Category Archives: Motivation

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When to Let Go of Poor Performers in the Workplace

Performance reviews have long been under-fire for practices of ranking individuals into top, middle, and bottom tiers. However, these tiers or other setups showing individuals who consistently perform under set standards can help your organization to improve and succeed. Traditionally, individuals who consistently underperform are simply let go, as they are either fired or do not receive contract renewal.

Modern HR practices typically require a much more human-friendly approach, where you should offer opportunities and tools to improve. Understanding these tools and approaches will help you to understand both how to improve performance and when to give up and let go of someone who simply is not responding to efforts.

Poor Response to Coaching

Coaching and mentoring can greatly improve performance for many. Here, leaders can simply step in to determine what’s gone wrong and why. This may result in the individual being moved to a more suitable team. It may result in their roles changing. It may result in them being pushed into personal development or training to improve specific factors.

Poor performance can result from myriad factors such as stress, poor home-life conditions, poor work-life balance, overwork, a bad manager, a poor fit with team, lack of crucial knowledge or skills, lack of motivation, and other factors. Coaching can help with any of these.

No matter what direction coaching takes, it’s important to monitor results. If someone fails immediately, it may be the fault of the coach. However, if the coach is good, there is a certain point when further investment is likely futile or no longer a good investment. Here, you should set a budget based on the cost of hiring and onboarding a replacement to the same or a higher level of performance and work within that.

No Interest in Development

Individuals who do not respond to or show interest in personal development cannot improve or change. This is important because most remediation efforts for poor performance eventually result in development. Individuals who lack skills for their current role have to be trained. Persons in a role that is changing outside of their ability to perform have to be trained. Individuals who can’t communicate well have to be trained as well.

If someone is not interested in learning and improving themselves, they cannot increase or improve performance. You can typically gauge this before development begins but should do so as it proceeds as well.

Lack of Personal Motivation

Personal motivation is the key to self-improvement and it is one (hard to measure) factor that will make or break the success of any initiative. Without motivation, an individual cannot respond to coaching, cannot push themselves through development, and will not be able to engage with or become passionate about work. You can take on several strategies to boost motivation through empowerment, stress reduction, training, and offering opportunities, but it is up to the individual to respond.

Like with coaching, motivation training should stop at a certain point when it becomes clear that the cost of doing so will exceed the cost of replacing the individual altogether.

Most people will train, develop themselves, and strive to do better when given the opportunity to do so in an understanding environment. People respond well to coaching, are able to make changes to their schedules and work methods and can learn new skills to improve performance. On the rare occasion that individuals do not respond to these methods or the cost of delivering them far outstrips the cost of hiring a new employee, you should let poor performers go.


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3 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement to Improve Productivity and Reduce Turnover

40 years ago, almost no one cared about metrics like “Employee engagement.” Today, most HR departments are painfully aware of the difference engagement can make. With research by the Korn Ferry Group showing that companies with engaged employees are up to 2.5 times more profitable than those without, most of us are right to be concerned.

At the same time, engagement offers room for improvement. Whether your organization already has a relatively engaged workforce or one that focuses on clocking out and going home, you can take steps to improve engagement and business results.

Importantly, employee engagement is never about perks, about specific rewards, or about one-time actions. Engagement only happens with consistent long-term results that drive change.

Link Vision and Strategy to Daily Work

Most people clock into work, perform an allotted number of tasks or work towards specific goals, clock out, and go home, all with no real idea of what they’ve contributed towards or achieved. This can be highly demotivating, especially over the long-term, where individuals often see no real change.

One important way around this type of demotivation is to ensure everyone always knows what they’re working towards. This means linking organizational vision and strategy (or big goals) into smaller goals, broken down into daily work. If everyone can easily see what their work is contributing towards and hopefully how close that goal is, they’ll be more motivated and therefore more engaged.

Empower Individuals and Teams to Own Their Projects

While traditional waterfall organizations don’t often support employee empowerment, doing so can greatly increase engagement. Here, you create cross-functional teams that can handle every aspect of a project they’re working on, assign ownership to that team, and allow people and teams to work towards results in a manner of their choosing. Doing so allows experts who know how to do their own work to optimize, take ownership, and engage with their work in new ways. What does ownership mean? One team will design strategy for, choose how to create, create, launch, and finalize any project. They’ll take full responsibility for its success or failure.

While this can create some risk in that everyone is not following the same standardized processes, you can implement with controls and general guidelines for processes in place to ensure everything is handled to the same (or better) level of quality than before. Why does offering ownership increase engagement? People get to be proud of what they’re working on, to improve it, and to work on it in their own way.

Encourage, Recognize, and Share Creativity and Passion

Not everyone in your organization will be creative, passionate, or engaged. But, when you do see these behaviors, it’s important to stop, recognize, and share them. Doing so can mean something as simple as having Scrum leaders stop to congratulate individuals on a job well done. It can mean improving performance scores. It can mean celebrating teams meeting new targets and goals.

Whatever you choose to do, it should involve specifically offering recognition when you see the traits you want to foster, encouraging them with open workspaces and flatter hierarchies, and creating space for individuals to fail and try again within those goals.

Teams are engaged when they have ownership, room to be creative, and space to communicate and share ideas effectively. If they know what they’re working on, why, and are responsible for the end-outcome, they have that much more motivation to engage with their work. Over time, this will improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction, both of which will cut down turnover and add to real business results.


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How to Follow Up on HR Assessments and Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a crucial element of most company cultures. At the same time, HR assessments and performance reviews are in the middle of a massive overhaul. Most organizations recognize that old-school performance reviews are more harmful than helpful and many offer little value, only demotivation.

While some of this demotivation surrounds the natural process of being tested and the possibility of being found wanting, most of it relates to what is tested, how, and why. Most organizations don’t have processes in place to actually use performance reviews for positive improvement. At the same time, these processes both add to the value of performance reviews and reduce the negative reactions surrounding them, because employees at every level get something back from their participation.

So here are a few ways to bridge the gap, and follow up on HR assessment discoveries and performance reviews (both good and bad).

Recognize Performance

“Old-school” performance appraisals force HR to categorize a certain percentage of employees into top/middle/bottom categories, with some offering more room for nuance. At the same time, it’s important to step back, look at performance holistically, and recognize where individuals have succeeded and have improved. Doing so will allow you to acknowledge individuals and offer positive feedback.

Understand Failure and Its Reasons

Most people don’t underperform for no reason at all. If individuals are performing poorly, it’s crucial to step back, look at their team, their role, their personality, and, when possible, family and personal life. Here, poor performance often relates to factors such as:

  • Poor role/team fit
  • Poor culture fit
  • High levels of personal or work-related stress
  • Poor management / aggressive management
  • High or low levels of responsibility (boredom/overwork)
  • Poor skill fit (under/over-qualified for a role)
  • Personal disagreements/conflict inside the team or with management
  • Lack of personal motivation

Each of these factors can take an otherwise highly effective and high-performing individual and dramatically reduce their performance. This will result in flagging performance, flagging quality, and changes to the individual’s personality and disposition. If you can identify a reason behind poor performance, especially when it extends to a team or group of people, you can work to improve that performance by correcting the problem.

Improving Role Fit

Some individuals do not fit into certain types of teams, management styles may not fit their work styles, or there may be an excessive amount of interpersonal conflict inside a team. Here, issues may stem from problems such as the individual is over/under-qualified for their role, the individual doesn’t get along with others in the team, or so on. Solving this issue can be complex, but typically relates to moving someone into a better fit, working to improve management styles for that team, or otherwise changing facets of the role or team to improve.

While your actions here can impact just the individual or the team as a whole, those decisions must depend on the performance and behavior of the rest of the team.

Offer Development

Many people struggle to adapt to change, new leadership styles, new tooling, new role responsibilities, and so on. Others are over-qualified for their role but don’t have the necessary skills or behaviors to move up. Recognizing this gives you the opportunity to offer development, so that anyone who is struggling in their role can learn the necessary skills to excel or to move on.

While these types of development initiatives can be costly and require that you conduct behavioral assessments and understand job profiles and individual teams, they will pay off in terms of improved performance, improved motivation, and a happier workforce.

Poor performance in the workplace is rarely as simple as employees who don’t care about their jobs, but it can be. If that is the case, your reaction to a poor performance review should be to increase motivation. In some cases, individuals will show no improvement and should eventually be let go or cut from a team, but the cases where they cannot improve and likely excel in a role where they struggled before is rare. Acting on these motivations and taking steps to improve role and culture fit for an individual will improve performance.


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