Monday, February 23, 2009

Dealing with a sudden drop in performance

As the economy continues to hurt business and diminish our 401(k)s, new research is showing that it’s also pulling employee engagement down with it.

In a national survey of U.S. companies by Quantum Workplace, 66% of firms saw decreases in employee engagement between 2007 and 2008.

“By an almost two-to-one margin (134 to 76), more employers had lower overall employee engagement scores in the fall of 2008 than in the fall of 2007. This result is out of the ordinary from our trends for the last five years, and strongly suggests that external circumstances regarding the economy may well be influencing employees' attitudes about their jobs and workplaces," said Greg Harris, president of Quantum Workplace.

The survey measured employee engagement by “the ability and willingness of individuals to exert extra effort for the benefit of the company, their tendency to speak highly of the organization and their intent to stay," according to Harris.

Engaged employees won’t make the recession disappear, but they are one of your most effective tools for pulling through it with more success than you would otherwise.

Workplace studies continually show that engaged employees perform significantly higher than those not engaged in their work. Businesses with an engaged workforce will typically have increased service and customer loyalty, better individual employee performance and reduced costs including safety, absenteeism and lost productivity.

Whether it’s due to the economy, a child’s health issue or dealing with a bully in the workplace, managers need to know how to spot when an employee is in trouble and what they should do to help.

It starts with a conversation

Training managers and supervisors on how to address a sudden drop in employee performance in a previously high-performing staff member starts with a lesson in communication.

Rather than making assumptions or taking an accusatory stance, supervisors should start with a conversation. Explain to the employee that you’ve noticed a drop in their performance and ask if it’s because of something that is going on at the office or at home.

Once you get down to the root of it, you’ll be in a better position to help the employee with their problem and eventually improve their performance. With that knowledge, supervisors can then help employees find the support they need.

We’ve been conducting our own research on employee performance and need your help. Please answer this simple, one-question poll on LinkedIn: How do you handle a sudden drop in a star employee's performance?

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