7 essential steps to manage low performers

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Everyone, at some point in their career, will encounter a “slacker”. These low performers demotivate those around them and can reduce the overall productivity of the team.

There is a different variety of approaches nursery managers may take to address a poor work ethic: some may confront the person directly; others may take an avoidance route, hoping a co-worker will instead raise the issue with the guilty party.

One thing is well known though: most slackers do not recognise that they are underperforming and very rarely will a slacker correct the behaviour themselves. Therefore, you need to manage the situation carefully and take decisive action to help them change their ways.

1)      Gather necessary evidence

Before you confront the person, make sure you have firm evidence of their poor work ethic. For example, you could make a note of how many times they were late to work over the past few weeks. You could also ask the opinion of one or two trusted employees in your team.

2)      Clearly outline expectations

When you take on someone new, job expectations and responsibilities are not always clearly understood. When you have a private chat with the person concerned, ask them if there is any part of the job where they do not understand what is expected of them. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and iron out any potential areas of confusion.

3)      Find out the reason for them slacking

The key to successfully managing a low performer is to know them well. They might be having a tough time at home, or been given some bad news recently about a family member. Sit them down and try to get to the root cause of their behaviour. If low productivity is unusual for the person concerned, it may just be a passing phase. Try to be compassionate if the situation calls for it, but also know there is a limit and that person still has a job to do.

4)      Know what motivates them

Do you know what encourages your team members to perform well? You should. Bringing in treats and verbal praise can work wonders to motivate your team, but if the person concerned wants more responsibility, then these rewards will not change their behaviour. Find out exactly what would encourage their best performance and then advise them what specific action they need to take to make their desires a reality.

5)      Make them understand the impact

Nobody wants to hear that they are letting down their team. One important way to highlight the poor work performance of the person concerned is to let them know the negative impact it is having on the people around them, and the effect on the nursery overall. Sometimes, this is all you need to do to make the low performer change their ways.

6)      Put them on notice

If you have exhausted steps 1-5 and still not seen any improvement in behaviour, it may be time for some tough love. Putting the low performer on notice can be a very effective to see a drastic result. During the notice period, make sure you agree a plan of action and have regular reviews to document their progress.

7)      Clear the deadwood

Sometimes, enough is enough. When someone has had their second (and even, third!) chance to change their work ethic and have stayed the same; it’s time to clear out the deadwood. Childcare settings rely on the hard work, passion and productivity of their staff so, from time to time, the best thing you can do is find a new staff member.


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