8 January 2016
3 min read
Successful business growth depends on hiring and nurturing the right people. But can you spot the signs that your staff are struggling – and what should you do about it?
Check in regularly
Spotting those who are struggling can be tricky. “We all play the ‘everything’s fine, thanks’ game,” says M&C Saatchi’s head of talent, Claire Croft.
“Working long hours is the norm and the pressures affect us all at some point. Many people are so fearful of flagging that they’re flagging.”
Ms Croft says it’s crucial to check in with staff regularly and give them good and bad feedback as well as making sure they know what’s expected of them and, “most importantly, that I’ve got their back”.
Listen, but be tough
Paul Frampton is the global managing director of Havas Media Group. He says: “One way to identify if an employee is struggling or not is to confirm that he or she understands your brief. Don’t continue until you and the employee are both perfectly clear.
"When dealing with a performance issue, emotional intelligence is a key attribute in seeking to understand why the member of staff is struggling."
“Reserve judgment until you’ve listened to their answers” Paul Frampton, Havas Media Group MD
"There is a need for leaders to be humble and authentic while having tough conversations. I'm a big believer in balance – ‘tough empathy’ is possible – listen and appreciate problems, but ensure that tough messages that need to be delivered are sent.”
Ensure your HR team is visible all the time, not just popping up to resolve a problem. Becs Wells, head of talent at events discovery app YPlan, says: “If someone’s struggling, it shouldn’t come as a surprise at a half-yearly review, or when an important deadline is missed.
"YPlan’s tech teams have daily stand-ups to share what they’re working on that day and everything they did or didn’t achieve the day before. Product managers in every project team identify any challenges, where there might be disengagement, fear of failure or failure to deliver.
"An open dialogue within teams about their work catches problems early so everyone can be properly supported.”
Know the warning signs
Signs that staff are struggling manifest themselves in performance and behaviour, says Suzanne Ross, senior lecturer at Nottingham Business School and owner of 2thrive consultancy.
As an organisation grows, staff need to develop new skills, collaborate more and engage with changes going on in the organisation. This can leave staff feeling out of their depth.
Ms Ross says that the signs to look out for include “increased inefficiency, procrastinating and returning to comfort zones”.
She adds: “Staff may start to isolate themselves as their confidence in their contribution decreases. More extrovert personalities may become more vocal about their overall dissatisfaction.”
Get to know them in the first place
Lucy Whitehall, well-being consultant at the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA), says: “We know from recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research that the reason most people leave their jobs is not pay or the job itself, but their relationship, or rather lack of relationship, with their line manager.”
“Take the time to get to know your staff properly from the outset. This way you can spot the warning signs quickly – and before it’s too late.”Lucy Whitehall, Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA)
A manager should consider what motivates their team in and out of work, says Ms Whitehall. “Do they share details about their family, friends and out-of-work interests? How do they respond to pressure? Do they take well to feedback?”
She adds: “Don’t forget that people are more invested in solutions they arrive at themselves, because this generates a sense of ownership and engagement. Ask the employee how they see the outcome and what steps they feel are necessary to get there. Resist the temptation to jump straight in with your opinions.”