For every hundred men hacking away at the branches of a diseased tree, only one will stoop to inspect the roots. – Chinese proverb.
Are individual members of your team performing less well than you'd hoped? If so, this proverb can take on great significance. To figure out what's causing the performance issue, you have to get to the root of the problem.
But because employee performance affects organizational performance, we tend to want to look for a quick fix. Would a training course help Ted? Or should you move him into a different role?
These types of solutions focus largely on the ability of the person performing the job. Performance, though, is a function of both ability and motivation.
Someone with 100 percent motivation and 75 performance ability can often achieve above-average performance. But a worker with only 25 percent ability won't be able to achieve the type of performance you expect, regardless of his or her level of motivation.
This is why recruitment and job matching are such critical parts of performance management. Be sure to assess ability properly during the selection process. Minor deficiencies can certainly be improved through training – however, most organizations don't have the time or resources needed to remedy significant gaps.
So, before you can fix poor performance, you have to understand its cause. Does it come from lack of ability or low motivation?
Incorrect diagnoses can lead to lots of problems later on. If you believe an employee is not making enough of an effort, you'll likely put increased pressure on him or her to perform. But if the real issue is ability, then increased pressure may only make the problem worse.
Low ability may be associated with the following:
"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
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