How To Stop Your Employees ‘Coasting’ At Work

Managers tend to be well practised at recognising employees who are failing to meet their performance targets and staff who are excelling at work; but what about those in the middle? The employees who are just doing enough to get by so their adequate performance isn’t picked up? According to a recent poll, one in three (32%) people in the UK say they are ‘coasting’ at work.

Warning signs of ‘coasters’ include poor interaction with colleagues, failure to participate in discussions, and a negative attitude, including appearing bored and unengaged with business initiatives.

Not taking action to stop employees coasting can have a negative impact on the rest of the team; after all, what is the point of some putting in extra effort if this is not required by other team members? The employee may also leave after a short tenure because they feel bored, disengaged and unmotivated during the working day. So what can managers do to stop employees ‘coasting’ at work?

First, it is important to recognise that coasting employees may have an underlying issue causing their ‘just enough’ commitment to work. Whether the issue is work-related or personal, this can have a significant impact on how the employee performs during working time. Managers can act proactively here; have a quick, informal talk with the employee and ask if they have any concerns. This may reveal that the employee doesn’t feel confident with a particular system or they misunderstand a procedure. If so, positive action can be taken to address this such as training. Alternatively, where personal issues are affecting the employee, managers can highlight the support available for the employee such as the availability of an employee assistance programme (EAP).

Employees may coast where they lack motivation and interest in their role with many contributing factors such as being in the same role for a long period of time. You can assess whether your employees are being challenged and developed in their working life, from both a professional and personal viewpoint. Ask employees whether they wish to undertake training opportunities or if they would like to work towards a different or higher role within the business. Employees who feel they are benefitting and developing from their employment are likely to put more effort into their role. A challenge can also spark a higher effort, with initiatives such as daily or weekly incentives spurring employees into action by awakening their competitive spirit.

You can also assess whether your internal business practices encourage continual effort from employees, or whether they allow a performance dip. Are employees set challenging-yet-realistic targets and objectives that encourage a positive work ethic? Do staff understand when reviews for performance and salary will take place during the year, and are these regular enough to require high performance across the entire review period? Even without formal reviews, are informal periodic meetings held with team members to talk through their work achievements? Small adjustments to your working practices can help encourage a higher work rate from all employees.

As well as focusing on the individual employee, you can review how effective your management team are at encouraging extra effort from their teams. In fact, your culture of coasting may have been inherited from your management team, so it is important to ensure managers are not just getting by. To instil a positive culture, managers need to be encouraging, enthusiastic and constructive to keep their team members engaged at work. Recognising achievements on both an individual and team basis will also help employees feel valued for their effort and encourage continued active engagement.

Peter Done is Group Managing Director and founder of business services specialist Peninsula Group.


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