Managing the Marginal Performer

Written by: Cormac McGrane | Posted on: | Category:

What is a Marginal Performer?

A marginal performer is an employee, at any level of the organisation, who fails to meet the expectations of their role. Marginal performers are generally carried by the organisation because their replacement cost and effort is regarded as too much trouble to go through.

Marginal performers tend to have a negative impact on those around them and can reduce the performance of your stronger employees. So, to protect the organisation, it is always worth investing in your marginal performers, if you are not prepared to replace them.

Performance failures tend to fall into two or three of the following categories. Skills and Knowledge. Such issues are often resolved through further training and mentoring. Behaviour and Conduct. This area is most often dealt with through coaching and mentoring. Ability and Aptitude. Does this individual have the mental capacity to function in this role?

All three are connected; for example, an individual with lower ability and aptitude rating may struggle to accumulate the knowledge and understanding needed to take control of their role. An individual who has a skill deficiency may become defensive and react negatively to criticism, no matter how constructive and well-intentioned.

Many of these issues are avoided through the use of structured assessment during the selection process. Behavioural Assessment tools can help identify the behavioural requirements of the job and the potential of the candidate. Ability and Skills Tests can often identify weaknesses in the other two areas.

However, such tools and assessment techniques can also have a role to play when an individual has unfortunately slipped through any gaps in the selection process and whose development needs have now become apparent. Or perhaps, organisational needs required an individual with an incomplete skillset to fill an emergency role on a temporary basis.

Post-Hire or Post-Promotion Assessment can help quickly identify these areas and can help the HR Team or Line Manager to assess their options.

  1. Continue without intervention and allow the individual to discover and overcome their challenges unaided.
  2. Use a structured intervention to address the individual's specific developmental needs.
  3. Take action to remove the individual from the situation.
  4. Take disciplinary action.

360 Degree Feedback is another option that can add more clarity to a performance-related issue. It adds further cost and is typically reserved for more senior positions or mission-critical roles.

Where an action is to be taken, The McQuaig System offers you a number of intervention routes.

The McQuaig Job Survey may be administered to a selection of individual's who are familiar with the role. These Job Survey Profiles may then be compared to the poor performer's Word Survey Profile to identify potential gaps and limitations. This option may offer a route to training or coaching for improved performance.

The poor performer's Word Survey Self-Development Report may be run to provide structure and guidance for any coaching intervention or to provide useful feedback to the poor performer directly.

The McQuaig System Tools can also be used to provide guidance to the individual's line manager. Sections of the Word Survey such as Management Overview, Strategies for Coaching and Developing, Motivation Factors and Developmental Learning Style may all have a role to play. Assessment is for so much more than just recruitment.


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