues off course for 6 hours who knows where it will end up!