Improving Employee Performance: 3 Reasons Why Employees Underperform

Do you have an ‘employee performance gap’?

employee performance

Are you trying to improve employee performance? Are you trying to close an ‘employee performance gap’ – a gap between:

a) What you want and need from your employees and

b) What you are actually getting from your employees?

Do you know why there’s an ‘employee performance gap’?

I’ve worked with literally hundreds of managers, business owners and team leaders – training and coaching them in how to improve employee performance. With all of these managers I begin by exploring with them why there is a gap between what they want from their employees and what they get from their employees. Time and time again we identify three key reasons why employees under perform. Here they are

1. Employees don’t know what you want

If there is a gap between what you want from your employees and what you are getting from them the first thing to do is to check that you have spelled out – in crystal clear language – exactly what it is you do want

So, if you want your employees to be ‘better team players’ or ‘more solution focused’  my question for you is – have you described, in detail, what you mean by ‘team player’ or ‘solution focused’?

So often when I work with managers who aren’t getting what they want from their employees we discover that they haven’t actually described what they want (and at the risk of stating the blindingly obvious – employees can’t give you what they don’t know you want!). The easiest and most effective way to close the employee performance gap is to get clearer with your employees about what effective performance looks like

(Read more on how to describe what you want HERE)

2. Employees don’t know why you want what you want

When we are looking to improve employee performance we are looking to persuade our employees to make some sort of change – to do something different. When we want people to do something different we need to explain why

Let’s say you want your employee to improve the way they deal with client complaints. Why do you want them to do that? Is there a negative consequence to the way they are currently working? (Read more on how to use consequences HERE). Is there a business need that means we need to change the way we work with clients – to improve?

When we want to improve employee performance we need to get really clear on the ‘why’

(Read more at ‘Helping Employees to Understand the Bigger Picture’)

3. Employees don’t know that what they are giving you is not what you want

Often once we describe to our employees what we want – what effective employee performance looks like in practice – and why we want  it they will see for themselves that there is a gap between what you want and what they are currently giving you. They will then go on to close that gap. Job done!

However If your employee doesn’t see the gap you need to help them. So, having described what good performance looks like you now need to demonstrate to the employee that their current performance does not meet that standard of good performance

In short, you need to give some focused performance feedback

Using clear, objective, non judgemental language, you will need to have a conversation about

• What you agreed good performance looks like and why this is important

• What you are seeing (or not seeing) the employee do (or not do)

• How the employee can close the gap

(Read more on performance feedback HERE)

Employee Performance Gap Summary

Of course there are many other reasons why employees underperform; lack of skills, lack of confidence, lack of motivation – to name just a few! My point is, before we look at all the other reasons why employee performance needs to be improved, we should start with the ‘basics’ – clarity on what we want from our employees and why we need this and giving performance feedback


management trainingJoan Henshaw is the author of the ’10 Minute Management’ series of books and videos. Read about these practical, step-by-step books HERE and videos HERE

3 Responses to Improving Employee Performance: 3 Reasons Why Employees Underperform

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