by CIO Staff

Management 101: Fixing Employee Weaknesses

Feb 14, 20064 mins
IT Skills

When it comes to fixing weaknesses in others, executives and managers find that it is a lot tougher than it might sound.

However, even negative end results do not stop business leaders from trying various approaches to get their subordinates to improve in areas including poor time management, late projects and inability to perform required tasks.

The top course of action in dealing with weaknesses in others is to discuss the weakness, based on a nationwide survey by NFI Research. The next leading courses of action are to provide additional training, support, regular meetings and then put the individual on notice, based on the survey of senior executives and managers.

“Key is providing relevant direct feedback and then allowing the employee to make behavior change within a reasonable period of time,” said one survey respondent. “Sometimes additional training is needed, but often it is not. What’s needed is a change in behavior, which comes from outlining very clear expectations and consequences.”

“It is better to address issues head on and try to correct them than it is to bury or ignore them,” said another respondent. “Sometimes, however, it is not possible to fix. You can reach a person’s limits, which means you either lower the mark or, in the extreme, replace the person if the job has changed and now requires more.”

Many executives and managers frequently reach the limits of others, since only 20 percent of senior executives and four percent of managers say that they are extremely successful at correcting weaknesses in others to meet the manager’s expectations or requirements.

“We try to be clear about expectations and ensure the employee has the tools to do the job,” said one respondent. “If it becomes apparent their skill level is lacking, we’ll explore training them, which may include probation. After a period of time if they cannot meet the demands of the position, we let them go. If you don’t, other employees quickly accept that lack of accountability, resent you’re not dealing with it and make it a broader negative issue.”

There are times that the person and the task or job are no longer a fit, but the challenge is to identify it sooner rather than later, for the benefit of both parties.

“We often do a disservice to those who are under performing,” said another survey respondent. “It is far better to address the weaknesses directly, determine whether remediation is possible, and if not, allow the employee and the organization to move forward in separate directions. Often an employee not successful in one organization can be very successful in another. As managers, we owe it to them to pursue other opportunities.”

Said another: “The first step always has to be to improve performance, second is to re-assign where better chance of performance is acceptable, finally, they have to go.”

Businesses have varying ways of dealing with the issue of weaknesses in employees, many leading to termination if the situation is not ultimately resolved.

“I put habitual underachievers on a formal performance improvement plan with very specific, time-measurable, and quality measurable milestones and deliverables,” said one manager. “I give them the benefit of coaching and mentoring, and frequent dialog sessions to understand how they are doing. If they fail in this environment for two successive six-month intervals, I will terminate them.”

At times, that is the best course of action, since the person and the job or task will never be a fit for each other.

”Sometimes it’s a round peg in a square hole problem, and good employees can be salvaged if placed into a situation where they can improve,” said a respondent.

The better business leaders take a look around the organization to see if there is, in fact, a better fit for the person where both he or she and the company can benefit.