Many of you will have to someday reinvigorate a fallen star in your business — that is, an employee who was once a high performer, but who for a number of reasons has become an underperformer, disengaged, and on the verge of becoming an expensive turnover statistic.
In many situations, the employee’s departure may be unavoidable or even desirable, but in other circumstances you can get a better return by reinvigorating the employee, rather than allowing them to exit. For example, a survey reported on by CBS Money News suggests that the cost of losing and replacing an executive can be up to 213 percent of salary their. Other studies have found that imported talent often performs worse than internally recruited talent – and so, the case for reinvigorating fallen stars is very strong.
It takes motivation, guile, and know-how to reinvigorate a fallen star. Here are the four key steps to help you to do this.
1. Understand the Grass Is Not Necessarily Greener
Understand that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side: studies show that you may get a better return if you can reinvigorate an existing employee, rather than hiring a new employee from outside. It is, admittedly, a gamble in both instances, but the odds are better with an internal employee.
2. Confront the Issue
If your performance appraisals show issues with a specific employee, you’ll need to confront them directly. The problem will not go away on its own. Establish what the reasons are for the employee’s disengagement and poor performance. Is it due to one big issue that can be addressed, or is it an accumulation of several contributory factors? Do they feel underappreciated or undervalued? Are they bored? Is there not enough variety, interest, or challenge in their role? Are they disengaged or demotivated? Do they lack autonomy, mastery, or purpose?
Often there is a clear cause for underperformance and demotivation. For example, a DDI study found that sales ability and persuasiveness decline as motivation wanes. You’ll need to develop a support plan to help address each of these issues.
3. Draw a Line in the Sand
After identifying the causes of the underperformance, you still need to address the underperformance itself. The process of exposing performance issues can be painful, and it may push the employee further away from the organization. Make sure that you draw a line in the sand and show employees the way forward. Don’t leave them in limbo.
You can do this by clearly detailing the performance issues from the past and showing them the opportunities going forward — as long as they can reach some performance improvement objectives. These goals should be documented and carry deadlines. Also, outline the remedial changes that you will make going forward to address the causes of the employee’s deteriorating performance.
4. Getting Back to Square One Is Not Inspiring Enough; Let Them Reach for the Stars
The prospect of simply getting back to square one may not be the most powerful motivator for an underperformer. As part of their plan, give them the chance to get to square two or three. Allow them to take on more responsibilities, or change their remit should they get back to square one. Give them a vision for the future, so they can look round the corner before they turn it. This vision into the future will be another powerful motivator.
In my experience, going through these four key steps is one of the most effective ways to turn around poor performers and reinvigorate fallen superstars.