5 Ways to Turn Unproductive Employees Into Superstars

Staff turnover costs time and money you might not have. Here's how to make the best of a lackluster team and re-energize them in the process.
5 Ways to Turn Unproductive Employees Into Superstars
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So you've got yourself a handful of employees who just aren’t getting the job done -- or maybe they aren’t getting it done fast enough. You could cut bait and fire them, but you’ve come to learn the time and effort required to train the next group of employees is significant. You're willing to figure out a way to work with what you’ve got (at least for now). 

Related: 4 Ways to Contain HR Costs Without Impacting the Employee Experience

A little more bad news, first: It's quite possible these employees never will be motivated to do the job. On the other hand, there's some built-in exciting news, too: There might just be a way to re-engage your people with your mission.

Here are five simple strategies to turn your unproductive employees into company superstars. 

1. Clarify your definition of 'productive.'

Do your employees even know what you consider productive? Let’s say they’ve been pushing out inventory to the tune of 10,000 widgets a month because that’s how it’s always been. You want them pushing out 20,000 per month. When was the last time you defined productive for them? Of all five strategies, this one’s the easiest fix.

2. Create competition.

Creating a sense of competition among team members or departments is another simple strategy to increase productivity. Sometimes when you drive people through these means, their inner athletes come out. They increase performance purely because they want to win.

Related: 4 Innovative Ways to Motivate Your Team

3. Ask how you can help.

Perhaps there’s a good reason your employees aren't meeting your standards. Maybe a team member is driving down morale or a systems issue is slowing down the process. Ask your team members what changes they'd like to see. If you can realistically implement even one or two suggestions, you could boost productivity across the entire team.

Related: Motivating the Negative Nancy on Your Team

4. Give them a reputation to live up to.

Dale Carnegie’s famous book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" discusses the theory of “giving a dog a good name.” It basically works as follows: Tell your unproductive team members you're so excited to watch them blow productivity through the roof.

“I know there are some people who think you will never get 20,000 units out the door this month, but I know they're wrong," you might say. "I know there’s nobody more qualified to pull this off than you!” Label your employees with a reputation of high productivity, and there’s a good chance they will live up to it.

Related: 6 Things Effective Leaders Should Do to Motivate Their Teams

5. Incentivize the results you want to see.

Money talks. But so does food, entertainment, alcohol, gifts, and more. If you need your team to increase productivity -- pronto -- give them an incentive along with the goal you want them to work toward. Make sure you give that reward publicly and as soon as possible after the milestone is reached. 

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