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Why It’s Important to Focus on Both High and Low-Performing Employees

In any business or organization, there are naturally some people who perform better than others. This could be for a multitude of different reasons. Some you will have control over, some you won’t. What you can control is how you manage both your high-performing employees and your low-performing employees.

How does your organization focus on or identify those high-performing employees? Do you focus solely on them, and if so, does that mean there is an imbalance in the organization?

It might seem like a no-brainer to spend more time and effort on high-performing workers. Many companies will have programs specifically in place to help elevate these people to senior positions. For example, there are often programs to take managers to director level.

However, a common mistake that organizations make is putting their whole focus on their high-performing workers. This means that most of the workforce is left without the support they need to succeed in their roles.

That’s what Matthew Brown talks about in this episode of The Learning Xchange podcast. Matthew, Schoox’s VP of Learning and Brand Success, shares his thoughts on supporting lower-performing members of staff to help them become more engaged.

Listen to the podcast below or keep reading.

The problem with focusing only on high performers

Focusing only on high-performing employees, those who surpass expectations, comes with some problems attached. For one, you’re not getting the most out of a big majority of your workforce. These people are known as the “steady contributors.”

Steady contributors are people who get the job done but perhaps don’t wow the managers. They may not have your attention as much as the high performers, but they make up around 70-80% of your workforce. Ignoring them could mean you miss out on the opportunity to turn them into high performers.

On top of that, you may have around 10% of the workforce you consider low performers. It’s important to assess why people may not be performing as well as expected or hoped. Some may be disengaged from the job, unhappy, or have other personal issues going on. Any good leader will want to get to the bottom of why people are underperforming. The worst thing you can do is simply ignore them.

In a lot of cases, underperforming staff are simply lacking support. This leads people to mentally “check out” of a job. So, what can you do? Every person matters in an organization. Everyone needs development, focus, and support to help them perform the job to the best of their ability.

What we can do to help low-performing employees

There are a few things you can do to better support employees. The main thing that needs to improve is communication, which goes for almost every organization out there.

You could design a program for the whole organization that allows people to share their career goals and aspirations. However, implementing a program isn’t the only thing you should do. You also need to create a safe working environment where people feel comfortable to express their opinions.

Many employees do not feel safe or free to talk because they fear the consequences or the perception of others.

They may wonder, “what happens if I tell them how I really feel? Will I look weak? Will I get fired?”

Giving people a safe space to talk about their own aspirations and goals could help them feel much more engaged. By working closely with the steady contributors and low performers, you can start turning them into higher-performing and happier employees.

How do you identify high performers?

What makes someone high-performing? How do you identify them?

Take some time to sit down and think carefully. Is it a gut feeling, their job role, skillset, or managerial style? Are they simply more efficient or experienced than others? Try to pinpoint the specifics.

Often, when organizations identify high performers, it’s rarely done in a data-driven way. It is sometimes a gut feeling or because they get along so well with the managers.

The problem with not being specific is that it’s not scalable. In other words, it’s harder to apply a method or winning formula to other workers. Without a clear way to identify high performers, it’s hard to know what steps to take to bring everyone up to the same level.

Ask yourself, what makes them so good at their job? Is it a particular skillset? Great, training might be the way forward for the organization. Alternatively, it could be a combination of skills or experience that you can work on.

Homing in on the specifics will empower you to make better choices for your team overall. Once you understand how people perform differently, especially in the same role, you can implement real changes to benefit everyone. With more focus, understanding, and support, you can improve your team’s morale, productivity, and performance across the board.

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