As managers and business owners at some point in our careers we have come across late bloomers who have difficulties grasping the role they’ve been hired for.

These employees are typically those you assign an hour's worth of work only to find a few days later they are still yet to complete the task at hand.

As a manager running a business within a fast paced environment with time pressures, this type of employee can be quite frustrating. Slow employees can add pressure to both yourself and the rest of the team as everyone is forced to continuously jump in and pick up the slack.

If slow employees are generally underperforming and not working out in the role, then the best answer may be to simply performance manage them out of the business. But often, these employees display all the skills, competencies and attitude for the job but are just taking way too long to complete tasks.

So what to do?

Here are 6 strategies for getting slow employees to meet deadlines:

1. Investigate Why.

First step, like any performance issue is to make sure you address the issue, formally, as soon as possible. Sit the employee down privately and explain that you have noticed the speed with which they are completing tasks simply isn't up to par.

Make sure you provide specific examples of tasks including how long they took for the employee to complete verses your exceptions. This will help the employee in question understand a specific example and will hopefully open up broader conversation.

The next step is to try and uncover the core reasons why the employee is developing later than usual. Is it because they lack confidence? Require further coaching? or Are too detailed oriented? Try and find out the root cause.

2. Set Clear Deadlines and KPIs.

The next step is to ensure future tasks are clear and a deadline is set that is reasonable. Don’t immediately set timeframes that reflect your fastest employee or are are unrealistic as this can demotivate any major changes.

Instead, set realistic deadlines that give the employee the chance to show improvement and then continuously, recognise these improvements and then ask for them to work even faster next time.

3. Limit Distractions.

Employees who feel overwhelmed may end up accomplishing very little, but if you feed them tasks a few at a time, they may be able to produce valuable work. Understand how your employees manage several tasks and how they are able to prioritise these tasks. For example your employee may get sidetracked with emails as opposed to preparing a client meeting for the day.

4. Reduce Multi-Tasking.

Multi-tasking is one of those myths. Even the most experienced employees will find that trying to multitask is in reality really bad for productivity as our brains are not designed to constantly jump between priorities and we are better of focusing on one thing at a time.

If you have an employee that you're trying to coach to increase their productivity, eliminating any requirements to multi-task is likely to assist.

Allow staff to prioritise tasks and ensure you check-in with them to see how they went with completing each task. This will eliminate staff getting too overwhelmed with their tasks and focus on each task as they come.

5. Review Responsibilities.

Perhaps one major reason an employee is not performing tasks at the speed needed is that you may be asking them to stretch too much and complete tasks for which they lack either confidence and or experience.

6. Coaching.

A good suggestion is to review the overall set of responsibilities of these employees and try and start with smaller, less complex tasks with clear timeframes for completion and then, gradually add more complex responsibilities as deadlines are met.

Slow employees can be quite frustrating for employers, I get it. But rather than let your annoyance bottle up (and likely explode in an unhealthy way down the track), follow these tips to see if you can help the employee improve step by step.

Simon Ingleson
CEO RosterElf
Magically Simple Staff Rostering