How to mobilise ‘coasters’

It is very critical to motivate and engage the unproductive and stagnant employees in your organisation to perform, for the long-term good of the organisation.

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The word ‘coaster’ literally means a small mat which is used to keep a bottle or a glass of water on a table. But here, the term is used as a metaphor for the employees who stagnate at work; workers who are gummed to organisations just like plants that do not bear any fruit. While the actual coasters or mats at least help to protect the surfaces of our tables, the under-performers and coasters in an organisation share a common characteristic— that of just lying in one place without serving any purpose whatsoever.

These unproductive employees can impact the organisations in many ways:

1. The quality of the service or product will go down.
2. The morale of high-performing employees will also dip, as nobody wants to work with a person who is not productive.
3. The workload increases for other employees because the work done by under-performers will have to be redone.
4. The relation between the boss and other employees will be affected as they will start questioning why the management chooses to ignore the under-performer(s).
5. Presence of non-performers will lead to a lot of time and money wastage.

While there may not be any immediate effect because of a non-performer, in the longer term it will do a lot of harm to the organisation. It will adversely impact the overall productivity of the company.

Smriti Handa

“ the individual should also have a fire in the belly to improve and work” 

 

Therefore, it is very critical for an organisation to identify these coasters and motivate them to perform and be productive for the betterment of the company.

How can organisations motivate non-performers?

There are many ways in which organisation can make their unproductive employees perform well for them.

According to Smriti Handa, head-HR, Philips Healthcare & Emerging Businesses, there are two reasons for a person’s non-performance — lack of capabilities and lack of motivation.

In the first case, organisations will have to provide learning platforms for the individual to build the skills required for the job.

If the person is attitudinally not motivated to do the work, then there can be two solutions—first from the side of the organisation, where the managers will have to take regular feedbacks from the person to improve the quality of work. A senior will have to be a role model and assert the seniority to push the non-performer in the positive direction.

The other solution lies in the individual’s perspective. The individual herself/himself should possess the desire to work and improve.

“I always tell my team that taking feedbacks is a gift. You can not just say that I gave you a task and you did not do it. You will have to know the reason for non-performance and then take measures accordingly,” says Handa.

She also adds, “On the other hand, the individual should also have a fire in the belly to improve and work.”

Alok Jha, EVP & CHRO, Datamatics Global Services, also emphasises on a regular feedback mechanism. Organisations generally practise giving appraisals once a year or once in six months.

Before doing anything else, companies need to formalise the strategy of motivating or making the person productive. For that, organisations can put the non-performing employees on a PIP (performance improvement plan) for three to six months. The managers can then be in-charge of the PIP and give regular reports of the developmental progress to the organisation.

As part of the PIP, employees can be given relevant training, coaching, and involved in interactions with the manager. They can also be paired up with high performers which can make an impact on the attitude of a non-performer.

Alok Jha

“We can assign extra work and responsibilities, which may be challenging for the person and make the individual put in extra effort, but here we have to be very careful because giving too many responsibilities may also backfire. So we have to increase the intensity of the work step by step to ensure better results”

He also adds that assigning extra responsibilities, following a step-by-step approach may also help make the employee productive.

“We can assign extra work and responsibilities, which may be challenging for the person and make the individual put in extra effort, but here we have to be very careful because giving too many responsibilities may also backfire. So we have to increase the intensity of the work step by step to ensure better results,” suggests Jha.

Sometimes the reason of unproductivity may also lie within the functioning of an organisation. As per a senior HR professional, it is better to eradicate the demotivating factors to get better results from the people. An HR or the organisation cannot do much to motivate anyone to produce better results but can strive to remove the de-motivating factors.

Two factors may demotivate a person— the first is the subjectivity in the organisation, that is, unfairness in giving rewards and recognition to the employees. The second factor may be having higher expectations from the person. The challenges or the work assigned to the person should align with the skills and capabilities they possess.

How much time should you spend on a non-performer?

Generally, the PIP lasts for three to six months, as organisations are wary of spending more time to improve a person. But the investment of time also depends on the availability of the skill in the market. According to Handa, if the person has digital skills which are not so easily available in the market, the organisation can afford to give more time to the person. But if the person is in sales which is directly linked to the profitability of the organisation, and which is also widely available in the market, then it is better to look for someone else who fits the role instead of spending too much time in training and improving.

“It should be a win-win situation for both sides. The investment of time can go up to even nine months according to the availability of skill in the market,” shares Handa.

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