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3 Strategies to Making a Mediocre Employee More Effective

By Jimmie Flores Subscribe to RSS | August 6th 2012 | Views:

Many employees are mediocre. When they arrive at work, they do just enough to stay under the radar. These average employees have little interest in any work beyond what is explicitly stated in their job description. They are also aware that additional assignments lead to more risk, and this could result in low marks on their performance appraisals.

Here are typical comments made by mediocre employees:

• “I do my work. That’s right! My work! Nothing else!”

• “Today is just Monday! This week is going to take forever.”

• “No one really cares what I do around here. I don’t even care if I receive a bonus.”

The majority of employees fall into the mediocre category. We must do whatever possible to challenge them, motivating them to increase their productivity. In short, we want to make some of them top performers.

Here are three strategies to motivating mediocre employees:

#1: Determine what motivates them to do good work.

Every employee has a different reason to excel. While some will work harder when provided a financial initiative, others are more interested in a work / life balance. Psychologist Frederick Herzberg suggested that true motivators include achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, promotion, and growth. He noted that Hygiene Factors (such as pay and benefits) were less likely to motivate employees over the long-term.

Take the time to learn more about your employees. By having lunch with your staff once or twice per month, you can learn the key motivators. These get-togethers also provide you with the opportunity to identify potential individuals who are ready to make the move up the ladder.

#2: Select attainable goals.

The vast majority of employees want to succeed. As the leader of your department, you must identify goals for your employees. When creating goals, use the SMART approach: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. At first, the goals should be easy to accomplish. As the employees improve their skills and confidence, you can add stretch goals.

Many mediocre employees are looking for someone to believe in them. Once you show that you are banking on them to do good work, they will respond favorably. It’s important that you are genuine in your approach. Let them know that their work is important, and make them accountable.

#3: Support them in their career development.

Identifying and training mediocre employees is only the beginning. Once these individuals are in the program, you must help them find even more challenging opportunities. They may not all be interested in management positions, and that’s fine. However, they can become subject matter experts (SMEs), and serve as mentors for other employees.

You can expect a higher level of commitment and loyalty when making others responsible. Reinforce the importance of the work they do, and explain how the deliverables benefit the organization. It’s important to use metrics when measuring performance, such as an increase in sales of 10%, or a defect rate reduction rate of 2%.

It’s true that not every mediocre employee is interested in more challenging work. However, you are interested in identifying those who are ready to make the leap. Many of them will lack the confidence to volunteer for a chance to assume meaningful work. Therefore, it falls on your lap to get to know your employees, and to select those who are prepared to become meaningful participants.

Jimmie Flores - About Author:
Dr. Jimmie Flores,PhD,PMP,ITIL,SSBB,SPHR,GPHR is a seasoned organizational development and continuous improvement professional with 20 years of experience. In 2006, he founded the Flores Consulting Group, a company based in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Flores is also an expert in project management, ITIL, Six Sigma, Entrepreneurship, and Sports Officiating. Please visit our website at

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