How to Speed Up Slow Workers

A Slow Work Pace Can Be a Huge Problem For Your Business

A slow work pace can be among the most difficult problems to resolve unless you have standards or goals against which to compare actual performance. For most nonprofessional positions, you can create standards or minimum quantitative measures of output.

For example, warehouse workers may be expected to pack so many orders every day. Data entry people may be expected to process so many entries each day. Salespeople may be expected to make so many calls to new accounts, make so many face-to-face contacts, or close so many dollars in revenue each day.

The work of professional employees, on the other hand, generally does not lend itself to quantitative performance standards. However, you can usually set specific time goals for when you expect projects to be completed.

Set Up Relevant Performance Goals

For example, you may expect an accountant to accomplish month-end book closings within a three-day period at the end of each month. You may expect a software engineer to write a particular program within two weeks. You may expect a graphic designer to design and lay out a specific small catalog within a three-week timeframe.

If an employee doesn’t measure up to a preset or measurable goal, the next step is a closed-door meeting with the employee. During this meeting, in an encouraging manner, present the facts in as simple a fashion as possible.

For example, you might say, “You are packing ninety-three orders, per average day, whereas our standard is one hundred thirty-five. How do you think you can increase your output?” Or, “Together, we set a timeframe of three days at month’s end in which to close our monthly accounting books. It is typically taking four. Is there some way in which we can work toward the original goal?”

Be Positive To Boost Employees’ Performance

If you are pleasant and encouraging, the employee will probably say something like, “Gee, I thought I was working at a pretty good pace, but I am confident that I can work at a little faster clip.” In this case, say, “This sounds great. I’m glad to hear it!” Then, follow up and make sure the employee knows exactly where he or she stands at the end of each day.

Chances are, such employees will reach a higher performance level. If not, have them monitor themselves and record their progress every hour or day, as may seem applicable to the task. Consider having peers work with them and help them along. Or consider having the employee make progress reports to you at various intervals.

Be Firm With Slow Workers When Discussing Performance Goals

Sometimes an employee will tell you during your first meeting or during subsequent meetings that the standards or goals that have been set are not realistic, fair, or possible. In this case, you need to firmly tell the employee that it is essential that she meet the company’s performance standards. You could even offer further evidence that the standards are achievable, such as noting that other people are successfully meeting or exceeding the standards.

If the employee still stubbornly reiterates that the standards are unreasonable, you should consider issuing a written warning after the meeting and be ready to terminate her employment unless her attitude and performance improve quickly. Or unless you think she could perform better at another job at your company.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Most hourly jobs should have minimum quantitative standards.
  • Professional positions can usually have specific timeframes for goals.
  • You can usually improve the pace of slow workers, but it might take some effort.

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.

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