5 Steps to Managing Employees Who Can’t Meet Deadlines

We’ve all had them, the employee who just never seems to meet the timeframes that we give them and managing employees who cannot meet deadlines can be very frustrating and exhausting. Everyone is busy and chasing down an underperforming employee is not a good use of anyone’s time. So what are some things you can do?

5 Steps to Managing Employees Who Can’t Meet Deadlines

1. Set Expectations and Communicate Clearly

The first step is setting clear expectations that the employee not only understands but is involved in setting the deadline. When I give an employee a directive, I ask them “when do you think you can reasonably accomplish this task… ” and I hold them to it. This approach allows the employee the opportunity to think through what needs to be done and how long it would reasonably take them to complete the directive. I’ve found that when they are involved in deciding when the task can be completed it puts the burden of completion on them and takes away the perception of unrealistic expectations from the manager. Whether it’s writing annual employee goals or simply asking an employee to complete a special project, it is always good to get them involved in the process of establishing deadlines.

2. Monitor Performance

One mistake a lot of managers make is not following up with employees about completing assigned tasks. It is a manager’s responsibility to be constantly checking on employees, not in a micromanagement way, but to ensure that the employee has the resources they need and doesn’t have any barriers to completing their goals. Oftentimes, goals or tasks are dependent on other people or departments and a good manager is there to help employees navigate through those sometime political landmines. For example, if an employee has a goal to do an audit and create a report on supply costs and the accounting department is not providing them with the information they need to do the report, this could affect the employee’s ability to complete the audit by the deadline.

3. Note Conversations

It is important to make a note of any conversation you have with an employee that gives instruction, clarification or reminders. It is easy to forget some of those day-to-day discussions that we have with employees but it is invaluable to have a file with those conversations as a reminder for those rare occasions when an employee “doesn’t remember” specific directives. They are also helpful at performance appraisal time when assessing performance.

4. Create Performance Management Process

Whether your organization employs three people or three hundred, it is important to have a structured performance management process that incorporates annual organizational goals and raises that are tied to performance. Employees need to understand how what they do supports organizational strategy and should be rewarded for getting the job done. Taking the time once a year to write goals, communicate expectations and hold employees accountable is how successful organizations achieve objectives.

5. Tie Pay to Performance

While research suggests that pay isn’t the biggest motivator for employees, it sure helps. When there is a structured process to tie performance appraisal scores to merit increases, employees are more motivated to meet deadlines and get things done. It is also a great incentive when better performing employees understand that they received a bigger piece of the raise budget. But more importantly, underperforming employees should also understand that they received less because they didn’t accomplish assigned tasks and meet deadlines.

Supervising employees is what managers are paid to do and when done in a systematic way can help to influence employee performance. Creating a structured process for setting expectations and monitoring employees can be a great way to help them get those things done that more the organization forward.

How do you handle employees who don’t meet deadlines?

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