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The Slow Learning Employee


Thom, from London, wrote

“I have a bit of a quandary with one of my employees. He takes forever to get up to speed on new projects. Once he’s comfortable, he’s great, but we often just don’t have the time to wait for him. What can we do?”

There are three things that typically contribute to how well and how quickly an employee is able to grasp and master a task: His (her) confidence level; the speed at which he is used to working, and; the manner in which the task was presented. As a manager, you can address each.

His confidence level

Remind him of a similar job or project that he has successfully worked on and draw parallels. e.g.: “Remember that fix you did for ABC tools? We should approach it much like that…”

His ‘natural’ speed

We all get into rhythms in the way we approach our jobs – some slower, some faster. A little bit of micromanaging is often required to speed things up. Break the task up into bite-sized milestones, and follow through to make sure things are happening in a timely manner. This can eventually impact all of his work as his ‘natural’ speed increases.

The way it is presented

This is the most common cause of employee performance issues. The skill with which a manager presents tasks and expectations is critical to ensuring a positive outcome. If you have an employee who just doesn’t seem to be ‘getting it,’ don’t be too quick to point the finger at the employee. Everyone processes information differently, and it is your job to ensure that communication is effective. Try different mediums and different approaches. Use visuals, metaphors, conversation. Whenever you see your employee have an ‘aha!’ moment, take note as to the communication style that triggered it.

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