HR · 20 October 2017

Small business leaders claim more than a quarter of staff are underperforming

Group of people waiting for job interview
A skills shortage was considered to be the key reason for underperforming staff

The performance of more than a quarter of staff at small businesses is poor, according to a survey of 2,000 small business leaders.

A bad attitude, poor timekeeping and consistently poor quality of work were found to be the three biggest bug bears of bosses. Some 37 per cent, 34 per cent and 20 per cent of leaders respectively admitted this was the trait which turned them off employees the most.

Commissioned by business development consultancy Sandler Training, the research aimed to get an insight into what business owners can and should do to prevent underperformance.

The majority of business leaders would pay each new staff member an additional 18 per cent per year if they could guarantee that they would be “good hire” from the outset, the research revealed. For new starters, this could equate to a signing on bonus of around £5,000.

A skills shortage throughout the UK was considered by most small business leaders to be the key reason for underperforming staff. Some 45 per cent blamed a national skills shortage, whilst 26 per cent criticised candidates for being misleading in interviews.

Other factors cited for causing underperforming staff included a failure of HR departments to cross-check employee references, and managers rushing the recruitment process.

The chief executive at Sandler Training, Shaun Thomson, said that bad hiring and underperforming staff were two separate issues, and it was important for small businesses to address each individually.

He added: “A bad hire can be easily avoided – but it requires a complete recruitment overhaul where gut instincts and preconceptions are replaced with psychometric tests, which will help business leaders distinguish between the candidates that don’t just talk the talk, but can actually walk the walk.

“Poorly performing staff requires a different approach – a quarter of staff cannot all be rotten apples. You need to look at how you are performing as a leader.

“Leadership is not an innate skill, so small business leaders would be wise to look at how they could firstly develop themselves and then share these learnings across their company.”

One in five small business owners would prioritise recruitment if revenue doubled

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

Tax & admin