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Dealing with Employee Performance Problems

The right way to address employees who fall short of expectations includes counseling and coaching them back to success.

Most fitness facility operators are realistic enough to know that it is not possible to eliminate all mistakes committed by their employees. However, there is evidence that suggests making certain behavioral and performance mistakes can lead to growth. In reality, most managers don't look at mistakes in this way. Instead, they view mistakes as occurrences that must be eliminated, and which have consequences that must be dealt with. In fact, fitness center operators should counsel and coach their employees so they can learn from their mistakes.

An opportunity to empower

Even the best employees will occasionally miss a desired and expected performance outcome. When this situation occurs, managers have a responsibility to quickly identify the outcome shortfall, and provide the appropriate counseling and coaching so the shortfall is not repeated.

Employee performance refers to measurable outcomes, such as achieving budget targets, completing a specific assignment or reaching an agreed-to performance target. When an employee fails to achieve a performance outcome, managers should see it not as just a shortfall, but also as an opportunity to further develop the employee, and create an environment in which that employee is further empowered to achieve performance goals. When an employee's performance falls short, the following steps should be taken:

Catch the shortfall early. The first step managers should do when a performance shortfall occurs is to set up a personal meeting with the employee. Don't let performance shortfalls linger. Too often, managers allow excuses when an employee misses a goal or performance outcome. Instead, when you become aware that employees are not achieving their performance outcomes, make it a habit to counsel and coach them immediately.

Don't make it a public affair. Never embarrass employees by sharing their performance shortfalls with other employees. Individual performance shortfalls should be dealt with on a personal level, and always done behind closed doors.

Focus on the performance, not the person. Employees should never be personally attacked for their performance shortfalls.

Remain true to the action plan. Counseling and coaching require that both the employee and management are held accountable for the outcome of the action plan. If an employee fails because management did not do their part, then the employee should not suffer the consequences of failure. Concurrently, if the employee fails and management has done its part, then the employee must be held accountable for the consequences agreed to during counseling and coaching.

Celebrate success. Once employees have successfully turned their performance around, recognize their achievement.

If these steps are taken with each employee who fails to achieve a desired performance outcome, the likelihood of additional performance shortfalls is lessened considerably. The end result of this process is employees who take greater ownership for their performance.

The true strength of an organization is in the ability of all employees to do their jobs capably, responsibly and reliably. Fitness center employees who don't perform up to the reasonable expectations of management need to be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. By the same token, staff members also need to be provided with a roadmap for change by management - one that features direction, discipline and an appropriate sense of duty.

Counseling and coaching

Once a meeting has been set up, make sure you have all the facts pertaining to the performance shortfall. Furthermore, have the employee's job model and performance objectives, because these items provide the appropriate benchmarks for the desired performance expectations. In the meeting, start with positive recognition, and clarify the purpose of the meeting. Identify the performance expectation and the outcome, and discuss the variance between expectations and actual performance. It is crucial that the employee validates his or her awareness of the performance shortfall, and makes a commitment to change. Then, develop an action plan for change, and have the employee commit to it. Agree to an outcome for both failure and success, and provide a copy of the plan to the employee. Set a follow-up appointment to review the results of the meeting, offer support and hold everyone accountable.
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