Jim Rose
EQ Consulting Services
611 Bear Den Road
Townsend, TN  37882


Are you frustrated with employees that do not perform up to your standards?

Unsatisfactory employee performance is not an employee problem.  This is a management problem.  Yes, I realize that is probably hard to swallow but consider the following before you draw final conclusions.

I contend that there are five key factors to obtain high levels of employee performance and management is responsible for each.

  1. Hiring the right people
  2. Ensuring expectations are clear
  3. Training
  4. Supervising the employee appropriately
  5. Properly monitoring performance and either improving it or dismissing them


Think of an employee that is performing below your level of expectation.  Let’s examine the problem in each of these five areas.

  1. Hiring process:  You have probably already hired the person so do you believe that your hiring process was effective?  If not you might need to determine how to improve that process. 
  2. Ensuring clear expectations: Do you have good documentation of expectations including: job description, procedures, policies, goals and objectives?  Having these is critical.
  3. Training: Do you have a good training process? Improve that process if it is not meeting your needs.  Do you have a means (written tests or demonstration of proficiencies) for determining if the employee actually learned what they needed to learn?  If not you should develop a means for doing so.  Do you have written documents for the employee to refer to after training?
  4. Supervising: Does the employee’s supervisor observe them doing the work to see if they are doing it the way they were trained and take corrective action if they are not?  Has the supervisor been trained to do this?
  5. Monitoring performance: Formal reviews should take place periodically for discussing satisfaction regarding their performance.  This should include both complements for the areas where performance is good.  Areas needing improvement should be identified and a game plan developed for improvements.  Follow up sessions should be scheduled to ensure satisfactory improvements.  Should performance not improve then the process for dismissing the person should be followed.

Which of these is your major contributor to unsatisfactory employee performance?  Are you willing to be honest with yourself?  Most employers simply blame the employee. 

Are you going to continue blaming your employees or are you going to address your management shortcomings?  What is your action plan?


Do you have employees that are empowered but are not held accountable for delivering satisfactory results?


Do you have employees that are empowered but are not held accountable for delivering satisfactory results?

Employees not delivering satisfactory results can be very frustrating to management.  I contend that the reason is likely problems in one of the following four areas.

  •  Ensure that expectations are clear
    • Job Descriptions
    • Goals
    • Objectives
    • Procedures
  • Provide training and assistance needed
    • Coaching
    • Classroom
    • Formal education
  • Monitor performance
    • Informal: daily observations
    • Formal: regular performance reviews
  • Improve performance
    • Develop a plan for improving performance
    • Ensure that consequences are clear for lack of improved performance
    • Follow through with the plan

 Which of these can assist you with holding your employees more accountable?


Could you have employees that have issues inhibiting their productivity?

It is important to have a means for understanding issues employees have that are preventing high performance.  When employees have unaddressed issues this frequently results in low morale and lower performance.  Thus knowing what their major issues are and addressing them should be a high priority. 

Possible issues could include:

-no one listens

-not appreciated

-priorities change too rapidly

-issues with a particular supervisor

-issues with a fellow employee

-working environment

-working hours

-fear of company success

-lack of teamwork

-lack of trust

-fear of reprisal

-lack of important information

-no means for providing suggestions


  • Identifying the issues your employees might have is the first step in the process.  I believe that appropriately designed employee interviews can be an effective technique for understanding their issues as I have seen this work.   The employees should be told why the interviews are being conducted.  This could be that “top leadership wants to know of any barriers that might be interfering with employees being able to do their jobs in a highly productive way”.   They should also be told that no one will know what any specific individual said.  All input would simply be summarized and presented to top management and they will be responsible for addressing their issues. 


  • A key question is determining who should conduct the interviews.  There are two basic options with one being a person or persons in the organization or an outside resource.   This person must be someone the employees can trust and often it is best to have someone like a consultant that is not a part of the organization.


  • The issues identified should be summarized and presented to top management.  They would be responsible for developing and implementing a plan for addressing the important issues.


Can you afford not have a means for not understanding issues preventing your employees from doing their jobs in a highly productive way?


Is it clear in your organization who is responsible for what and their level of authority?

  • I have found that in many organizations it is not really clear who has responsibility for certain activities and exactly how much authority they have.  This is a barrier to becoming a high performance organization.  I use a methodology that can bring clarity in this area.  It can best be explained by using an example of its use along with a document developed and it is attached.  I suggest printing it and referring to it as you read the rest of this article. 


  • The leadership team of a manufacturing plant agreed that clarity was needed regarding roles, responsibilities and levels of authority.  I facilitated a meeting of this group to bring clarity in these areas.  The first thing we did was to identify the areas where clarity was needed.  This was done during a brainstorming session and the roles were identified and can be seen in the first column.  The actual list was much longer but I have shortened it for the purpose of just explaining the methodology.  I will explain the process using the first role which is handing an employee that refuses to do a job.  Facilitating the discussion the group agreed that the production supervisor (PS) had the primary responsibility for handling that situation. The next question was clarifying his level of authority.  You can see that it was a 4 and what that means is identified below the table.  The person that is ultimately responsible is identified in the next column and in this case is the plant manager (PM).  The last column indicates who should be communicated with regarding the situation and in this case it was the HR Manage (HR).


  • It is important to reach consensus on each decision made.  A goal should be to downward delegate as much as possible.  Decisions could be impacted by the experience and capability of the individual in the position.  Changes could be made through time as for example when a person has more experience.


Are you sure that roles responsibilities and levels of authority are clear in your organization?  How can you determine the answer to that?


Do you have job descriptions for all employees?


  • Almost all large organizations have job descriptions for their employees because they see the value.  However, most small organizations do not.  This is probably because they have never experienced using it and thus do not know how or see the potential benefit.  It is critical for everyone to have a clear understanding of expectations of them and a job description is one of those ways.  Employers cannot hold employees accountable if expectations are not clear.  I have talked with supervisors and listen to them complain about employee performance but when I ask to see documents describing expectations they frequently do not have them.  All organizations should have job descriptions for all employees.


  • Attached is a very simple model that can be used.  Other things could be in the template but I am trying to keep it simple to increase the likelihood that smaller organizations will use it.  I am sure that this template will not be of benefit to large businesses as they already have one that is as good or even more complete.


I suggest that you evaluate the tool and determine if it can be of value.  I suggest that you find one position and develop a job description for it.  Then discuss it with the person in the position.  I predict that what you identified as roles and responsibilities will not be exactly the same as what the employee thought.  Resolving these differences can be a very valuable activity.


Do your employees have appropriate goals?

I wrote in a recent blog article about the importance of having a job description.  That is the first step with ensuring clarification of expectations but it is at a high level and more details are needed.  A good means for doing that is to establish goals to accomplish.  Frequently the time period is for the coming year but they could be for any time period.

 The process for doing this is not complex.  Take each area of their responsibility and decide specifically what you want them to accomplish.  It is good to have as many as possible identified in a measurable way but it is not always possible to do so.  Below are some examples:


-Develop a new website by 11/15

-Develop a plan for better utilizing Social Media by 2/1


-Establish three new customers each month

-Increase sales for the year by 25%


-Conduct performance reviews for each of your people by 1/15

-Establish goals for all of your people by 2/1


-Reduce returns by 20% by 3/1

Personal development

-Propose a plan for development by 1/5


-Remodel and upgrade the offices by 7/1

Health and Safety

-No major violations on any OSHA inspections

-Reduce serious injury frequency by 20% in the coming year


There needs to be an agreement between the supervisor and the employee regarding the goals

Could your organization benefit from all employees identifying and focusing on the appropriate goals?


How good are you with providing performance feedback to your employees?

  • It is very important for employees to receive regular feedback regarding their performance.  This should come in a variety of ways.  Something most people do not do enough of is to give their people positive feedback when they do good work.  Just letting them know when you see them do good work is very rewarding to them and has a positive impact on their performance.  Also, when you see unsatisfactory work you should also let them know that you are not pleased.  If you find that the majority of your feedback is negative this could be a sign of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.  Examples could be that they are not in the right job, they have not been properly trained or expectations are not clear.  It is important to identify and address whatever the issue is because continuously complaining to an employee lowers their morale and reduces productivity with them and others.


  • Besides giving ongoing performance feedback to employees they also need to be given a formal performance review.  This is typically an annual event but should be more frequent for new employees and employees with significant performance problems.  Two things are required to do this properly.  The first is a need for a job description which describes expectations at a high level.  The second is to have specific goals that the person is to accomplish.  I have previously written blog articles describing both of these.  There are different phases to a performance review.  These are listed below with comments regarding each:


  1. Planning:
    • Feedback needs to be obtained from others that work with the person
    • A form needs to be filled out and a template that can be used is attached
  2. Conducting:
    • The actual review with the employee
    • Discuss performance in each area
    • Provide an overall rating
    • Discuss strengths and weaknesses
  3. Development plans
    • Develop a specific plan for addressing the areas where improved performance is needed.
    • Schedule and have follow-up sessions to ensure that the plan is being implemented.

I suggest trying this with one employee to evaluate its effectiveness.  If that is a positive experience then utilize it with others.