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Why employees fail at work

Employees can fail at work for many reasons. As an employer, make sure you’re not one of them.

In over 25 years in HR I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been approached by a manager with the words:

“Person X just isn’t working out”

The conversation after this statement usually heads down the path of the manager asking what we need to do to manage the person out of the business.

So why do employees fail at work…are there any common reasons? How about these?

  • Poor hiring decision: the individual lacks the necessary hard skills and/or soft skills to do the job. Soft skills includes not fitting in as a positive contributor to the team or workplace culture.
  • Lack of motivation: occasionally employees take jobs they don’t want out of necessity. When employees aren’t motivated to achieve, they often fail to meet the basic expectations of the employer.
  • Inadequate or outdated resources: failure is inevitable when the worker doesn’t have the right tools and equipment to do their job well.
  • Lack of training: employee performance is generally only as good as the training offered by their employer. If training is non-existent (particularly during the onboarding period) it’s unfair to expect the employee to succeed.
  • Lack of organisational direction: workers may not fully understand what’s expected of them when they are not provided accurate or consistent information on the company’s overall goals and objectives.
  • Personal matters: personal or family illness, or other personal problems, can distract employees and prevent them from reaching their professional potential.
  • The manager factor: research strongly suggests that managers are often the reason for the lack of success of their subordinates. The “set up to fail syndrome” describes a dynamic in which employees perceived to be mediocre or weak performers live down to the low expectations their managers have for them.

When you identify a worker who’s “just not working out”, should you show them the door? Depends on the situation and what factors you’ve considered before making the termination decision.

In a survey of over 1500 HR professionals from Australia and New Zealand, ELMO Software, in partnership with the Australian HR Institute, found that the cost to hire an employee more than doubled in 2021, rising from $10,500 in 2020 to $23,860 per worker. And if the person has been a high performer, the cost can be even more. Replacing high-potential talent can cost a business two to three times the outgoing worker’s annual salary, analysis from The Dream Collective, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy, shows.

On replacement costs alone, it’s worth taking some time to considering your options before commencing the process of managing a person out of your business. My tip? Before you apply a solution to an issue, you should first determine you understand the problem in need of fixing. Why not start with identifying any core reasons behind the person’s “failure”? It might be that they are not failing; you are.

No employee wants to perform poorly in their job…we all want to be proud of our achievements and succeed at work. Success provides confidence, security, a sense of well-being and of being part of something. And most of us want a tick in those boxes. 

Understanding the core reasons why employees fail at work is the first step toward offering solutions to help them succeed. When your people know you have their backs through not only good times but the tough ones, you’ll see improvements across productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention and engagement. Your time invested will result in a workplace with the reputation that sets its people up for success, not failure…and you cannot put a dollar value on that. 

Like to know more about setting your people up for success? It’s often easier than you think. And it’s often not about spending more money. Check out our Employee Engagement & Retention page…if you like what you read, why not give us a call?

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  • Bare Bones Consulting

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