At a certain juncture, every leader has to deal with the lacklustre performance of a team member. Unproductive employees can hamper the growth of an organisation and impact the workplace. Leaders walk on a tightrope, zealously trying to maintain a delicate balance between authority and motivation.

Letting an employee go should be the last option, as organisations invest heavily in their employees in terms of training, education, market exposure and building internal processes. However, as a business owner or manager it is in your best interest to first make every attempt to turn around the situation. So, here are five smart ways on how to handle under-performing employees:

  • Address issues in person to get to the root of the problem: Instead of waiting for the employee’s review to address the issue, the better course of action is to address the problem as soon as you recognise it. Rather than conveying it in an email, schedule a meeting to discuss the issue in person. Moreover, there may be a legitimate reason why your employee is under-performing and, in fairness, you should give him the benefit of doubt. It may be an organisational issue or maybe unmotivated by the current assignments. Identify the issue and spend time to figure out the appropriate solution.
  • Make work rewarding and meaningful: To keep employees engaged and productive, work has to be meaningful and employees must be assured that it contributes to the organisation’s growth. When they feel that their work holds no importance, or that there is no space for advancement, work can get sloppy and productivity will lag. Demonstrate that their contribution makes a difference and foster the idea that their position in the company is important.
  • Help set short-term goals: Set achievable, short-term goals and breakdown the project to smaller deliverables as this will help them complete the task easily and effectively. These should be time based and have clear outcomes so that you will be able to monitor and guide them whenever needed.
  • Foster a positive work environment: An enjoyable and positive work environment can increase productivity exponentially. Whether this means frequent company outings or just a light-hearted corporate culture, employees will be far more motivated to be productive if they like where they work. Provide casual opportunities for employees and managers to build relationships. Training sessions are a great way to encourage socialisation, as they can be collaborative.
  • Motivation, recognition and support: Making employees feel appreciated is a sure-fire way to build success and revive flagging productivity. Provide frequent feedback to acknowledge and appraise their qualities and correct the shortcomings that need improvement. Smart business managers think outside the box to find creative and reliable ways to motivate disengaged, unfocused and underperforming employees. Treat them with respect and give them the chance to correct situations before termination and you will have a more loyal and productive workforce.

The writer is general manager-hr, publicity and promotion, karam industries