Employees doing the minimum? How to fix it

meetingSome employees seem to float along, going wherever the workflow takes them, making few decisions and expending little energy.

Such ultra-low-key employees do what they’re told, but they don’t do much more.

Maybe the minimum is all your department needs. But it’s more likely that you need all your people to be as involved and productive as possible. And most coasters will be happier and do better work in jobs that inspire them to do their best.

That’s why it’s worth pulling alongside drifting employees to discuss how to get more wind in their sails. Here’s how to do it:

Approach the topic. Put the employee at ease. Let him know you appreciate the work he is doing. Then say you think he might enjoy the satisfaction of using and developing more of his abilities, and you’d like to help him. If he doesn’t seem interested, drop the subject for the time being—but let him know you’d be glad to discuss it when he’s ready. The odds are he’ll follow up. If he doesn’t, try again.

Clarify goals. Once the drifting employee shows an interest in gaining direction, help him decide where he wants to go. Ask what he’d like to do that he isn’t doing now. Draw out his opinions about what he likes and dislikes about his current situation, and how he might want to change it.

Make a plan. Look together for ways the employee can grow in your department and organization. Plan steps that will give him a good chance of early success and encouragement. Determine actions and target dates for achieving the employee’s priorities.

Follow up. Keep the employee’s momentum going by supporting his efforts and tracking his progress. Give feedback that relates to his new goals. Encourage signs of greater interest and motivation, and provide challenges to keep him from slipping back into the drift.