Call it the need of the hour, but each one of us is expecting them to do more in less time. But, no matter what permutation and combination you use, you will still have a tortoise in your team. You assign a task to them and they take two full days to complete it as against your half-a-day estimate. It’ll not be surprising if you decide to terminate their services, but before doing so, and as their manager you ought to know what makes them lag behind. In fact, don’t give into the temptation of asking an experience, faster member to take on a slow worker’s job. Everyone deserves a chance. Perhaps, it’s theirs? They might not even know they are slow?
Do they love their role profile?
Imagine trying to fit yourself in size 8 shoe when you are size 6 or 10. It’s the same at work. You have to pick a person with an aptitude that best matches a role profile. Now, think: are they a misfit and are perhaps slow because the work isn’t stimulating enough? Are they highly experienced or under-experienced for the profile? It is your duty is to know every individual’s forte instead of thrusting it on your team mates who you are undervaluing. Find out what work they enjoy doing or where their strengths lie and accordingly assign work. They will excel at tasks that appeal to them and of course they will be quicker.
Set clear expectations and interim deadlines
What if the reason is you? Are you giving clear instructions? Unless and until you make it clear what is important and what can take a backseat, they may just do as they fancy working. So, you need to give them clarity. Also, you can’t give them unrealistic deadlines i.e. too much or too less time to finish work. Guide them all along even though you are scared you might come across as a helicopter boss. Give them interim deadlines so that they don’t feel pressurized. Meeting small milestones will motivate them to work harder. And, if you see them reaching their goal, set incremental goals the next time to give them a push to do more. Once they get a hang of the work they are doing and how it both of you function, you can set them free.
Don’t guess why your slow employee isn’t trying to match up to his/her colleagues’ working tempo. Try finding out what is keeping them from speeding up. Are they distracted because someone keeps coming to them to pick their brains or do they have work beyond their bandwidth? Is the workflow and load in the team not clear? Have their accomplishments gone unrewarded in the past and now they are purposely going slow because they feel it doesn’t matter? Do they need a resource to work under them to push things further in the work pipeline? Start figuring out answers to the whys instead of publically dissing them in meetings. For all you know, they might be hesitating to come up to you and speak about it.
Can I help?
A straightforward question as this is enough to get them talking. Your concern regarding their performance will be conveyed and they should be able to point a finger on what is it that has been keeping them from fulfilling what is expected of them. Say: “I have been noticing a dip. Usually your colleagues take a day to complete report generation, but you take three days. Is there something bothering you?” or “Is there somewhere I can help which will help you catch up on trailing work?” They might have answers ready for such questions. All you need to do is sit them down and fuel them with energy and motivation. Make sure you also tell them why their speeding up is important: “It affects team’s morale and productivity and we can get picked for not delivering on time.” Having said that tell them you trust their potential and would like to see them gear up and that they have your support should they face any difficulty.
Feedback and reward
You might think your work ends at guiding them, but it’s after doing this that the real work begins. Keep track of their progress. Have they been following your blueprint and reaching the benchmarks you have set for them? Meet regularly to see how things are going at their end. Slow employees need that extra push and you must be consistent providing them confidence to outperform themselves. If you notice they have made considerable progress, appreciate them for it will motivate them to keep working hard. Reward them with praise or take your team for a celebratory lunch or dinner. Make a special mention of your slow employee and raise a toast. A few words said in encouragement do hold power.
Since you have set deadlines for them, nudge them at intervals to prevent them from snoozing. Setting performance goals come with evaluating achievements or lack of it thereof. Make sure they understand the importance of working hard to achieve set goals. Timely reminders will allow them to recalibrate and work efficiently before time runs out.
Unless you actively participate in your slow employees’ growth and professional development, both you and your organisation will fail in performing your duty. Stay in sync with every individual’s need irrespective of whether they are performers or not. Be ready and offer solutions and make it clear that you have their back and have a way to recover from dipping performance tremors.